Chase Briscoe can finally breathe a little easier.
After a tumultuous start to 2023, Briscoe finally had a result fall his way. The 28-year-old from Mitchell, Indiana finished seventh at Phoenix Raceway, his first result better than 20th this season.
“Yeah, for sure – a sigh of relief,” Briscoe said in a teleconference Wednesday when asked about Phoenix. “We knew that we were gonna be in a good situation going into Phoenix. That’s one of our better racetracks as a company, so we knew if we were gonna turn our season around that was gonna be a great opportunity to do it.
“It was nice to just have an overall clean day, a day where I think the whole day we went forward and never went backwards. We just had a really good car and that’s something we haven’t been able to say all year long, so it was good to get that. It was a couple weeks late, but glad that we were finally able to get that done.”
It’s been a series of difficult events for Briscoe keeping him out of the top 10 in the first few races. After running toward the front in the Daytona 5oo, he crashed in the closing laps and finished 35th.
In the first two races on the West Coast, Briscoe had cars that lacked pace. He came across with finishes of 20th and 28th at Auto Club Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, respectively.
“We kind of struggled more than I thought we would have. We’ve had a little bit of bad luck, but more or less just have struggled from an overall speed standpoint,” Briscoe said. “Fontana and Vegas we just didn’t have the speed. Our car didn’t drive that bad, we were just extremely slow. It was a head-scratching moment for us trying to figure out what we could do to get more speed in the car.”
Phoenix was Briscoe’s most complete race of the season. After qualifying 24th, he slowly worked his way through the field and finally cracked the top 10 at the end of Stage 2.
Briscoe won his first and only Cup Series race in the Phoenix spring race last season. He finished top 10 in the Championship race in the fall after he was already eliminated from title contention.
Briscoe sang praises for the new short track package that debuted at Phoenix. The package included a smaller spoiler and the removal of three diffuser strakes and engine panel strakes. The changes led to a 30% reduction in downforce.
“I felt like as a race car driver we made more of a difference,” Briscoe said. “We were definitely slipping and sliding around a lot more. The cars were a lot harder to drive. It was still a challenge to pass to a certain extent, but I feel like Phoenix in general is a hard racetrack to pass at.
“I think it’s definitely the right direction. I think that we could lose even more downforce. I think we could still add a lot more power and it would just continue to get better and better, but I do think it’s a good baseline. Dirty air is always gonna be a problem no matter what we do, but anything we can do to make it even five percent better or 10 percent better is gonna be better for racing.”
Now coming back east, Briscoe has his sights set on the newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway for an opportunity to improve his 21st-place points position.
Briscoe finished middle of the road in both races at Atlanta, recording results of 15th and 16th. While Atlanta features superspeedway-style racing, Briscoe said it’s still an animal of its own.
“Atlanta is probably the most mentally draining place that we go to now,” Briscoe said. “It’s kind of a hybrid. It’s obviously a shorter track by an entire mile versus a Daytona or Talladega, but it’s the same concept of racing. You’re in a pack, but with being a mile shorter things just happen so much faster. Your reaction time has to be better. The runs develop so much faster and quicker. Your spotter has to be able to communicate to you a lot quicker and your brain has to process things a lot quicker.
“The handling of the car is very important. Hardly anybody can run wide-open unless you’re in the lead, so balance comes into place. The longer the run goes on your car starts slipping and sliding around a lot more, so it’s just a lot different than a Daytona or Talladega, so that part makes it interesting because the car is so important.”
Unlike last year, the spring race will be 400 miles instead of 500. The summer race has traditionally been 400 miles, but it’ll be a welcomed change for Sunday, Briscoe said.
“I thought the race, that 500-mile race, to me, felt longer than the [Coca-Cola] 600,” Briscoe said of last spring’s race. “I think for sure this race can be 400 miles, if not even shorter. There was really no need for it to be 500 miles, at least in my opinion. I would say the intensity was probably a little bit higher the second race than the first one. Some of that was just everybody kind of knew what to expect to that point. Guys knew the playoff situation a little bit more, but I don’t know if you’re really seeing any difference now just because we all kind of know what to expect.”
Sunday’s Ambetter Health 400 is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.