In a February article from The Athletic, Chase Briscoe explained the upcoming 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series season was his “make-or-break year. If I go win eight or so races, then I feel like it shows I’m ready for Sunday. If I only win one or two races, I’m probably out the door and not racing anymore.”
While this may have been an exaggeration, he certainly called his shot. Nearly eight months and nine wins later, Stewart-Haas Racing confirmed he is ready for racing on Sunday. On Tuesday, the team announced he will take over the #14 Ford Mustang for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, replacing the retiring Clint Bowyer.
“Chase has worked incredibly hard to make his mark in NASCAR and has earned this promotion to the NASCAR Cup Series. Thanks to HighPoint and Ford, we were able to make it happen,” SHR co-owner Tony Stewart said. “Without Ford seeing him early on and recognizing his talent and HighPoint backing his efforts in Xfinity and now Cup, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to bring him into our system. Since we’ve gotten together with Ford and HighPoint, we’ve been able to do great things with Chase and I feel there are more great things ahead of us.
“In the final three races last season, we saw a confidence in Chase that we hadn’t seen before. There was a transformation, and I think those three races last year were a preview of what we were going to see this year. He’s delivered time and time again this season and he’s definitely ready for the NASCAR Cup Series.”
2020 has been a breakthrough year for Briscoe. After scoring a combined two victories in 2018 and 2019, he has more than quadrupled that amount in 2020 with nine victories, sixteen top-five finishes (also more than his total in the previous two years), and twenty top tens. Among his victories were an emotional triumph in the season restart at Darlington in May, a chaotic survival at Pocono, and the inaugural Pennzoil 150 on the Indianapolis road course. Fresh off his ninth win in the series’ most recent event at Kansas on Saturday, he is currently the points leader with two races before the Championship Round.
“Growing up in Indiana and racing sprint cars, the guy I always looked up to was Tony Stewart. To be able to drive for him is a dream come true,” Briscoe commented. “Tony and Gene have built something really special in Stewart-Haas Racing. Being a part of it in the Xfinity Series and now, the NASCAR Cup Series, has always been my goal. HighPoint and Ford created this opportunity, and my parents, my wife, and Briggs and Beth Cunningham, helped position me for this opportunity. Their support means everything, and it’s all the fuel I need to compete at the Cup level.”
The 2019 Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year and two-time Truck Series race winner, Briscoe has been a rising star in the Ford Performance driver development program. Although small in size compared to other development stables, Ford features a variety of drivers with burgeoning careers like Briscoe’s Xfinity championship rival Austin Cindric and 2021 Truck Rookie of the Year hopeful Hailie Deegan.
“I think Ford’s done an awesome job with their driver development program,” added Stewart, who also threw an indirect jab at rival manufacturer Toyota. “There’s not a lot of drivers in it but there’s a reason there’s not a lot of drivers in it. They put that focus on that small group of race car drivers versus one of the other OEMs out there that is, in my opinion, ruining other drivers’ careers on a daily basis by just signing mass numbers of drivers. Then at the end of it, they don’t have anywhere to go with them, where they decide they don’t like them. Those drivers, most of them are young drivers, lose opportunities that they could have long awaited them somewhere else.
“What I’m really proud of Ford about is that they’re very selective. They’re very mindful of realising when these drivers make that commitment to be a part of that driver development program that they work with them and really push to get them where they need to be and make sure that they really are the right drivers before they actually get signed within the system. It’s not throwing darts at a dart board and I feel like that Ford has done an awesome job. Chase is a prime, perfect example of that. They were the first ones to really recognise his talent before anybody else[…]
“That is the whole point of having an Xfinity program: it’s to try to cultivate talent, whether it be from the driver’s side, crew chief’s side, crew member’s side, pit crew’s side. That’s what the Xfinity program is for us. To be able to run Chase through that system with us, it was a natural transition to eventually getting from the Xfinity car to a Cup car.”