In his rookie season in NASCAR’s Cup series in 2021, Chase Briscoe led a total of 12 laps all season.
Sunday in Fontana at Auto Club Speedway, he led 20, and at one point seemed to have a shot at winning his first Cup series race.
After starting 24th the Stewart-Haas Racing driver took the lead for the first time on lap 75. To the surprise of some, Briscoe held the lead and even extended it.
With an extensive background racing on dirt, his performance wasn’t a surprise to Briscoe himself.
“I think dirt guys like Larson and Reddick and me, we like it slick and worn out and you can move around and search for grip,” Briscoe said. “I felt like I was able to try different lanes and try to find grip. I felt like our car was really good too and that obviously helps. But yeah, this place has always been really good for us guys and I think that is just because of how slick it is.”
While he was fast at the front of the field, slow pit stops prevented him from staying there.
During stops for a crash involving Chris Buscher on lap 112, Briscoe came in from fifth place and exited in 22nd.
“I think track position is a lot of it,” he said. “But at the same time, we started 26th and were able to drive to the lead so I can’t blame it all on track position. I think toward the end of the race as guys get better and better throughout it gets harder and harder to drive up through there. I think after I got in the wall a little bit you never really know how much that hurts you, but track position is always important.”
His crew gambled late in the going leaving him out in the lead with 6 lap older tires during stops on lap 173 after a caution for a spin by Ross Chastain, while the rest of the leaders pitted for fresh rubber. On the restart Briscoe’s Ford was quickly swallowed up and with only 22 laps remaining he ran out of time and finished 16th.
That left a disappointed Briscoe leaving California and writing it off as a learning experience.
“It will be a learning experience the whole time and I think anything you can take away from any track is going to be important. I definitely feel like we learned some stuff today.”
Reddick would sweep both Stages, and lead the most laps on the day, 90, a Cup career high for him as well. A blown tire on lap 153 sent him into the wall collecting William Byron’s Chevy in the process. Byron was forced to retire, Reddick managed to finish 11th.
“Absolutely gutted by how our race unfolded,” he said. “But I couldn’t be prouder of this whole team and what we were able to do a majority of this race today. We will learn from this; we will become stronger from this and be hungrier than ever before. It was really fun having all of the Lenovo guests here today and it was really exciting to have such a strong run for them today. We will keep this momentum going to Las Vegas next week.”
Kyle Larson won Sunday’s race, his second at Auto Club Speedway.
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