LOUDON, N.H. — It’s hard to sugarcoat Chase Briscoe‘s 2023 season with Stewart-Haas Racing. It‘s certainly been a challenge.
Aside from scoring three straight consecutive top-five efforts during the month of April, Briscoe has a best finish of seventh through the opening 20 races of the season. That includes Monday’s Crayon 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, despite the No. 14 team‘s strong showing.
Throughout the race, the No. 14 team, now led by Richard Boswell after a crew chief change last month, continuously progressed. Briscoe took the green flag from 27th position and improved to 23rd by the end of the second stage. At the end of the second stage, he still ranked 22nd. But when Noah Gragson blew a tire on lap 270, the No. 14 team was one of seven teams to take two tires, giving Briscoe track position.
That’s all he needed, despite New Hampshire being an Achilles’ heel for him thus far in his NASCAR career. He finished 10th, earning the No. 14 team its first top-10 finish since Talladega Superspeedway, nearly three months ago.
“With how the last two or three months have went, it feels like a win,” Briscoe told Jayski.com after the race. “The start of the race, we weren‘t great by any means, but I said a couple of weeks ago when Boswell came over here that it‘s going to take a while to figure out these cars, learn these cars and what adjustments make the most sense and what my baseline is.
“I felt like right there at the end we were a seventh-place car, but if we could have started the weekend there, then maybe we could have been battling for the win. We‘re just making small steps right now.”
Consider Briscoe to be surprised to end his top-10 drought at New Hampshire. With the 10th-place finish, his average finish improved to 17.3 at the track in three Cup Series starts. He also has finishes of sixth and 11th, respectively, in the Xfinity and Craftsman Truck Series.
It’s been a tough circuit for Briscoe, but he’s grappled with the majority of flat tracks on the schedule, though his only Cup win came at Phoenix Raceway last year.
“This is by far my worst racetrack,” he said. “It‘s been horrendous every time I come here. That was a win in itself for me.”
And the No. 14 team needed a finish like this. Following the Coca-Cola 600, Briscoe’s team was docked 120 points and 25 playoff points for having a counterfeit engine panel duct on his car. Then-crew chief, Johnny Klausmeier, was suspended for six races and SHR was fined $250,000.
With the penalty, Briscoe ranks 31st in the championship standings, and he needs a win to make the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
“A lot just for job security for one,” Briscoe noted of how important the New Hampshire run was. “That always helps when you‘re running well. We just needed it as a team. This is a long, grueling season and when you run as bad as we have over the last two to three months, it‘s hard to stay motivated.
“Especially when you‘re in our situation when you‘re not really racing for points or anything anymore. It‘s hard to find goals and hard to find things to keep going throughout the year.”
Briscoe said when he hopped out of his No. 14 car on Monday, he could tell that his team was excited. It felt good to finish 10th.
“We just needed something good to happen and get some momentum,” Briscoe said. “Hopefully, this will kickstart us in the right direction. Pocono is a big question mark, just with how we‘ve been running on the big tracks.”
Briscoe has a best effort of 15th in three Cup Series starts at the Tricky Triangle.