Analysis: Why building around Chase Briscoe is Stewart-Haas Racing’s best bet

Stewart-Haas Racing announced Thursday a multiyear contract extension with Chase Briscoe, confirming the Indiana native will pilot the team’s No. 14 Ford for “many more years to come.”

The commitment comes at a pivotal time for the organization, two weeks after its flagship driver Kevin Harvick announced his imminent retirement from the NASCAR Cup Series following the 2023 season.

With a champion of Harvick’s caliber planning his exit, Stewart-Haas Racing is well aware its No. 4 car will be a key source of speculation heading into 2024. Who fills the vacancy? Where does that driver come from? Will the team make a big splash in the free-agent pool?

For now, that’s where Briscoe comes into play. Sure, the No. 4 remains an unanswered question — but the last thing Stewart-Haas Racing needs is another mystery on its hands.

MORE: 2023 Cup Series schedule | Who fills the No. 4 car in 2024?

Briscoe provides immediate stability with clear potential for success. A winner in his 40th career start last spring at Phoenix Raceway, Briscoe has proven plenty capable in the Next Gen car, muscling his No. 14 team into the Round of 8 in the 2022 playoffs and nearly into the Championship 4 at Martinsville.

“Chase has made the most of every opportunity and the proof is in the results,” team co-owner Tony Stewart said in a release. “Keeping him at SHR was a priority and we’re proud to have him in our race cars for many more years to come.”

To truly capitalize on the opportunity, though, Briscoe will have to grow from some of his sophomore campaign miscues. While he excelled to a ninth-place finish in the overall point standings, consistency eluded Briscoe through the regular season.

His opening four races of 2022 culminated in one win, two top fives, a 16th-place finish and a 35th-place DNF due to a crash. Missed chances to win at Bristol Dirt and Charlotte Motor Speedway — spinning respective leaders Tyler Reddick and Kyle Larson in the closing laps — emphasized an overeagerness that bit Briscoe ahead of a 15-week stretch of finishes outside the top 10.

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But when the moment mattered, Briscoe rose to the occasion in the postseason, netting six top 10s in the final seven races. Those performances are what Stewart-Haas Racing is banking on with this multiyear contract extension.

As one flagship driver exits SHR, there’s hope Briscoe can grow into the team’s next leader for years to come.