Chase Briscoe gave it one last ditch effort to pass Tyler Reddick for the win, but it went haywire. Rather than perhaps scoring his second career NASCAR Cup Series win, he finished 22nd during Sunday’s rain-marred Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The situation unraveled once Briscoe slowly worked his way back towards the front on multiple occasions. Early in the race, Briscoe was in control of Stage 1 until going up high into the wall, losing the lead to Kyle Larson on Lap 49. Briscoe had a flat tire and spun around, bringing out the caution.
Fortunately for Briscoe, nothing catastrophic happened to his No. 14 HighPoint.com Ford but ended up 30th, the highest among the Stewart-Haas Racing competitors. The next stage fared much better for Briscoe, winning the stage over Christopher Bell, but since neither pitted after Stage 1, it was time to go for new tires and a full tank of fuel.
However, the rain arrived in Tennessee which halted the action for nearly an hour. That’s when confusion arose as the rain picked up at the end of the six-minute stage break and since caution laps during breaks don’t count, Briscoe was still classified as the race leader. Had the race didn’t resume, Briscoe would’ve won due to the predicament.
Fortunately for the fans and other competitors, the race resumed. As a result, Briscoe had to give up the race lead to Kyle Busch, who stayed out during the break. From there, it was avoiding the mayhem and rallying back to the front of the field. Things got hairy on the final restart when Briscoe didn’t quite get going like he would’ve hoped, resulting in Busch getting by him late in the going.
“It could have gone a little bit better, but it was my fault because I spun the tires off of two and let the 18 back by. I had to get by him and then once the top came in I felt like I was ripping it pretty good,” Briscoe said on the restart. “The only thing that didn’t go the way I wanted to on the restart was when I hit (Reddick). I was trying to do what I did to (Daniel Suarez) earlier in the race and Tyler waited so long to go that it just jammed me up and that’s what gave (Kyle Busch) the opportunity.”
Briscoe was able to put himself back into prime position for a win after Busch and Joey Logano fought too hard and went up the track in the closing laps.
Coming towards the white flag, Briscoe caught Reddick after slowly but surely cutting the gap on the No. 8 3CHI Chevrolet. With lapped traffic getting out of harm’s way, the duo fought hard. Then suddenly, heartbreak city for both racers. Briscoe dove low but his Mustang went out of control and collected Reddick.
Guys like Cody Ware, Noah Gragson and Busch avoided the carnage unscathed with Busch “backing” into his first win of the year. Reddick came up 0.330 seconds short of getting his maiden win. The man with the shortest straw was Briscoe, who dropped drastically down the running order.
Briscoe led 59 of 250 laps and while Sunday night wasn’t meant to be, he’s still safe in terms of his playoff aspirations due to his win at Phoenix.
“I was running Tyler down and I just tried throwing a slider. I didn’t expect him to drive in there on me and I was spinning out, I think, either way and I hit him. I feel terrible. I was wanting to race him clean. I wasn’t gonna wreck him for the win,” Briscoe on the last-lap incident with Reddick.
“That’s why I tried to slide him and I was trying to leave him enough if I didn’t get there and that was my fault 100 percent. I hate it for Tyler. He’s a good friend of mine and I wanted to see a dirt guy win if it wasn’t me. I’m gonna go down here and apologize and deserve what I get, I guess. That was just racing. I was trying to go for the win and I feel terrible for him.”
As Briscoe was walking towards pit lane in search of Reddick to apologize, he would’ve understood what might unfold.
“If he punches me, he punches me,” said Briscoe. “I get it. I think it was just a racing deal and we’ll see what he says.”
Unlike most post-race confrontations (i.e. Ty Gibbs and Sam Mayer at Martinsville last Friday) we’ve seen in recent memory, the two handled it with true sportsmanship similar to Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven at Darlington 19 years ago.
While Reddick put the whole blame on himself for losing out, Briscoe told him he would’ve spun either way. Reddick praised him for running him down with Briscoe responding that he drove as hard as he could. In the end, Briscoe wished Reddick held onto the lead and apologized for the ordeal.
“It’s all good,” said Reddick.
“That was fun though,” Briscoe replied.
“Until next time,” Reddick responded.
“Yeah,” said Briscoe before walking away.
Briscoe commented that Reddick understood what happened and it was simply hard fought racing. Knowing each other well enough that neither would’ve taken themselves out in a stupid matter.
“That was just a racing deal. We were both going for a win. Both of us dirt guys,” Briscoe commented. “There’s a lot of pride in being the guy that wins the dirt race and it’s unfortunate. I hate that neither of us won, but I think Tyler understood and he was really cool about it and said he would have tried the exact same thing. He said it was his fault for letting me even get there in the first place.”
Once Briscoe was in second, it was a see-saw war zone where one lap Briscoe was faster than Reddick but swapped the next. Briscoe explained he tried different things to see what could work once it was the white flag.
“My middle line that I was running down here kind of went away,” said Briscoe. “I knew the only way I was gonna pass him was to throw a slider, and it’s so hard when it’s that fast around the top. If you would have entered on the fence, I think I maybe would have got there, but when he went in right beside me there was no chance I was gonna make that work and that’s where I started spinning out in the first place.”
Despite rain halting the race twice, Briscoe had positive takeaways on the second time the Cup Series ran on dirt at Bristol. More so how it actually helped the track and produced a quality dirt race.
“I had a blast. The track was way way better. I don’t know how much the rain helped that, but the banking – everything – was awesome,” said Briscoe. “I thought there at the end you couldn’t put on a better race from a dirt track standpoint in these cars, so hopefully that sold more tickets for next year and gives it an opportunity to come back because if we keep doing this at night, I think the opportunity to put on a good race is there.”
Briscoe will enter Talladega Superspeedway (Sunday, April 24 at 3 p.m. ET on FOX) 10th in the championship standings.