BRISTOL, Tenn. — In the final corner of the 2022 Food City Dirt Race, Chase Briscoe tried to put an aggressive slide job on Tyler Reddick for the win. Instead, both spun and Kyle Busch won.
“I haven’t watched it back yet this year,” Briscoe told the media in a teleconference. “It’s one of those things I wish I could’ve done 100 things differently. I wish I would have caught him earlier, so the one lap and one opportunity I had to even make a pass wasn’t the last lap at the last corner. I still think it’s hard to say if I would have done anything different.
“Just being in that moment, your adrenaline’s pumped up, reigning down almost a straightaway in 10-15 laps. This whole time you see him getting closer and closer, your adrenaline and anxiety is getting higher and higher as the laps dwindle down. Being in that position, you’re running dirt and I was running the cushion super, super hard – you get into this mindset that you’re dirt racing. If I would have caught him with five [laps] to go versus the last lap in the last corner, it probably would have been easier to try some different things.
“I think the only reason why I didn’t get a black eye after that race was because it was a dirt guy I did the move to.”
The start of the 2023 Cup Series season hasn’t been kind to Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team. Through seven races, Briscoe has just one top 10 and has finished 20th or worse four times. The last two races have shown improvement — a 15th-place finish at Circuit of the Americas and a 12th-place finish at Richmond Raceway.
Briscoe is hoping this year’s event will end on a more positive note. A dirt racer at heart, Briscoe has Sunday’s Food City Dirt Race circled as an opportunity for a victory.
“Last year, all the dirt guys had a blast because it was more similar to what we grew up doing,” Briscoe said. “It’s all rubber to the racetrack, but simply, it’s because you have way more power than you can put on the ground, slipping and sliding around. As a driver, you feel like you make a little bit more of a difference on how you run that day.
“I feel like every single driver in the Cup series has grown up either short-track racing on pavement, late models… we have some road course guys and a lot of dirt guys. But, the dirt guys don’t have any opportunity to go back to their roots. Those other two disciplines do. Everybody says we’re the best drivers, right? Well, I want to see the best drivers challenged on every discipline we have – superspeedways, mile-and-a-half short-tracks, road courses and now street circuits. There’s no reason, in my opinion, for us to not have at least one dirt race.”
Briscoe will have multiple opportunities to contend for a trophy this weekend. On Saturday, Briscoe will participate in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race for AM Racing, driving the No. 22 truck. While he didn’t run double-duty last season, Briscoe finished fifth for Roper Racing in 2021 before finishing 20th in the Cup car.
Although he’ll get more track time before the main event on Sunday, Briscoe said he likely won’t learn much from the Truck race because of the differences with the Next Gen car.
“I don’t know if it’s a huge benefit, because the cars and the trucks drive totally different — especially now with the Next Gen,” Briscoe explained. “Before, it was pretty similar – I felt like it was almost the same with the exception of the power. I think now, it’s not totally correlating like it would in the past, but just from a track standpoint, I feel like you can kind of see how the track changes.”
The weather, however, has already affected the weekend. Rain led to the cancelation of Truck and Cup Series practice and qualifying on Friday, meaning both series will roll straight into heat races on Saturday. Rain is also a possibility Saturday, but the weather appears more promising on Sunday, according to the Weather Channel.
Last year, rain showers halted the Cup Series race twice. Briscoe praised the track conditions and said the precipitation helped keep multiple lanes clean and packed down for racing.
“The rain probably helped us quite a bit. So, hopefully, we learned something from last year from a track preparation standpoint,” Briscoe said. “Maybe going to water it in-between stages or I don’t know what it is. But I do feel like the rain saved us a little bit last year from a track standpoint.
“It all comes down to the water truck, the grader and things like that. Hopefully, we can have a really good race. I know there’s been talks about maybe letting a couple other cars go out there that aren’t Cup cars — like late models to kind of go out there and blow that layer off so at the beginning of the race, our cars won’t get that much mud but we can still have a good racetrack at the beginning.”
Sunday’s Food City Dirt Race is set for 7 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.