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Roughly 40 people total can list “NASCAR Cup Series driver” as their current occupation, which suggests it’s not the easiest gig to reach. Imagine turning the degree of difficulty dials up by more than a notch — removing the power steering, a flapped-up hood and a fluid-soaked windshield obscuring your view on one of the series’ newest and least familiar road courses. At dusk.
Chase Briscoe knows that all too well, saying he knew he’d face a certain learning curve when he embarked on his rookie Cup Series season. But last Sunday’s 32nd-place drive — last on the lead lap — at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course was an exercise in wrench-dodging.
“Once the hood flew up, I knew our day was pretty much over,” Briscoe said in a Friday media teleconference over Zoom. “I ran one lap trying to see kind of where I could stack up and then it got to where it was almost impossible to see and then just the steering was getting so stiff that it was hard for me to do anything, but it was tough. I was just trying to look out the left side and the right side.”
Briscoe’s initiation into the Cup Series has been a rocky one so far as he sits 27th in the standings after two races. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate, in his first season in Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 14 Ford, will attempt to rebound in Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The 1.5-mile Florida track presents a change of pace from the superspeedway then road course combo that opened the season. But Miami also offers some encouragement for the 26-year-old Briscoe, who scored an overtime victory there last year as part of his stellar Xfinity Series campaign.
“It‘s just a really, really well-built race track,” he said. “I wish we went there more than one time.”
Briscoe had endured visibility problems earlier in his career. He recalled a 2018 Xfinity Series event at Bristol Motor Speedway, where a dashboard panel had flown up and blocked his sightlines. Last weekend, his damage was compounded by steering loss, but also the spray of power-steering fluid that coated his windshield. The fact the car finished on the lead lap was a stroke of resilience.
That finish, however, combined with a crash-related result of 19th in the season-opening Daytona 500, has him staring down a 30th-place start in Sunday’s lineup at Miami. Briscoe said crew chief Johnny Klausmeier has made efforts to keep his spirits up, aiming to make methodical, bit-by-bit gains from that starting perch during the 400-miler.
With just two events complete in a 36-race season, there’s time to reach those longer-range goals. But if the opening two weekends taught Briscoe anything about his welcome to the Cup Series, it’s the competition level has increased.
“I think that‘s been the biggest thing is just how many guys are just really, really good,” Briscoe said. “How many cars are really good and everybody that‘s there is there for a reason and that‘s been pretty eye-opening to me is just how tough it is to gain track position. The Xfinity stuff you could start in the back and you were gonna be able to be up front fairly quickly. The Cup Series there‘s still guys that can do that, but it‘s a lot tougher, so that‘s been the biggest thing I would say has been most eye-opening to me.”