Chaz Briggs didn’t have any family in racing, and didn’t grow up around the track. He got into the sport 10 years ago when he was in his late 20s for mostly just one reason — he wanted to drive fast.
“I’ve always loved cars and stuff, and I found it was a place I could go where I could drive cars as fast as I could and not get in trouble,” Briggs said.
Within about the first hour of driving, though, he realized there’s a lot more to racing than just driving the car as fast as you can. At the time, he had bought a used race truck and began racing in the Thursday night amateur division at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway — a 1/3-mile NASCAR-sanctioned asphalt oval track in Scarborough, Maine — the same track where he still races today.
When it came to the mechanical side, Briggs said of him and his mom, who helped him at the time, “Between the two of us we barely knew which end of the screwdriver to hold on to.”
“When I showed up there with it and I felt the tires on the old air compressor they said, ‘What do you want for tire pressure?’ and I said, ‘They’re all hard. Fill them up.’ And they were like, ‘It doesn’t work like that. What’s your pressures?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know,’ ” Briggs said. “That’s how far off I was from knowing anything about it.”
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The driving part, though, came pretty quickly. Briggs won just the fourth race he competed in. And because of his success, he started getting attention from other crew members at the track. Even though they didn’t have time to help him on his truck, Briggs started shadowing them on Saturday mornings before races to get a better understanding of the sport.
“They sent me on checking their tire temperatures, which as anybody in racing knows that’s like the lowest on the totem pole of priorities, but it is something that can help, so I stuck with that every Saturday until finally the guys were like, ‘Bring that truck over,’ ” he said. “So I took the truck over and they started helping me get it tuned up right and I started winning a lot of races and a championship.
“That’s when we decided we’ve got this figured out and I decided to move up to a more challenging division.”
After four years, Briggs moved up from the amateur division to racing on Saturday nights at Beech Ridge. The jump to weekend racing was very difficult, and it took him “quite a while” to get settled into the track’s Wildcat division, but he’s now amassed 17 wins overall, and has become a fan favorite at the New England track.
“As far as the mechanic side of it, at this point I do know how to check tire pressure, but beyond that I’m not very good,” Briggs said with a laugh.
Briggs came into the 2021 season with the goal of winning a Beech Ridge championship. He’s come close in the past, with consistent top-five finishes. Briggs’ No. 82 car is currently tied for third in points.
“I don’t typically win a lot of races. For a lack of a better term, I kind of bore them to death with consistency,” Briggs said. “I’m typically a contender for a championship, but it’s not because I rattle off a lot of wins. It’s because I rattle off eight second places and a bunch of third places and some fourth places and no DNFs. No bad finishes, just consistency.”
Briggs did pick up his first win of the season earlier this month, a celebration he was able to share with his co-workers who he’s brought along into the world of racing.
Briggs owns a demolition company, and the guys who work for him during the week serve on his pit crew on the weekends. His company has also brought on two young employees from New York City as part of a program meant to get inner city kids back on track. They, too, have taken to short-track racing through Briggs.
“I gave these kids a chance and I fell in love with the kids. They’re energetic. They’re positive, upbeat, eager to learn, loyal guys,” Briggs said. “I started taking them to the race track and they’ve never seen anything like that before. And I could tell they really appreciated stuff like that, so now they keep coming back and they’re all excited. They send pictures back to friends back home in New York that have never seen anything like this before.
“So it’s really cool to see their faces light up, and this week to be able to bring back a big trophy for them. They’re all, ‘Oh, wow!’ I think it was exciting.”
Briggs’s demolition company has also gained him the nickname of “The Demo King” by the public-address announcers at Beech Ridge, another likely factor in his becoming a fan favorite.
“It’s actually really, really cool,” Briggs said of having young fans in the stands. “If you’ve ever been a fan of somebody, what team you started cheering for, whether you liked the name or the logo. I don’t know if they liked the color of my car one year or they liked how I race, but you know, I’ll take it. A fan is a fan.”
Racing has given Briggs several bucket list moments he never knew he had before getting behind the wheel 10 years ago. Earlier this year he got the chance to race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, something he called “probably in the top five best experiences of my whole life.”
Another bucket list item, for him, would be the “honor to be able to say I won a Saturday night track championship,” at Beech Ridge, he said.
Brigg’s racing career has come a long way from 10 years ago when he just wanted to be able to drive fast. He’s learned a lot, but he’s still that same adrenaline junkie.
“I don’t know anything else you can get adrenaline from like that that’s legal,” he said. “You certainly can’t drive like that on the road.”