If a driver's rookie season is one for learning and improving, then Chase Briscoe's 2021 rookie season was right on track. He didn't set the NASCAR world on fire, but he did exactly what he should have: logged as many laps as he could and showed improvement as the season wore on. He finished 23rd in points in a highly competitive field.
Briscoe begins 2022 a year wiser, but with a whole new racecar to contend with. His team situation is stable; he’ll be paired with veteran crew chief Johnny Klausmeier for the second year. Stewart-Haas Racing has plenty of resources, and with Ford's Research and Development facility just down the road, he’s got access to even more tools.
A winner in both the Xfinity and Truck series, Briscoe did have his struggles as a rookie — but SHR as a whole struggled, so it’s not necessarily indicative of Briscoe's talent. While veteran teammate Kevin Harvick had a strong season, he didn't win, and while Aric Almirola squeaked into the playoffs on a win, his season was anything but consistent. Sophomore Cole Custer slumped all season, finishing 26th in points with an average finish worse than Briscoe's.
If the new racecar helps Stewart-Haas Racing regain equal footing, then you can expect to see improvement from Briscoe in 2022. He’s a smart, methodical racer, and his aggressive side usually serves him well. It got him in trouble last year at Indianapolis, where he was parked for a late-race move that NASCAR deemed excessive, but he was also racing for the win when that happened.
Briscoe proved himself a strong road course racer in 2021. All three of his top-10 finishes came on that track type (Circuit of the Americas, Road America and Watkins Glen). His results on other tracks were mixed, but he had top-15 runs on surfaces as varied as Bristol and Talladega. That’s a bonus because it shows versatility as NASCAR works to improve the mix of tracks on the Cup schedule in future years.
What Briscoe needs to focus on in 2022 is both simple and deceivingly hard, and that’s improving at each track and finishing consistently in the top 15. He’s capable of that, and his equipment will be as well. But there are plenty of drivers with the ability to finish in the top 15, so Briscoe will need to execute. Easier said than done, but he is capable.
The next step is to learn to compete with the frontrunners. That’s a big step, and it’s not unusual to see drivers in their second and third years working on it. William Byron followed that arc — picking up just a handful of top 10s as a rookie, he had a much stronger sophomore season and won in his third year. In Year 4, he was one of the series’ more consistent competitors.
That’s the kind of progression that Briscoe can and should aspire to. It’s easy to expect more of rookies because some have been wildly successful in recent years, but a timeline like Byron’s is more realistic. Remember, only two Cup rookies since 2010 have visited Victory Lane in their first year.
The key will be consistency. Briscoe was one of the most consistent drivers in the Xfinity Series in 2019 and 2020, finishing in the top five in points both years. He had a handful of DNFs for crashes in 2021, but three is hardly an alarming number. If he can stay on the track and stay out of trouble, he’ll have plenty of chances to grab good finishes.
Briscoe is not a lock for the Playoffs, but he can certainly earn a spot. That would put him on a successful career trajectory.