Chase Briscoe made a major statement at Phoenix Raceway on March 13. He held off some very talented drivers during the final stage of the Ruoff Mortgage 500 and won his first career Cup Series race, simultaneously justifying Tony Stewart’s patience.
The driver of the No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang had a difficult rookie season. He failed to finish four races and only posted three top-10 finishes. However, he flipped the script entering 2022 with a third-place finish in the Daytona 500. Briscoe dealt with issues at Auto Club Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway before turning in a strong performance at Phoenix to become the 200th Cup Series winner.
Briscoe, who actually led 19 laps earlier in the race, put on a strong performance during the final stage. He led a total of 101 laps during the Ruoff Mortgage 500 and took the lead multiple times, including on the final restart with three laps remaining. He blocked Ross Chastain and Tyler Reddick on the dogleg portion of the track and built up an insurmountable advantage.
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“Can’t believe it. I never in a million years thought I would even run a single Truck race,” Briscoe said in a post-race Twitter video from his stock car. “And now to be a winner in the Cup Series, and to be the 200th ever, is unbelievable. Thank you guys for all of the support over the last couple of years.”
Stewart Expressed Unrelenting Confidence in Briscoe
Winning in the Cup Series is not a simple task, especially as a rookie when the entire organization struggles. Briscoe dealt with this issue during the 2021 season despite winning Rookie of the Year over Anthony Alfredo.
While Briscoe did not achieve his many goals during his rookie campaign, he still received constant support from his boss. Stewart specifically mentioned during an August interview with Heavy that he saw signs of progress from the driver of the No. 14 and that the situation would change with more time competing in the Cup Series.
“I think it’s just time. I think it’s time and confidence,” Stewart told Heavy in an interview ahead of the Coke Zero Sugar 400. “And he didn’t come into the season with a lack of confidence, but you don’t know what you don’t know. When you’re a rookie, guys aren’t going to cut you many breaks, and they’re going to make your life a little bit difficult at the beginning until you gain their confidence.
“So I think it’s just as a scenario that the more time that he’s getting in the car, the more time that he’s spending with his new crew chief and team. I think it’s just all starting to gel and like you said, he’s hitting his stride now and gaining that confidence that’s going to carry momentum for him.”
Briscoe Broke a Unique Winless Streak at Phoenix Raceway
The win was important for Briscoe in that it locked him into the playoffs and proved that he can compete against the Cup Series’ best drivers. It also broke a unique winless streak.
Broadcaster Mike Joy announced during the race that no driver had previously taken the No. 14 to Victory Lane at Phoenix Raceway. Many had tried, but they had all failed before Briscoe.
Clint Bowyer, the man who controlled the No. 14 before Briscoe, had eight tries in the entry, but he only posted three top-10 finishes. His best outing was a fifth-place run in the spring 2020 race.
Stewart, the man who won a championship in the No. 14, had 14 opportunities to win at Phoenix in the Stewart-Haas Racing entry, but he only posted a best finish of second in the 2009 spring race.
While 109 drivers have made Cup Series starts in the No. 14, only Briscoe managed to reach Victory Lane at Phoenix. He achieved this goal in his 40th career start and punched his ticket to the playoffs.