After a weather-delayed Boyd Gaming 300, Chase Briscoe came out victorious in dominant fashion. Briscoe starts off the 2020 season with a win and top five at Daytona to lead the early way in the Xfinity Series standings.
Briscoe has come out and became many analysts’ favorite to win the Xfinity Series this year. Is he sneaking his way into contention for a Cup ride in 2021?
Biagi-Denbeste Racing, for which Briscoe is driving for this year is actually a development team for Stewart-Haas Racing that successfully provided Cole Custer with the resources to earn his way into the #41 car for SHR. This year they’re only fielding one car and that is Briscoe.
SHR is in an interesting situation, they currently field a relatively veteran-heavy line-up with there average driver age being 36-years old, making them the oldest team in NASCAR. With NASCAR itself going through a youth movement, it’s only a matter of time before SHR follows suit.
Kevin Harvick is still arguably the best driver in all of the Cup Series so his job is safe, but the other two veterans of Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola are starting to plant themselves firmly in the hot seat.
Between the two, I’m more inclined to say that Almirola is the weakest link, and I believe that Bowyer is the superior talent, the stats aren’t as kind, however.
Clint Bowyer in three seasons at SHR:
Top Fives: 22
Top Tens: 47
Average Finish: 15th
Aric Almirola in two seasons with SHR:
Top Fives: 16
Top Tens: 29
Average Finish: 14th
I was surprised when I started working on this piece because, in the beginning, I was only going to list Almirola as a potential landing spot for Briscoe, however, Bowyer is just as likely to get booted from his current ride when really looking at this without bias.
The big problem for Bowyer; for whatever reason Smithfield – a major sponsor – is in love with everything that Aric Almirola does and seems determined to keep him as their driver. In today’s NASCAR, the sponsor wins out over talent in most cases. Bowyer, on the other hand, seems to have a rotating door of sponsors that isn’t particularly loyal to him.
The eye test still favors Bowyer. Almirola rarely is seen running near the front of races and his only win for SHR came at Talledega. While I will never devalue a race win, there’s a reason they call superspeedway races “equalizers.”
Bowyer’s two wins came in a dominating fashion at Martinsville and then a rain-shortened Michigan race but he didn’t end up in first through pit strategy alone. He had a fast car all day and took only two tires on the final pit stop of the day and drove away from Kevin Harvick who had four fresh Goodyears on his car. It was one of the most hard-fought wins I’d seen in a long time.
Stats don’t tell the whole story, and I think that Bowyer deserves to keep his ride over Almirola. He has to get back into contention not just for wins but for a championship if he is going to prove that to the people that matter.
While these two have been struggling to put up consistent numbers in Cup, Briscoe has been putting up great numbers in every lower division he’s gone through:
Tops Fives: 15
Top Tens: 20
Average Finish: 5th
Won a championship in his only full-time season.
Top Fives: 11
Tops Tens: 16
Average Finish: 8th
Top Fives: 16
Top Tens: 32
Average Finish: 11th
For Comparison: Cole Custers Xfinity Stats prior to being given a full time ride in Cup for SHR.
Top Fives: 39
Top Tens: 71
Average Finish: 11th
I know that this has been a lot of stats and numbers, but just to sum it all up. Bowyer and Almirola have near-identical stats and have been struggling to produce results their equipment would dictate. Briscoe is putting up numbers similar to a driver who is considered an up and coming talent in the Cup Series.
SHR would be making a big mistake in allowing Briscoe to take an opportunity elsewhere in my opinion. They have a pipeline driver waiting in the wings to begin the youth movement for SHR, and neither Almirola nor Bowyer are putting up strong enough finishes at the moment to impeded Briscoe’s charge to a Cup ride.
If Briscoe continues to find victory lane and win a championship this year and Almirola and Bowyer can’t start stringing together some wins and put their teams in contention for a championship, I think there’s a strong chance one will be looking for a new ride in the offseason. The other will probably only be safe until Hailie Deegan starts her ascent as previously speculated.