● Race fans often choose their favorite drivers based on a paint scheme, a number or a hometown. As a child growing up in an Indiana dirt-racing family, Chase Briscoe spent weekends watching his favorite Hoosier race on the dirt tracks against his father and in the NASCAR Cup Series. He went on to start his own racing career in dirt racing, following in the footsteps of his father and his hero, and is now in his third season driving the No. 14 Ford Mustang that was piloted to 16 wins and a Cup Series championship by Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart.
● Like his boss did, Briscoe returns to his open-wheel racing roots often while competing on the Cup Series circuit. And though both have memorable moments on the dirt, it’s one of Stewart’s wins on pavement that will be honored during this year’s Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. The No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang sheds the familiar red and black for a look that mimics the USAC Midget racecar Stewart drove to a win in the 2000 Turkey Night Race at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway.
● Stewart captured his first Turkey Night win in the 60th running of one the most well-known racing events. First run in 1934, Turkey Night draws the biggest names in open-wheel racing. Its list of winners includes some of the more familiar names in motorsports – A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Chuck Gurney, Jason Leffler, Bryan Clauson, current Cup Series drivers Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell, and of course “Smoke.” Briscoe himself competed in the iconic event in 2017, the year Bell earned his second Turkey Night victory.
● While this weekend’s throwback festivities offer the chance to reflect on the best drivers and racing moments of the last 75 years of NASCAR, it’s also a chance for Briscoe to revisit one of his own memorable races. On May 21, 2020, in a Thursday-night NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Darlington, Briscoe bested Kyle Busch in the first NASCAR event after a 10-week hiatus due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The NASCAR season was set to resume with the Xfinity Series race at Darlington on Tuesday, May 19, but a full day of rain forced the event to be postponed to Thursday. During Tuesday’s delay, Briscoe learned that his wife Marissa had suffered a miscarriage. He returned to the track with a heavy heart on Thursday, started 11th for the 200-lap race around the 1.366-mile oval known as “The Track Too Tough To Tame,” and ran among the top-10 for the majority of the race. A quick pit stop put Briscoe in the lead for a lap-138 restart, setting up the battle with Busch, the winningest driver in Xfinity Series history with 102 career victories. After a fierce duel, Briscoe prevailed by a .086-of-a-second margin over the runner-up Busch. Then, the emotions of the moment set in as Briscoe climbed from his racecar and dropped to his knees in prayer before giving a tear-filled television interview. In May 2022, Briscoe was back at Darlington for his third Cup Series start at the track and a very special Mother’s Day celebration spent with Marissa and their son Brooks, who was born in October 2021.
● In total, Briscoe has four Cup Series starts at Darlington with a best finish of 11th in the May 2021 race. In addition to his May 2020 victory, he also has finishes of sixth and 11th in Xfinity Series competition at the track also known as “The Lady in Black.”
Can you explain the significance this paint scheme holds for an open-wheel racer?
“The Lewis Nine Racing Midget was so famous in USAC racing. And I remember, growing up, it seemed like the who’s who of open-wheel racing always drove the No. 9 Midget, or the 19 Midget, or just any of the Nine Racing cars. This scheme was so recognizable because it was pretty much always the same. The white with the flames, the red number that for whatever reason was always crooked, but my favorite thing was always the flames. I think of all the throwback schemes we have done, this is my favorite. It ties back to so much for me. Tony (Stewart), my USAC days, dirt racing – there are just so many things this car signifies for me. I grew up watching this car all the time. Every time USAC Midgets came around in Indiana, this car was always battling at the front. Every time you’d watch Turkey night on TV at Irwindale, this car was always battling up front. You had Jason Leffler, J.J. Yeley, Kasey Kahne, and obviously, Tony in this car. But then, also guys who didn’t make it to NASCAR. You had Dave Darland, Jay Drake and a lot of the huge names in USAC racing. This is the team you wanted to drive for and, growing up, I always dreamed I would get to drive it. The team as it was then kind of went away around 2008, I think, but this is like I’m getting to drive it in some sort of way. Steve Lewis has done a lot for USAC racing, and Tony’s win in 2000 was a pretty big deal for him after going back to USAC racing, so I’m really excited to have this on the car for Sunday.”
For someone who doesn’t follow open-wheel racing, how big is Turkey Night?
“I think they probably get 60 to 70 cars for Turkey Night. It’s at the end of the season on Thanksgiving night when there’s not much else going on in the racing world. It started in the 1930s in California and it’s moved around to a few different tracks, but it’s still going today. It’s still one of the most important races, from a historical standpoint, to win and a lot of the most talented drivers in open-wheel racing have won Turkey Night. I think we’ve got a lot more NASCAR fans following grassroots racing now and they know about Chili Bowl and how big that is. This is the same. It’s just one of the biggest USAC races and, of course, (Kyle) Larson and (Christopher) Bell are both guys who have won Turkey Night a few times.”
What kind of emotion do you go through when you win on one of the most historic tracks on the NASCAR circuit?
“To win at a place like Darlington is a bit of rollercoaster, at least for me it was. It was already a big win for me, personally, with everything Marissa and I were going through. I don’t know that it really sunk in that it was Darlington and how big of a deal that was, or even the battle with Kyle (Busch). But looking back now, I think about how tough of a track Darlington really is and how cool it is to have a win at a place that is so iconic. I hope I get the opportunity to add a Darlington Cup win to my accomplishments, but I think any time you can say that you’ve raced and won at a place with so much history, it’s special.”