Two Hoosiers. 24 years apart. One paint scheme. It’s a combination that perfectly encapsulates the theme of this year’s NASCAR Throwback Weekend at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway: NASCAR’s Champions… Past, Present and Future.
Chase Briscoe is a 25-year-old racer from Mitchell, Indiana, and the No. 98 HighPoint.com Ford Mustang he will race in the Sept. 5 Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Darlington will eschew its traditional blue-and-white livery for one made famous by fellow Hoosier and NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart during his epic run to the 2011 NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Briscoe will drive a black-and-white HighPoint.com Ford Mustang with bold red accents that emulate the Mobil 1 design Stewart piloted to an amazing five-win playoff campaign in 2011. In fact, HighPoint, a leading customer service and technology solutions company, has even incorporated the red “o” in Mobil 1’s logo into its own identification, with the “o” in HighPoint an equally bright red. It is the first time in the company’s 24-year-history that it has temporarily altered its logo.
“This is our first year in NASCAR, and even with the challenges we’ve all faced amid COVID-19, it’s been a fantastic experience,” said Mike Mendiburu, president and CEO, HighPoint. “Chase and Stewart-Haas Racing embody so many of the fundamentals that shape our company. They are relentless, so when opportunities present themselves, they seize them and reap the benefits. Our throwback paint scheme is one of those moments. It’s a great way to showcase all that Tony Stewart has accomplished and our partnership with him, while highlighting Chase’s abilities and his run to an Xfinity Series championship.”
Briscoe was 16 years old when a 40-year-old Stewart tore through the NASCAR Playoffs, winning the first two races of the 10-race playoffs and then three of the last four, including the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway where Stewart led four times for 65 laps and passed an incredible 118 cars to seal the title in a tiebreaker over Carl Edwards.
“I’ve always been a diehard Tony Stewart fan,” said Briscoe, who now races for his idol at Stewart-Haas Racing, the team Stewart co-owns with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas. “When Tony sets his sights on something, there’s nothing you can do to stop him, and that title run in 2011 was a perfect example.
“Now here I am running for an Xfinity Series championship, and I’m trying to do exactly what Tony did in 2011. To have his title-winning paint scheme on my HighPoint.com Ford Mustang is as much of a way to honor him as it is for me to stay focused on my ultimate goal of winning a championship.”
While 24 years apart, Briscoe and Stewart grew up similarly. Both came from humble, middle-class families in southern Indiana and each began their racing careers in go-karts before making a name for themselves in the rough-and-tumble world of sprint car racing. Briscoe’s hometown of Mitchell is 90 minutes southwest of Stewart’s hometown of Columbus. And after each started their respective racing careers in open-wheel machines, they gravitated to NASCAR, where Stewart became a three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion with 69 victories across NASCAR’s top-three touring series – Cup, Xfinity and Truck.
“Being able to race for Tony is a huge benefit,” Briscoe said. “We have the same background in sprint cars, so we kind of speak the same language. If I need some help on the pavement side with our HighPoint.com Ford Mustang, I can call Tony and he completely understands what I’m feeling in the car and can tell me what I need to do to adapt my dirt-track experience to the Xfinity Series.”
If there’s anyone who can explain the transition from dirt-track racing to NASCAR, it is Stewart. He is a four-time USAC champion and has won numerous sprint car races, including in the elite World of Outlaws.
“Chase is a really smooth driver who doesn’t make many mistakes, but when he does, he learns from them and doesn’t repeat them,” Stewart said. “He’s really mature and he’s taken everything he learned last year during his rookie season and put it together this year.”
This was on display July 4 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when Briscoe applied his dirt-racing experience to the track’s road course, making a stirring drive from third to first in the race’s final three laps to take the home state win for him and Stewart.
Briscoe has eight career Xfinity Series wins, six of which have come this season, including at Darlington when the Xfinity Series visited the 1.366-mile oval back in May.
“Darlington is so different from every track we go to,” Briscoe said. “It’s narrow, and the groove, the surface and the shape are unlike anything on the schedule. You’ve got to take care of your tires or you aren’t going to be able to make any moves for position and move around on the track to find speed. Tony always did a good job of that. I’m ready for the challenge of Darlington and proud to honor him.”
— Stewart Haas Racing —