Chase Briscoe claims his fourth win of the season at Pocono and has been the class of the entire Xfinity Series field in this odd 2020 season. Driving for Stewart-Haas Racing comes with an enticing opportunity as three of the four drivers are 36-years old or older, and two of those three are underperforming in top tier equipment.
Briscoe is 25-years old and proving that he is more than ready for a cup series ride in the 2021 season. As Ford’s prime development driver, he is next in line for Ford’s rookie of the year bid. Is SHR a dead set match for Briscoe?
Recently, Kyle Larson’s name has been brought up as a favorite to land the #14-car in the offseason. As the long-standing rumor remains that Clint Bowyer will retire and take on a role in the Fox broadcast booth to give them a much-needed burst of personality. Larson being his replacement presents an odd situation for Ford.
Larson is talented and based on that alone he would be a great driver to bring under their umbrella. His reputation is where the problem comes in, not just for Ford, but for potential sponsors. I do not by any means believe Larson should be automatically absolved of his wrongdoing. I believe that more needs to be done then just sensitivity training. However, I do believe he deserves another chance at restarting his racing career.
Based on talent, you’d have to give Larson the ride. But, if sponsors are too timid to sponsor him, then Briscoe would obviously win out. Sponsorship will be key in this saga, who would sponsor Larson if anybody?
The easy solution for SHR would be to boot both Bowyer and his underperforming teammate Aric Almirola to allow Larson and Briscoe to replace them. If you can convince Mobil 1, Busch, Rush Truck Centers, and especially Smithfield to stay on board to sponsor both of them, it would be ideal. Smithfield has been reluctant to leave Almirola’s side, but with the constant lack of performance and wins their patience is sure to be running thin. But would they be willing to drop Almirola for a white man (no it doesn’t matter if he’s half Japanese) who used the N-word? Probably not.
The chances of both Almirola and Bowyer leaving are slim. And if SHR can convince Bowyer’s sponsors to stay on and carry Larson, then Briscoe at SHR seems like a dim dream. Where else could Briscoe go?
Well, there are only five other Ford teams in NASCAR:
- Front Row Motorsports
- Go Fas Racing
- Roush-Fenway Racing
- Team Penske
- Wood Brothers Racing
We can go ahead and throw Go Fas out of the window, LaJoie has not done anything to lose his ride and they more than likely do not have the funds to field a second car. Even if they did, Briscoe’s pay grade would be out of Go Fas’ ballpark.
As much as I would love to give Front Row Motorsport’s credit to be able to lure a driver of Briscoe’s caliber to one of their rides, I don’t think it’s in the cards. Their level of competition has improved and the acquisition of John Hunter Nemechek has proven they have cars capable of being solid cup contenders. They’d be lucky to have Briscoe replace Michael McDowell, but it probably won’t happen, especially with them grooming Todd Gilliland in the truck series.
Roush-Fenway is a possibility, although they are in such a chaotic time in their racing history that I would be worried to take on that task if I was young talent. Neither Newman nor Buescher is putting up numbers to attract potential drivers.
The more than likely scenario’s come with Penske and the Wood Brothers. The Wood Brothers are running well with Matt DiBenedetto, and adding a second car could be the ultimate comeback story for a team that had to go to a part-time schedule only four years ago. They can provide solid equipment for Briscoe to flourish. It’s not a crown jewel ride, but a great jumping-off point.
Team Penske is my ideal fit outside of SHR. They also have a seat more than likely coming open for 2021 with Brad Keselowski’s inevitable departure. Another problem presents itself in this scenario for Briscoe, Austin Cindric is next in line at Penske.
Cindric who has no wins, but is currently sitting third in the Xfinity standings with 8 tops tens with an average finish of 12th. Solid numbers, although they become dwarfed by Briscoes 4 wins and an average finish of 8th.
Who would I rather have? Chase Briscoe easily. He’s proven to be more resilient and able to win on different types of tracks and possess more overall talent than Cindric, who has become a road course ace really.
The problem is Cindric is already in the Penske pipeline and has a relationship built with the in-house sponsors. The best solution for Penske is a perfect world where they can throw one of the two in the #2-car and then establish a fourth and final car.
As you can see, Briscoe is in a rough scenario where a lot of good things need to happen to give him a shot at cup next season. The chances of SHR booting both Bowyer and Almirola are slim, and it appears likely Larson is the favorite for a ride unless sponsors balk at the idea.
In this climate, it is hard to imagine race teams expanding. The Wood Brothers and Team Penske may not have the financial means to be able to extend their teams in 2021. So he will need to prove he deserves the #2-car over the likes of Austin Cindric in order to break the connection they have with him.
Chase Briscoe is expected to be in the cup series next year, but the series of events that will have to happen to get him there is going to be fun to watch develop.