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Monday, May 23, 2022

Briscoe races to first Cup win, pulls away late at Phoenix

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AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Chase Briscoe jumped out of his car and was obviously emotional, kneeling next to his No. 14 for a few seconds before a couple of voices broke during his post-race television interview. .

Briscoe, 27, took his pack last season as a NASCAR Cup Series rookie. Now he is a winner.

“It’s unbelievable, I was crying the whole last lap,” Briscoe said.

Briscoe scored his first Cup Series win, hitting two big starts in the final 20 laps to pull away from Ross Chastain and Tyler Reddick on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway. Briscoe’s childhood idol was NASCAR great Tony Stewart and the Indiana native now drives Stewart’s car for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Briscoe channeled some of Stewart’s energy late in the race during an intense battle between three drivers who had never won in the Cup Series. It’s further evidence of parity in the series in the Next Gen cars, with four drivers winning the first four races of this season.

Chastain and Reddick, both driving Chevrolets, kept things interesting in the closing laps, but Briscoe’s Ford was simply too strong. On the final restart with four laps to go, the 27-year-old Briscoe started from the inside, sank into the platform on doglegs and was able to hold off the rest of the field.

Briscoe was one of the top Xfinity Series drivers in 2019 and 2020 before being invited by Stewart-Haas Racing to take over the No. 14. He had just three top-10 finishes as a rookie and finished 23rd in standings. it’s from the season.

But he got off to a strong start this season with a third-place finish at Daytona in February.

Now a win.

“You get humbled real quick in the Cup Series and you learn how good everyone is,” Briscoe said. “These guys, even the ones who are 30th, are some of the best race car drivers in the world. You learn very quickly, you have to go to work and figure it out.”

Briscoe, who said Phoenix was one of his least favorite tracks before his success on Sunday, acknowledged there were some surprise moments, especially on restarts.

Although he didn’t take the win, it was a breakthrough for Chastain’s TrackHouse Racing team. Chastain credited crew chief Phil Surgen for providing him with a car that was comfortable up front.

“He gave me exactly what I needed,” Chastain said. “We fell short on one point. But I’m so happy.”

Reddick has been among the fastest drivers in the Cup Series all season but fell short of his first win. He battled leg numbness in the Next Gen car for the first few weeks, but didn’t seem to have any issues on Sunday. He has had two consecutive top-10 finishes after finishing seventh at Las Vegas last week.

Ryan Blaney started from pole and dominated the first half of the race, winning the second stage after leading 138 of the first 185 laps. He settled for fourth. Kurt Busch was fifth.

Kyle Larson won the series championship last year following a fall victory at Phoenix, but engine trouble ended his day early. He finished 34th. It was the end of a frustrating day for Larson, who qualified seventh but had to move to the back of the starting grid due to unapproved steering wheel changes.

Harrison Burton (unapproved settings) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (engine) also started from behind.

BUSCH TAKES THE FLIGHT

One of the hot topics leading up to the race was how much the drivers would use the 110-foot-wide platform on the hairpin turn at Phoenix Raceway.

Most said they would wait to see how others fared with the Next Gen car. The wait didn’t take long: Kyle Busch dove onto the platform in the early laps, taking a few places in the process. From then on it was business as usual with multiple cars on the platform, particularly on restarts.

STEWART’S BIG DAY

Tony Stewart’s team not only won a Cup Series race on Sunday, but also took victory in drag racing.

Three-time Funny Car Season Champion Matt Hagan gave Tony Stewart Racing its first NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series victory at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida. Briscoe said he briefly spoke with Stewart on the phone after his win at Phoenix.

“I was very excited,” Briscoe said. “You could hear dragsters exploding in the background. I just said, ‘Thank you.'”

HARVICK IN THE TOP 10, AGAIN

Veteran Kevin Harvick, who won nine times at Phoenix, couldn’t find victory lane on Sunday. But he did finish in sixth place, which was his 18th consecutive top-10 finish at the track.

That tied Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most consecutive top 10 finishes at a track.

PATCHES

There was a planned competition caution on lap 25, which was halfway through the first stage. Hamlin, Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Michael McDowell were cited for speeding on pit road during the caution. … William Byron won stage one, which was 60 laps. It was the ninth stage win of his career. … Martin Truex Jr., who won last season’s Phoenix spring race, finished 35th after a flat tire caused him to hit the wall at Turn 2. … The final restart at each of all four Cup races this season have come with four or fewer laps remaining. … Briscoe is the 200th Cup Series winner.

UP NEXT: Now that the annual three-week tour of the West Coast is over, the series returns across the country to Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend.

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More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



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