NASCAR Cup Series
Chase Briscoe embracing pressure of move to JGR: 'There's no excuse to not win'
NASCAR Cup Series

Chase Briscoe embracing pressure of move to JGR: 'There's no excuse to not win'

Published Jun. 25, 2024 4:06 p.m. ET

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — Hall of Fame football coach and NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs spoke bluntly during the news conference Tuesday introducing Chase Briscoe as the replacement for retiring Martin Truex Jr.

"We have to win," Gibbs said.

In other words, the pressure is on.

The 29-year-old Briscoe is a driver known to have a lot of upside, but so far the promise he showed during a nine-win Xfinity season in 2020 has not come to fruition in the NASCAR Cup Series.


In 126 starts for Stewart-Haas Racing, Briscoe has managed just one win, 12 top-5 finishes and an average finish of 18.7.

Those numbers don't scream automatic winner. And yet a driver endorsed by Tony Stewart to drive the No. 14 that was Stewart's legacy at SHR, also brings the feeling that his first three-plus years in Cup don't indicate what he could do at one of the top teams in the NASCAR Cup Series.

"I've proven that when our car is capable, I'm more than capable to be in the mix and battle for race wins," Briscoe said. "Al lot of those [possible winning] races, I honestly kind of threw away at SHR. ... When our car is right, I feel like I've been able to show that I can do it.

"I've been able to win at the Cup level. From a consistency standpoint, 100 percent it's not been there. It's not and there's no excuse for that. But I do think from a consistency standpoint, it's going to be way easier over here to be consistent just week in and week out, their cars are extremely fast. At our place, we've been more hit-and-miss."

Briscoe points to the driver he is replacing as an example of how a driver with talent and potential can go from a driver who could win to a championship contender. Truex earned just one Cup win in his first seven seasons and three in his first 10 before winning 23 races over a four-year stretch that included the 2017 Cup title.

Truex, with 34 Cup wins now in his career and fourth in the Cup standings, announced on June 14 that he would retire from full-time racing. Briscoe revealed Tuesday that he had already signed by then to be Truex's replacement.

The JGR No. 19 car will retain Bass Pro Shops as one of its sponsors and Truex crew chief James Small will remain as crew chief for Briscoe.

Small, too, has something to prove. Truex has three wins since the start of 2022 despite leading 1,918 laps. Fast cars have been no problem but executing races hasn't been the team's strength, and Small has taken more than his share of the blame.

"It's obvious we're not changing the crew chief," Gibbs said. "If you take a look at what we've done, ... we've been the dominate car too at times and things just didn't go well at the end of the race."

Having just met Briscoe in the last few weeks, Small said he has confidence in his new driver. 

"Chase has to prove himself — he's been in a car that's been not that great, you know what I mean? And now he's stepping to one of the most coveted rides in NASCAR," Small said. "And I really believe after sitting down and talking to him that he's ready to do what it takes to win. And we're behind him.

"I think we can come out and win. There'll be a little bit of a learning process, but I think our team is strong enough to figure all that out. We'll be up front right away."

Gibbs showed confidence in Briscoe partly because of the Truex history. And Gibbs wanted a young driver with some experience.

"For me a huge deal, ... you look at what he did in Xfinity by leading the laps, the nine wins and all that — that's the part of our world where you get the feeling somebody could do it at the Cup level," Gibbs said. "He went through that. He won once. ... Is it a sinch? No.

"But we think in analyzing everything, he could be a little bit like Martin."

Just two days ago, Gibbs talked with Briscoe when Briscoe finished second behind his future JGR teammate Christopher Bell at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

"I told him in the winner's circle: Next year, not this year," Gibbs said. 

Briscoe is used to this pressure. The year he won the nine Xfinity races, he had pretty much said he had to start winning to continue in NASCAR. 

"The way I look at it is this is very similar to the Xfinity deal when I said I had to win eight-to-10 races," Briscoe said. "I don't have to win eight-to-10. It'd be great if I do. But I have to win.

"There's no excuse to not win. You have to make the playoffs. If you don't make the playoffs then there's no reason I should be driving this race car."

The same was true when he joined SHR but the team never found its footing, especially with the new Next Gen car that was introduced in 2022. Briscoe views this as his last career opportunity where he can't afford not to perform.

"If I don't win and the way I look at it as my career is probably over, because if I can't perform at this caliber race team, then why would any other owner take a chance on me?" Briscoe said. "That's just the way I feel about it."

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.


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