What a roller coaster the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs have been for Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe. While the 27-year-old had been written off by just about everyone as a legitimate threat for the championship as the Playoffs began, just a few days ago he found himself inside the cutline for the Round of 8 with one race left in the Round of 12.
Then, William Byron’s appeal of a 25-point penalty from Texas Motor Speedway (two weeks ago) for spinning fellow Playoff contender Denny Hamlin under caution was heard by the National Motorsports Appeals Panel, and Byron’s points were restored.
While it was good news for Byron and his Championship hopes, this moved Briscoe from inside the cutline to 12 points outside.
Heading into Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America Roval 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, Briscoe feels a change needs to be made to the penalty appeal process during the Playoffs.
No, Briscoe isn’t upset that Byron ultimately was given his points back, he understands that is a call made by the National Motorsports Appeals Panel, but what Briscoe feels was unfair was that Byron being down 25 points caused him to enter Talladega Superspeedway with a different mindset.
Had he entered Talladega outside the cutline, he would have attacked. Instead, he felt he was in survival mode.
“It wouldn’t have bothered me if I would have known [Byron] got those 25 points before we went to Talladega,” Briscoe explained in a media scrum at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday. “But it was the fact that I raced Talladega totally different thinking I was in a totally different point situation than what I am in now.
“That’s the really frustrating part for me is I literally bailed in the first Stage, when I could have probably got four or five playoff points, and I just decided not to even race because I thought I was to the good at that point. That’s the thing I think we have to do better. Now, in the regular season, I think it’s okay to wait a couple of weeks or have a race between.”
Briscoe, who won early in the season at Phoenix Raceway to lock his place in the Playoffs, reiterated that he respects the appeals process, but just really feels there needs to be a different flow of things in the Playoffs. Briscoe wonders; what would have happened had Byron exacted revenge on Denny Hamlin in the cutoff race?
“It’s extremely frustrating. I respect the appeals process. I think it’s something that we need, but there is — I think — zero reason why we should ever run a race in the Playoffs with an appeal. We ran a race before a decision was made,” Briscoe stated with frustration. “If there’s an appeal, we need to have a decision before the Playoff race. Because what if that was the cut race? They aren’t going to go back. They would have had to make a decision.”
However, despite the frustration, there is no going back and changing how he raced at Talladega. Sure, in hindsight, Briscoe would have been on the attack in an effort to score more points had he known how Byron’s appeal would turn out. But now Briscoe just has to focus on the task at hand this weekend — scoring as many points as humanly possible.
“We gotta go get points,” Briscoe explained. “It’s tough because of where we’ve qualified now, it’s made it even tougher. For us, we need to try to get points when we can get them, but I wouldn’t say we’re in a must-win. But we have to run up front all day long. Just going to need a little bit of luck on our side.”
Briscoe will roll from the 20th starting spot in Sunday’s race, while the man on the cutline that he is trying to chase — Daniel Suárez — starts from the third position.
Austin Cindric, who enters the race tied with Briscoe on points, but is currently at a deficit due to a tie-breaker, will also start Sunday’s event with an upper hand on Briscoe as he will start from the fifth position.
However, road course racing lends itself to unique strategy calls, which Briscoe and his No. 14 team could utilize to get themselves into the running for Stage points throughout the day, and if they play their cards right, they could be on the right side of things when the checkered flag falls at the end of the day.
Don’t count Briscoe out as he had an average finish of 18th in the opening round of the Playoffs and still found a way to advance to the Round of 12. He may just be able to find exactly what he needs to advance again on Sunday.