BROOKLYN, Mi. − Chase Briscoe and just about the whole bunch at Stewart-Haas Racing struggled mightily Sunday in the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Briscoe started third, but wound up 23rd, while Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola suffered DNF's (finishing 33rd and 38th, respectively). Only Cole Custer avoided the curse for SHR with his ninth-place finish. Yet, as the NASCAR Cup Series motors into Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, the team as a whole will be seeking a reversal of fortune, in the Firekeepers Casino 400.
The race is set for 3 p.m. (EDT) Sunday and features 200 laps (45/75/80) for 400 miles around the two-mile layout set in the Irish Hills of Michigan. USA Network will televise the race, with MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio handling the broadcast.
The struggles at Indy were galling as a whole for SHR, but particularly for an Indiana man from Mitchell who drives for another Indiana man from Columbus, Tony Stewart. Briscoe won the 15-lap first stage, but it went backward on him from there.
"Obviously, I wish we would’ve finished a lot better than where we ended up. I don’t think we had anything for the 8 car (Reddick), but us and the 2 (Cindric) were pretty close and he ended up second. That was kind of the strategy we had, to kind of play today for our points and playoff situation.
"Obviously, the playoffs are more important than trying to win here. It’s unfortunate we had to be in that situation but, overall, we were able to get a playoff point, which will be big come playoff time.”
With 22 races complete and four remaining before the playoff field is set, Briscoe sits 15th in the driver standings with one win, earned in March at Phoenix Raceway. The win earned Briscoe a chance to make the Cup Series playoffs for the first time, provided there are no more than 16 different race winners following the Aug. 27 regular season finale at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
“It was a situation where we had to try to get that first stage win and it just kind of buried us after that," he assessed. "We got back there and struggled to get back up there. A couple of times we thought we were going to be OK, and then I just made a mistake. There at the end, that restart was just chaos and tore us up.
Moving on to Michigan
The only initial option is to put Indianapolis in the rear-view mirror and move on to Michigan. Briscoe will be back with Rush Truck Centers and Cummins coloring his No.14 Ford Mustang Sunday. It will be his second Cup Series start and fourth overall in a NASCAR national series at the two-mile oval.
In the 2021 edition of the FireKeepers 400, Briscoe’s Cup Series debut at Michigan, he started 21st and was riding comfortably inside the top-10 with just three laps to go before contact with Kurt Busch caused damage to the nose of the No. 14 Ford Mustang. While the injured car became a handful for Briscoe in the closing laps, he held on for an 11th-place finish.
Prior to last year, Briscoe never finished outside of the top-10 in his three previous starts there, each in a different series. In his lone NASCAR Xfinity Series start in 2019, he started 14th and finished seventh. He finished ninth in his only NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start there in 2017, and second in the 2016 ARCA Menards Racing Series event.
From road to oval and back again
In the last four races, the Cup Series has raced on the 1.5-mile Atlanta superspeedway oval, the flat, 1-mile New Hampshire oval, the Pocono triangle, and the Indianapolis road course. Briscoe acknowledged that those constant adjustments, particularly in a new type of car (NexGen), makes it rugged on the rhythm.
“It’s definitely tough," he said. "You go to a road course and then you have a short track and then you’re racing in a pack and drafting. The consistency just isn’t there. I feel like, my first year, there were a lot of mile-and-a-half tracks in a row, and it was kind of easy to get in a rhythm. We haven’t had a true mile-and-a-half since the Coca-Cola 600 in May. I don’t think you can really put Atlanta in that category now, which really changes things.
"So, that part makes it a little tougher because the schedule is so back and forth, a lot of different racetracks. But to be fair, it should be hard to get into a rhythm. The diverse schedule makes it interesting. We’re supposed to be some of the best drivers in the world. I like how tough the schedule is but, yes, it is hard to get in a rhythm.
“I think we’re still trying to understand this new car and what it’s going to do at each racetrack. I know some people think we should know by now, but something it did at the last short track or road course may not apply when you get to the next one. The way the car reacts to things changes week to week and it’s tough to anticipate what you’re going to get. There are still tracks we’re just now getting to for the first time with this car, so there’s still a lot we need to learn about it.”
Contact Times-Mail Sports Writer Jeff Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @jeffbtmnews.
This article originally appeared on The Times-Mail: Chase Briscoe and SHR hope to reverse field, race up front in Michigan