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Reflecting on Chase Briscoe’s unlikely rise to Joe Gibbs Racing: ‘There was a miracle in there’

Reflecting on Chase Briscoe's unlikely rise to Joe Gibbs Racing: 'There was a miracle in there'

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — Chase Briscoe will be a Joe Gibbs Racing driver beginning in 2025.

That much is not news anymore, not after Tuesday‘s press conference introducing Briscoe at the team‘s headquarters. And if we‘re honest, it hasn‘t quite been “news” since at least last Friday, when Christopher Bell slipped up and tipped the team‘s hand in a New Hampshire media availability.

But even after the official announcement in JGR‘s auditorium, with direct quotes and reactions from Joe Gibbs, Briscoe and crew chief James Small, the story of Briscoe‘s rise to fill the most sought-after seat this Silly Season and replace outgoing champion Martin Truex Jr. seems unbelievable.

MORE: Bell officially introduces Briscoe at JGR

The disbelief does not stem from a lack of confidence in Briscoe‘s abilities or credentials — the 29-year-old is a 14-time winner across NASCAR‘s three national series and has displayed his winning capabilities throughout his stock-car racing tenure. Rather, it originates from just how unlikely Briscoe‘s entire career has been.

It‘s so unfathomable, in fact, that even Briscoe has trouble wrapping his mind around it.

“Just the whole thing, right? Like to be driving for Joe Gibbs,” Briscoe said in amazement. “It’s funny. We do our pre-race prep every single week and they have the stats like where everybody stacks up, and I feel like every week it’s the 19 car is the best car. And I’m just in the back of my mind like, man, that’s gonna be the car I get to drive next year. So that’s super cool, right?”

Super.

The circumstances that led Briscoe to NASCAR‘s uppermost echelon start where most unbelievable stories begin: Facebook.

After scrolling upon an advertisement back in 2013, Briscoe applied for and became a finalist in the PEAK Stock Car Dream Challenge, a contest that provided entrants with the opportunity to “compete for a chance to join Michael Waltrip Racing as a rookie stock-car driver.” Among those involved in coaching applicants were MWR‘s Cup drivers Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin, Brian Vickers, and Truex, who was then piloting the team‘s No. 56 Toyota.

Thus, after years of racing dirt micro 600cc cars and sprint cars, Briscoe‘s journey to NASCAR was sparked.

“I had nothing going on,” Briscoe recalled. “We had blown our sprint car engine really early in the year. My dad was like, ‘Look, we’re not gonna be able to go race. You need to figure something out.‘ I was on Facebook and saw this PEAK Stock Car Dream Challenge thing and signed up for it. Didn’t follow any of the guidelines, somehow got picked for it, and that was the whole reason I ever moved to North Carolina.

“Because when I came down here, that was my first time driving pavement, driving a stock car, any of that. And Ty Norris was the GM of Michael Waltrip Racing and pulled me in his office at the end of it and said, ‘Hey, look. If you’re serious about this, you need to move down here (to Charlotte) because I really think that if you ever did get the opportunity, you could do it.‘ ”

Eleven years later, that same Facebook scroller — then an 18-year-old with no clue what awaited him — is now the 29-year-old heir to Truex‘s championship-caliber car in the NASCAR Cup Series for Joe Gibbs Racing, one of the sport‘s most elite programs.

RELATED: The drivers who have earned JGR’s 214 Cup wins

Of course, there‘s another tie from those formative years still integrally connected to all of this: Christopher Bell.

“If it wasn’t for Christopher, I don’t know if I’d even be in NASCAR, period,” Briscoe said.

Hyperbolic as it may sound, Briscoe might be right. He and Bell are just two Midwestern kids who love racing. That common bond connected them from the jump.

“I’ve known Christopher since I was probably 12 years old, I want to say,” Briscoe explained. “We started racing online together and just kind of formed this friendship and then lived together for a little bit.”

Chase Brisoce and Christopher Bell speak ahead of a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race in 2017.

Those days as roommates 10 years ago resulted in Bell‘s first helping hand toward Briscoe‘s budding career.

“Back in 2015, I want to say it was, (Bell) had called me and said that Roush Fenway had offered him a deal for development driver and he wasn’t going to take it,” Briscoe recalled. “So I got the name from him and walked in the front door at Roush Fenway and said, ‘Hey, I need to talk to this guy.‘ Somehow got a meeting and that was the whole meeting that really started me ever even getting an opportunity at Cunningham Motorsports.”

That connection to Cunningham Motorsports, a small team in the ARCA Menards Series, propelled Briscoe from a road trip home to Indiana, ready to give up his NASCAR aspirations, instead to the radar of everyone else in American stock-car racing. In his first full-time season driving Cunningham’s No. 77 Ford, Briscoe won six of 20 races in a dominant campaign to win the 2016 ARCA championship. And one year later, he was driving full-time in the Craftsman Truck Series for Brad Keselowski Racing, earning his first NASCAR win in the 2017 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

A piecemeal Xfinity schedule in 2018 resulted in a Briscoe win at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course that October with Stewart-Haas Racing, leading Briscoe to SHR full-time in 2019. But without funding between ‘19 and 2020, Briscoe was again on a path that led out of the sport entirely. But an offseason encounter between Briscoe‘s dad and HighPoint CEO Mike Mendiburu on the Las Vegas Strip, as described in a story by The Athletic that Briscoe referenced Tuesday, ultimately resulted in proper sponsorship to keep Briscoe in the car. He went onto win a series-best nine races that year.

“When you hear his story,” Gibbs said, “there was a miracle in there really that happened for him to get a chance for that Xfinity year.”

Fast forward to the present year with Briscoe now in his fourth Cup season for SHR, and Bell is back playing another pivotal role in Briscoe‘s ascension.

“Christopher texted me probably, I don’t know, I think it was the week of SHR shutting down and said, ‘Hey, I think Martin might not be coming back. You need to just be wearing them out over there,‘ ” Briscoe said. “So I mean, he’s been a huge part of my career.”

Behind the scenes, Bell was going to bat for his longtime friend, amplifying Briscoe‘s potential to Gibbs and explaining why Briscoe — a driver with just one Cup win — was the right selection for such a coveted seat.

“It went a lot deeper with (Bell) because he spent a lot of time with Chase when they were coming up,” Gibbs said. “And those were tough years for (Briscoe). They were battling and trying to get a chance and going through all that, and he knew how (Briscoe) sacrificed and at one point he was close to giving up. He spent like three years knocking on doors and nobody would give him a chance.”

Now, Briscoe has what he deemed “the opportunity of a lifetime” to compete for one of NASCAR‘s winningest teams of the last 20 years, plugging into a team that will retain crew chief James Small and attempt to recreate the success Truex has built since climbing into the No. 19 car in 2019.

But not without the help of Bell.

“(Bell) had a great way of describing him to me,” Gibbs said. “He compared him to two other drivers that are in the sport. And he said this is where he is, and he compared him to somebody. I won‘t give you the name, but he said, ‘This is the kind of guy I think you‘re getting.‘ And I thought it was really enlightening for me. I know I’ll always remember that. We’ll see. We’ll see if he’s right.”

The mystery comparison remains unknown for now. But at the conclusion of the 2024 campaign, Bell and Briscoe will advance from former roommates to current teammates.

“It’s just gonna be fun to get to work with Christopher and get our relationship back to kind of how it used to be,” Briscoe said.

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