Rising Chase Briscoe's next test: Stepping in for Martin Truex Jr. at JGR


HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — If “Silly Season” is a giant puzzle, then one of the biggest pieces came together earlier this month when word came that Martin Truex Jr. would be retiring from full-time competition after the 2024 NASCAR season.

Truex’s departure is certainly a loss for NASCAR, with him joining a list of several superstars who’ve retired over the past several years. Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer have all either outright retired or greatly reduced their schedules since 2020.

The 2017 Cup Series champion and a likely first-ballot inductee into the NASCAR Hall of Fame upon eligibility, Truex has been open over the past few years about his thoughts on whether to continue racing or step away. If Truex didn’t retire this year, it would’ve likely been next year. His decision isn’t surprising, but it created a vast opening.

It is at JGR where Truex’s loss will be most felt, which makes JGR’s quick pivot to identify Chase Briscoe as Truex’s successor so noteworthy; a move made official Tuesday when team owner Joe Gibbs named Briscoe driver of the No. 19 Toyota beginning in 2025.

Briscoe is stepping into sizable shoes. Not only is Truex, a perennial championship contender, elite on the track — and continues to be despite being the oldest active full-time driver — but he is also regarded by those within JGR as a selfless teammate who pushes the organization to be better.

“It’s hard to believe I’ve been teammates with Martin as long as I have and I’ve never had a ‘What the f—, Martin?’ moment,” fellow JGR driver Denny Hamlin said. “I’m sure that he’s said that to me about me in his head because of things that I’ve done as a teammate. But I’ve never had that moment.”

This is what Briscoe can expect in 2025. Adequately filling either of these roles is enough of a challenge; being both is a very tall task. It’s up to him to prove he’s worthy of the opportunity. Drivers will do just about anything for the chance Briscoe has been given; aligned with a preeminent organization with a wealth of resources where just winning a race on occasion isn’t enough.

The pressure will be on. There are no excuses at JGR. Nor should there be.

“If I don’t win, then the way I look at it is my career is probably over,” Briscoe said Tuesday. “Because if I can’t perform at this caliber of a race team, then why would any other owner take a chance on me? That’s just the way I feel about it.”

Briscoe knows the situation he’s entering. It’s not all that different from 2021, when Stewart-Haas Racing, at the time similar in stature to JGR, promoted him from the Xfinity Series to Cup to drive its flagship No. 14, the car his boyhood hero Tony Stewart once drove. And Briscoe performed well, turning in a respectable rookie season followed by winning a race and earning a playoff berth in his second year.

And even though the upward trajectory Briscoe was once on has since flatlined a bit — much of it due to SHR’s overall decline that culminated with team co-owners Stewart and Gene Haas announcing last month that SHR would be shutting down at the end of 2024 — his talent is unmistakable. This year, even amid all the uncertainty surrounding SHR, where many team members know they’ll soon be out of work, Briscoe has scratched his way into playoff contention, 25 points out with eight regular-season races remaining.

Just as it was no surprise that Truex elected to step away, it was equally unsurprising that Briscoe found himself atop many teams’ wish list, JGR included, in a crowded free-agent market.

In Briscoe, JGR is getting a driver with plenty of upside. With his experience (126 career starts), ability and familiarity with the inner dynamics of life at a big team, it’s easy to understand why JGR prioritized getting Briscoe under contract. The team sought a driver who could plop right in Truex’s seat and be expected to produce immediate results, negating any prolonged adjustment period.

“If you go with a young guy, then you’re probably going to spend two to three years (waiting for that driver to gain experience),” Gibbs said Tuesday. “… We wanted somebody with the experience that we felt like could win.”

A further benefit is that the 29-year-old Briscoe gives JGR a viable option in the short term while also offering the potential to be a long-term mainstay within the organization. With Briscoe in the fold, along with current JGR drivers Christopher Bell (age 29) and Ty Gibbs (21), JGR has three pillars to build around for years to come.

No, Briscoe is not Truex, though few are. But Briscoe’s ceiling is that of someone who in the right situation has the ability to win multiple races and qualify for the playoffs each season.

When Truex’s retirement thrust the organization into the whirlwind that is Silly Season, JGR could’ve done a lot worse. Instead, JGR landed a driver who checks a whole lot of boxes. That’s a win.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

NASCAR New Hampshire takeaways: Wet-weather tire dilemma, Christopher Bell shines

(Photo of Chase Briscoe: Sean Gardner / Getty Images)





Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top