Chase Briscoe’s Cinderella Run in the NASCAR Playoffs Hangs in the Balance at His Favorite Track
Chase Briscoe has been the biggest surprise member of the Round of 8 in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, but his next race will likely determine whether or not his Cinderella-like run goes all the way to the Championship 4.
Briscoe has made great strides in his second year as a driver at the sport’s top level. He debuted as a rookie at age 26 in 2021 and finished 23rd in the points standings with only three top-10s.
Chase Briscoe began 2022 hot and then cooled through the regular season
His 2022 campaign has been entirely different. He opened the season with a third-place run in the Daytona 500 and won his first career Cup Series race three weeks later at Phoenix Raceway, which could pay dividends toward his championship hopes since that is the site of the season-ending championship race on November 6.
Briscoe then slumped through most of the remainder of the regular season. His fourth-place finish at the end of May at Charlotte Motor Speedway was his only finish better than ninth for the rest of the regular season.
His Phoenix win carried him into the playoffs even though he had fallen to 17th in the traditional points standings by the time the regular season ended at Daytona International Speedway.
Briscoe began the playoffs ranked 12th in the 16-driver field thanks to nine playoff points accumulated throughout the regular season. He dropped back to 15th, however, after a 27th-place run in the playoff opener at Darlington Raceway.
His championship hopes appeared over at that point, and a 13th-place finish the following week at Kansas Speedway did not improve his position.
Then some luck began to fall his way.
Briscoe has narrowly survived both of the playoff eliminations thus far
Briscoe finished only 14th at Bristol Motor Speedway in the final race of the opening round, but other playoff contenders Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, and Tyler Reddick all finished 25th or worse, which allowed Briscoe to sneak into the second round.
His fifth-place run at Texas in the first race of the next round was hugely beneficial to his playoff position, but it took a long time to get there. Briscoe qualified a season-worst 30th and spent much of the first two-thirds of the 500-mile event deep in the field.
He and his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team did not give up, however, and a rash of tire problems for other competitors gave Briscoe plenty of opportunities to pit and let his team work on the car. His eventual fifth-place finish was his first top-five since the Charlotte race in May and got him to within four points of the eighth-place cutline to advance to the third round.
A 10th-place run the following week at Talladega Superspeedway shaved two points off of that deficit, and another remarkable comeback saved his chance to win the title once again.
Briscoe began the final race of the Round of 12 at the Charlotte Roval in 17th place but finished seventh and eighth in the first two stages, respectively. The final stage went green until two late cautions sent the race into overtime.
He then charged through the field on the overtime restart, including a divebomb move into the backstretch chicane that teammate Cole Custer assisted with a block of multiple drivers going into that section of the track. However, Briscoe already had a two-point advantage before that move.
Briscoe ultimately finished ninth at the Roval and ran fourth in the Round of 8 opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in a race that was quite similar to his Texas race. He started the Las Vegas event 16 and was 21st halfway through the 400-mile race.
Strong Xfinity history and poor qualifying results make Homestead a crucial race
He now sits nine points behind Denny Hamlin for the fourth and final spot in the Championship 4 with two races to go. But the next race at Homestead-Miami Speedway might be his best, last shot.
Briscoe had a win and three top-10s in four career Xfinity Series races at Homestead. He is adept at running the high line next to the outside wall, which is the preferred line.
The Round of 8 ends at Martinsville Speedway, where Briscoe finished ninth in the spring but was outside of the top 20 in both his trips to the track in 2021. That upcoming race also will likely be a track-position affair where it is extremely difficult to pass, as was the case in the spring.
Briscoe began the spring Martinsville race 19th, and his 13.6 average starting position this season is the second-lowest among remaining playoff drivers. Qualifying will be vitally important at Martinsville, and that has been one of Briscoe’s most significant weaknesses this season.
Homestead has a better chance of being a race that allows for more passing, as there are multiple grooves in the progressively banked corners.
Briscoe will likely have to fully capitalize on any opportunities at Homestead if he is to extend his remarkable playoff run all the way to Phoenix.
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