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June 16, 2024

Focusing forward: Chase Briscoe, free agents eye opportunities as 2025 rides open

Chase Briscoe looks on.
Sean Gardner
Getty Images

NEWTON, Iowa — Joe Gibbs Racing will officially have a vacancy to fill for the 2025 NASCAR Cup Series season.

On Friday at Iowa Speedway, Martin Truex Jr. announced his decision to step away from full-time Cup racing. Waiting in the wings, however, are a slew of free agents as the annual game of musical chairs truly gets underway.

That includes each of the four Stewart-Haas Racing drivers — Josh Berry, Noah Gragson, Chase Briscoe and Ryan Preece — all of whom learned on May 28 SHR will close its operation upon season’s end.

MORE: Truex announces retirement | SHR to close its doors

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With Truex on his way out, a ride available at one of the sport’s powerhouse organizations is immediately the most coveted in the garage.

“I think that was the first domino that fell to make sure obviously that ride’s open and start the trickle-down effect,” Berry said Saturday. “I think there’s still a lot of movement coming, but like I said, that’s the first move. I think it’s going to open up or start the process and get everything figured out a little sooner.”

According to reports from The Athletic and FOX Sports, Briscoe is mentioned toward the top of the list of candidates to step into the No. 19 car next year. The Indiana native told reporters Saturday he had “nothing to announce yet” for 2025 but talks were ongoing with multiple organizations.

“Definitely working on it,” Briscoe said. “Feel like I’m pretty close I think, so yeah. Nothing to announce yet, but definitely working on it. Feel pretty good about it.”

Briscoe, managing a career-best 16.5 average finish after 16 races this year, is in the midst of his seventh season with Stewart-Haas Racing, dating back to his inaugural part-time campaign with the team in the Xfinity Series in 2018. But the 29-year-old has never been in a position to choose from a list of suitors when firming up racing plans — not until this year, at least.

“In the past, it’s always been kind of just, ‘this is where you’re gonna go,’ and it’s never been my choice in my entire career of where I go,” Briscoe said. “So yeah, that’s been unique.”

With multiple teams courting his talents, Briscoe is navigating this phase of life through different lenses.

“It’s definitely been, honestly, a confidence builder I think for me, just the fact that multiple teams want me,” he said. “You know, when the whole thing went down two-and-a-half weeks ago, I was panicking that nobody was gonna want me. To be able to have multiple offers on the table has been exciting from a confidence standpoint.

“I definitely think it’s hard, though, because whatever happens in the future, I kind of determine my own destiny with that choice.”

Chase Briscoe leans against the wall at Iowa.
Sean Gardner | Getty Images

That decision will also include the perspective of fatherhood. Already the father of 2-year-old son Brooks, Briscoe and wife Marissa are expecting twins as well, putting parental needs front of mind.

“There’s a lot of different options, right?” Briscoe said. “Like, performance is one thing that definitely, weighing the options, is something that is important, the future and what the future looks like. And then obviously, the other part is what’s going to be the best to provide for my family. You know, with twins on the way, I’m gonna have three kids. Like that is a real thought now is just what’s going to set us up for the future in the best way. And probably in the past, it would have not been as important to me, but now with a family and being a dad and there’s a lot of these variables that go into that.”

Another consideration will be how Briscoe believes he will mesh with the organization. A new team means being surrounded by new people for multiple days per week while handling a different weekly schedule.

“That’s been one of my first questions (to teams) is what do you think your culture is and where do you think I fit into that?” Briscoe said. “So, I mean, that’s a big thing. Just being at SHR for the last seven years, I feel like their culture really fits my personality and just how everybody is there and just the camaraderie everybody has and I don’t want to lose that. So just trying to figure out where I would fit in the best has been important to me.”

LOOKING BACK: Briscoe earns first Cup win in 2022

One of those current teams at SHR is the No. 10 of Noah Gragson, who joined SHR over the offseason in what was announced as a multiyear agreement. The team’s impending closure negates that, of course, setting Gragson down the path of free agency for the second consecutive season.

“I haven’t signed anything yet,” Gragson said, “so just trying to weigh out all the options accordingly and you know, have those conversations but still looking for an opportunity.”

The 25-year-old hopes and believes those opportunities to remain in the Cup Series exist but is also trying to let the circumstances play out as they will.

“Personally, I just keep telling myself just focus on what I can control,” Gragson said. “And that’s my attitude and my focus and my leadership of our race team and what I can do behind the wheel preparation-wise and just becoming the best driver and person I can be.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. I believe I can be a part of this group on Sundays that races and I’m working my tail off to be a part of that group in the future.”

Noah Gragson drives a NASCAR Cup Series car at Iowa.
Brittney Wilbur | NASCAR Digital Media

Gragson, a native of Las Vegas, also acknowledged his “fair share of challenges and adversity over the years,” which reached a climax last summer when he was indefinitely suspended from NASCAR and ultimately parted ways with Legacy Motor Club for a member-conduct violation related to his activities on social media.

“Even before that situation happened last year, there was a lot of rumors and talks out there going on out of my control,” Gragson said.

MORE: Gragson reflects on second chance | No. 10 enjoying fruits of labor

One year later, Gragson is nursing an 18.7 average finish — 10 spots better than a season ago — and has collected one top five and five top 10s through 16 events in 2024.

“Now I know that I’m in a much different place and performing a lot better and have a team that supports me around me,” Gragson said. “And that’s what I need as a driver is a group that supports me that has trust in me and that’s what I got right now.”

Gragson posted the quickest lap in Friday’s practice for the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at Iowa set for Sunday night (7 p.m. ET, USA Network, MRN Radio, NBC Sports App, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).