It’s been a bittersweet year for Chase Briscoe in his rookie season competing in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series.
Last year’s champion of the ARCA Racing Series heads into Friday’s 7:30 p.m. TheHouse.com 225 at Chicagoland Speedway ranked fourth in the standings, just one point behind 2013 and 2014 truck champion Matt Crafton for third place with only division leader Christopher Bell and 2016 champion Johnny Sauter ahead of them.
Those four, along with John Hunter Nemechek and rookies Austin Cindric and Kaz Grala, already have locked up all but one of the eight playoff spots for the division’s first playoffs, which get underway Sept. 23 in the UNOH 175 at New Hampshire.
Only seven points separate Ben Rhodes and Ryan Truex for the eighth and final spot. All drivers who finish in the top 20 in points can advance, but nearly all, including rookies Grant Enfinger and Noah Gragson, need to win to move along.
In the first race, after it was announced that his team, Brad Keselowski Racing, will end operations at the conclusion of the season, Briscoe earned his spot in the playoffs in the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. In the same race, his BKR teammate, Cindric, also clinched a spot with a last-lap bump and pass of race leader Grala.
“It’s going to be really nice to come to Chicago and not have to worry about the playoff situation,” Briscoe said. “It’s always nice when you can clinch, and I wish we could have clinched on a win, but obviously clinching on points shows that we were running up front a lot. That’s what it’s going to take to make it to Homestead and hopefully win the championship.
“I’m real excited since Chicago is probably one of my favorite race tracks. The transition for the truck from the cars has definitely been a big learning curve, but I feel like I’ve been slowly starting to figure the trucks out a little bit more.”
In Briscoe’s last visit to Chicagoland he captured one of his six victories, which helped him easily claim last season’s ARCA championship. He is the only one of the seven playoff qualifiers who hasn’t won yet.
“Any time that you move up the ladder in motorsports, you’re never really sure that you deserved to be there until you start doing it, and obviously winning races is the one thing that really makes you know that you deserve to be there,” Briscoe said. “But obviously just running out front is a big thing for me. We’ve been battling for wins quite a bit this year.
“I’m excited to be going to Chicago since I’ve had success there in the past, and it is one of my favorite race tracks. Now we can go there and kind of gamble a little bit and then go to Loudon and really start this playoff run. Everybody at Brad Keselowski Racing typically runs pretty strong at Chicago, so hopefully we can go there and finally get our first win.”
Although down about their future, the BKR teams certainly are not out and hope to finish strong.
“Canada was our first race back since the news, and it just shows that we’re not going to give up yet and we’re still going to bring the best that we can to the race track, “ Briscoe said. “We’re both locked into the playoffs the following week after it was announced that we were shutting down so we’re not done yet. Obviously that was really big for Austin and his entire 19 team since they had to get a win to get into the playoffs and we did our job.
“We have a great group of guys on the entire 29 team. When the news came out that we were shutting down, obviously everybody was bummed out, but our group of guys is really going to rally behind this and try to go out being winners and champions. I wouldn’t want to go into battle with anybody else.
“Everybody at Brad Keselowski Racing are awesome people and it’s been great to work with them, along with everyone at Ford. With those two groups’ support, I don’t see why we can’t compete for a championship and hopefully win Brad his first championship in his final season as a truck owner.”