Chase Briscoe: “I was emotionally a wreck, all over the place”

Jim Utter

NASCAR this week was scheduled to return to live racing action at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and Briscoe was looking forward to his first opportunity to compete in a Xfinity Series race since March 7 at Phoenix. The NASCAR season was suspended the following week due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent weeks, stay-at-home restrictions have been relaxed enough to allow NASCAR to hold races without fans.

The 200-mile Xfinity race at Darlington was originally slated for Tuesday night, the same day Briscoe’s wife, Marissa, was scheduled for a routine 12-week checkup on the progress of her pregnancy. Chase took part in the appointment virtually from the race track but the routine visit took a tragic turn when the heartbeat of the young couple’s daughter could not be detected.

The couple were informed Marissa had suffered a miscarriage and suddenly they found themselves dealing with an unfathomable tragedy but more than 100 miles apart.

“I was on FaceTime with her when we found out and then to see her face and for me not to be able to be there and try to comfort her, that was really hard for me personally and try to figure out how I can be there for her,” Briscoe said Thursday. 

“I tried to put on a tough face and try to keep her spirits high, and then she finally got home and my family just so happened to be in town. When she walked in our house and my parents were there to give her a hug, that’s when I finally kind of broke down just because I knew somebody was finally there for her.

“But it was really hard on Tuesday, especially we were just sitting in the rain (at the track). I’m wanting to leave, but I know I can’t leave.”

Tuesday’s race was eventually postponed due to the rain and rescheduled for Thursday afternoon, which did allow Briscoe to return home to North Carolina before having to return to Darlington on Thursday.

Briscoe said he didn’t have doubts he would return to compete in Thursday’s race but really didn’t know how well he would handle his emotions and focus. He and his wife did, however, share their news on social media.

Briscoe said returning to his racing family – even if under strict social-distancing protocols – did provide some comfort.

“You always hear in racing that it’s family and I’ve always seen that from other people whenever they suffer a loss or anything, how the whole community just really wraps their arms around them and me and my wife were so humbled by the amount of people that reached out,” Briscoe said.

“Fellow competitors, crew chiefs, engineers, people in the sport – officials. So many people somehow got my number and told me what they had went through, so it was just unbelievable to feel that finally. 

“Obviously, I don’t wish that upon anybody to feel that, but it just shows how good the racing community is and to come back before the race and everybody coming up to me. Obviously, we can’t hug, but telling me they were there for me if I need anything… and see people that really care about me.”

Thursday’s race suffered yet another rain delay but eventually got underway around 4:30 p.m. ET. Briscoe showed early that he would be competitive in his No. 98 Ford, finishing fourth in Stage 2 and quickly taking the lead at the start of the final stage.

As the race wound down, Briscoe appeared headed to victory but veteran Kyle Busch – who won the second stage but got shuffled back in the field due to a pit road speeding penalty – had worked his way forward to challenge for the lead.

Briscoe clung to a quickly shrinking lead in the final laps of the 147-lap race and with two laps to go, Busch began pressuring to make the winning pass.

Both drivers appeared to tag the wall in their hard-nosed efforts and as the final lap unwound, they ended up racing side-by-side exiting Turn 4 with Briscoe just clearing Busch at the checkered flag.

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Once he exited his car, Briscoe dropped to one knee next to his door as he often does. This time, however, he stood up with tears rolling down his cheeks.

He said: “Truthfully, in the whole race I was kind of out of it, for sure the last 50 laps emotionally. I was kind of all over the place,” he said. “It was a blessing in disguise that it rained Tuesday and I was able to get a couple of days at home.”

Long after the race, Briscoe was still at a loss how to explain his ability to ward off the determined charge of a future Hall of Famer.

“God was driving the car the last eight or nine laps,” he said. “I was emotionally a wreck, all over the place. I don’t even really remember to be honest with you.

“I knew [Marissa] was watching. I knew emotionally what she’s been going through. It’s been hard for me, but it’s nothing compared to what she feels. I was just trying to do everything I could to be there for my wife. 

“I’m not the greatest at letting my emotions show in being there, so this is kind of my way of putting it all out there for her.”