NASCAR: Resilience has defined Chase Briscoe’s 2020 season

Chase Briscoe’s NASCAR Xfinity Series-leading three victories since the coronavirus pandemic have all come via some sort of rally and resilience.

On Sunday afternoon, Pocono Raceway featured what a number of tracks have featured in recent weeks as far as NASCAR Xfinity Series races are concerned: Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe being dealt a tough blow, bouncing back from it and winning.

The 25-year-old Mitchell, Indiana native has won a series-high four of the 12 races which have been contested so far this season. No other driver has found victory lane more than two times, with the only other two multi-race winners being JR Motorsports’ Noah Gragson and Joe Gibbs Racing rookie Harrison Burton.

Briscoe entered the season with two career victories and as the driver who many considered to be the championship favorite, given the departure of the former “Big 3” of Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer and Christopher Bell to tie Cup Series.

He proved his favorite status early on by winning comfortably at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in what was only the season’s second race. When the coronavirus pandemic struck following the season’s fourth race at Phoenix Raceway, Briscoe sat in second place in the championship standings behind Burton by just three points.

In the seven races that have been contested since the Xfinity Series has returned to action, Briscoe has been the man to beat, and he has held that title not only due to his ability to win regularly but due to his resiliency and his ability to deal with adversity and battle back from tough circumstances.

In the first race back at Darlington Raceway following a 75-day hiatus, Briscoe was dealing with grief from his wife’s miscarriage earlier that week. In the closing laps, he had to hold off a charging Kyle Busch, the two-time Cup Series champion who is by far the all-time winningest driver in Xfinity Series history.

It took bumping and banging and a finish that ranks as one of the all-time best at NASCAR’s second highest level of competition, but Briscoe was able to keep Busch at bay and hold him off by just 0.086 seconds to take the checkered flag. He was understandably in tears after the race.

Skip ahead to the doubleheader weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Before the first race, Briscoe was basically out of contention, as a piece of ballast fell from his #98 Ford. He didn’t get the chance to start the 167-lap race around the four-turn, 1.5-mile (2.414-kilometer) oval in Homestead, Florida until he was already six laps — nine miles — behind the leaders.

Yet he still managed to battle back onto the lead lap, and while he didn’t win, he finished in the lead pack. He finished in seventh place, just 3.511 seconds behind race winner Burton.

As a result of the ballast issue from the day before, #98 team crew chief Richard Boswell, car chief Nick Hutchins and engineer D.J. Vanderley were suspended for four races each. Yet in the first race without them, Briscoe took the checkered flag as the winner, and he did it despite the fact that Gragson had dominated the race.

He utilized a late caution flag to his advantage and led the final two laps to secure the victory by just 0.072 seconds over Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones.

Finally, skip ahead to Pocono Raceway. While leading late, Briscoe had a tire go down, and he spun out with just 22 laps remaining in the 90-lap race around the three-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Tricky Triangle in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.

But he was able to battle back and retake the lead just 14 laps later, and he held off Kaulig Racing’s Ross Chastain by 1.015 seconds to win in overtime in what turned out to be a 91-lap event.

Through 12 races, which is just over one-third of the 33-race 2020 schedule, Briscoe has now found victory lane four times, which is four times greater than his previous career-high single-season win total. He has already tripled his career win total this year, and he leads the championship standings by three points ahead of Gragson.

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The next race is scheduled to take place this Saturday, July 4 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, and it is set to be broadcast live on NBC beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET. Briscoe does have one career road course win, with that coming at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval back in September of 2018.

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