AVONDALE, Ariz. — Last year at Phoenix Raceway, Chase Briscoe checked off a major box: his first NASCAR Cup Series victory.
Briscoe, however, hasn’t won since then. Despite inconsistencies throughout the summer, he found something in the Playoffs — recording top 10s in each Round of 12 race to survive until the penultimate event of the season.
Although he was eliminated from the Playoffs, Briscoe finished fourth in November’s championship race at Phoenix.
A year removed from the victory, Briscoe’s hoping to find victory lane again Sunday.
“I’m definitely excited to be back here,” Briscoe said. “I feel like any time you can come back to a place where you’ve won in the past, you’re excited to go there because you’ve had success.”
Briscoe has struggled out of the gate in 2023. He crashed and finished 35th in the Daytona 500, lacked speed and finished 20th at Auto Club Speedway and finished 28th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
That has resulted in a 32nd-place spot in driver’s points.
But across the board, Fords have struggled in 2023. Just one Ford driver (Kevin Harvick, third) is in the top eight of driver’s points ahead of the final West Coast swing stop.
“All the races at the beginning of last year, we were battling for wins. Then this year, we’ve been maybe in the top-20 once,” Briscoe said. “I’d say the vibe going into the weekend is the same just because I feel like every weekend, we go to the racetrack thinking we can go there and win. We just really haven’t had the speed this year.
“I think for us, for Stewart-Haas [Racing] and the No. 14 car, we know that Fords are at a little bit of a disadvantage right now. But the problem is, we need to be one of the top-three Fords on Sunday – we don’t need to be one of the bottom three. That’s what we’re working on first, and once we get to being one of those top-three Fords, then we’ll worry about our deficit to the other manufacturers.”
This weekend marks the first race under the new short-track package.
In January, six teams, none of which included SHR, tested a new package at Phoenix. According to NASCAR, the changes include “a 2-inch spoiler and the removal of three diffuser strakes and engine panel strakes, [which] will lead to a 30% reduction in downforce.”
The goal is to create more passing and better racing at tracks measured at 1.058 miles in length and less, as well as road courses.
“I’m a little apprehensive with just how much everything has changed,” Briscoe said. “I’d say going into this weekend from a downforce side, just because we were really good here in both races last year. With the amount of change this year, we’re not really sure how that’s going to correlate. For us hopefully, we’re going to show up similar to how we ended last year.
“I’d rather slide around for sure and have less downforce … I’m sure it’ll make us slip and slide around a little bit more, too. I don’t know if you’ll really get the full scope of the low downforce package here, just because this place is kind of unique in its own sense, but I think when you go to some other places – like a Richmond or somewhere like that – you’ll definitely notice a difference.”
Briscoe said he spent extra time on the simulator before the race to prepare.
“I was on the simulator Tuesday for four hours. The Wednesday before that, I was probably at Phoenix for two-plus hours on the simulator,” Briscoe said. “We’re a little bit behind from a simulation side – just to know what to even expect. Whereas, RFK and Penske had been here for the test. For us, we’re just unloading exactly how we finished the race last year, so we can get a true data point for what it was last year and what it is this year. That way going forward, we kind of know what that delta is.”
Briscoe was fifth fastest in Friday’s extended 50-minute practice session. He’ll roll off for Sunday’s United Rentals Work United 500 from 24th.