Sometimes childhood dreams do come true.
As a fellow Indiana native, Chase Briscoe grew up a Tony Stewart fan. Briscoe was 7 years old when Stewart won his first NASCAR Cup Series championship in 2002 and 16 years old when he captured his third and final title in 2011. Briscoe watched Stewart make a name for himself as a driver with Joe Gibbs Racing and then continue that success with Stewart-Haas Racing as a driver and co-owner.
Stewart retired from full-time racing after the 2016 season. Three years later, he signed Briscoe to a full-time gig in the Xfinity Series. This week, Stewart announced Briscoe is being promoted to the Cup Series. Better yet, Briscoe will take over Stewart’s old ride: the No. 14 entry.
“It is unbelievable,” Briscoe said. “It still doesn’t really feel real.”
Well, it is. Stewart-Haas Racing officially announced the 2021 deal Tuesday morning.
“I wish I could go tell 7-year-old Chase who was wearing his Tony Stewart stuff and playing sprint car video games and NASCAR video games that he was eventually going to get to drive his car,” Briscoe said. “It definitely is crazy to look back on and think about all those things.”
It’s even crazier when the Stewart-Briscoe similarities are laid out.
For starters, there’s the obvious Indiana tie. Stewart is from Columbus, Indiana, while Briscoe is from Mitchell, Indiana. The towns are about 60 miles apart.
But then there’s also the shared racing resume. Both started out as dirt racers, gaining most of their experience on that track type before taking on NASCAR’s paved ovals. Stewart thinks Briscoe’s dirt background will help him significantly as he transitions into the Cup Series.
“Obviously drivers that drive on dirt are used to the back of the car being free and swinging around and wheel spin and everything else,” Stewart said. “But as NASCAR keeps taking horsepower away from these cars, having the cars freed up is a very big piece of the equation to make sure that you’re keeping speeds. And drivers that can handle a loose race car and are comfortable with that feel I think ultimately are going to have an advantage.”
Sounding just like Stewart, Briscoe took the comparison one step further.
“I think just growing up and running on dirt makes you be versatile,” Briscoe said. “You have to constantly react and move around and search around the race track. These Cup races, with those being longer races, the track will constantly change and you have to be on top of that, so I think it will definitely help.”
Until then, Briscoe is laser-focused on the 2020 Xfinity Series championship. He’s currently the only playoff driver locked into the Championship 4, as the Round of 8 continues Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway with the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). His win last week at Kansas Speedway guaranteed him a shot at the title come Nov. 7 at Phoenix Raceway.
Briscoe has a career-best nine victories this season. That’s a large jump from just one in both 2018 and 2019.
“When he makes a mistake, he will spend more time reflecting on that mistake, unfortunately, than he does the rest of the good things that he does all day, but that’s kind of the way I was in my career, too,” Stewart said. “I felt minimizing mistakes was the key to winning races and championships, and that’s also the same mindset that Chase has as well. He’s very, very diligent about making sure he learns from everything that happens on the race track, and he’s got a pretty good memory bank to hold all of that knowledge in.”
It’s almost like quality over quantity, making the most of an experience rather than going for the most experienced.
Stewart only had 37 national series starts before he earned a Cup Series opportunity. In his first season (1999), Stewart won three races.
By the time the 2020 Xfinity Series season ends, Briscoe will have had 108 starts prior to his Cup Series debut – the 2021 Daytona 500.
“It is super humbling to think that the 14 car is going to be driven by me next year,” Briscoe said. “To me, there are only a few numbers in NASCAR that have a lot of significance and the 14 is certainly up there.”