This is a tale that began with tragedy, but ended in triumph. For Xfinity Series driver Chase Briscoe, who was just days after enduring one of the lowest days that any parent could go through, he held off reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch in a wild finish to win Thursday’s Toyota 200 at Darlington Raceway.
On Wednesday, Briscoe announced his wife Marissa—who was carrying their daughter due in December—had suffered a miscarriage the previous day. With heavy hearts, Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team started Thursday’s race, the series’ first since March, in eleventh. The race had been rain delayed, which pushed it to Thursday afternoon from Tuesday.
Busch is no stranger to what Briscoe and his family have experienced. He and his wife Samantha have dealt with infertility, with their daughter also being miscarried in 2019. In a post-race press conference, Briscoe noted Samantha reached out to Marissa after the news.
Pole-sitter Noah Gragson dominated the opening stage before Busch turned the race into his playground in the second segment. Busch, the winningest driver in Xfinity history, has had a tumultuous week beginning with his controversial wreck with Chase Elliott in the previous night’s Cup race. This was followed by a speeding penalty between stages before he fought his way back into the top ten.
Briscoe took the lead to start the final stage, which he would not relinquish until lap 130 to Justin Allgaier. The two briefly battled before the race entered its final laps and Busch re-entered the picture.
Busch and Briscoe dueled to the finish. As they took the white flag, the two ran side-by-side until Busch passed him in turn one. Still, Briscoe did not relent and held his line on the outside, causing him to be sandwiched between Busch’s #54 and the outside wall. The contact enabled Briscoe to shoot to the lead on the backstretch.
A last-ditch attempt by Busch in turn four allowed him to narrow the margin, but Briscoe carried enough momentum to beat him to the line by .086 seconds. It is Briscoe’s second win of 2020.
Certainly, it was one of the biggest feel-good victories in NASCAR history. The Xfinity Series’ Reddit account described the race as “going to be a day we never forget”, while Autoweek reporter Matt Weaver regarded it as “a powerful sports moment and personal experience for everyone who watched that.”
Various fans have made comparisons to other emotional race victories, including Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s 2001 Pepsi 400 triumph in the first race at Daytona since his father’s death in that year’s Daytona 500 and Jimmie Johnson‘s 2004 Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 win in the wake of a plane crash that claimed the lives of several Hendrick Motorsports employees. The battle with Busch was also held in high regard, with parallels being drawn to the wild photo finish between Ricky Craven and Kyle’s older brother Kurt Busch at the 2003 Darlington race.
“This is for my wife. This has been the hardest week I’ve ever had to deal with,” an emotional Briscoe began in his post-race interview. “When I took the lead with 50 to go, I was crying in my car. Emotionally, I wasn’t there at all.
“This is more than a race win. This is the biggest day of my life after the toughest day of my life. To be able to beat the best there is, is so satisfying.”
On Twitter, Marissa tweeted her joy for the victory.
“Words can’t explain the emotions I felt today,” Briscoe tweeted. “All I have to say is we have a powerful God and I know His hand was in all of this. Thank you so much everyone.”