TOLEDO, Ohio (Sept. 13, 2016) - ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards championship leader Chase Briscoe is three races away from the national championship. With several Special Award categories still up for grabs, there must be some solace in knowing that he has already wrapped up the 2016 ARCA Short Track Challenge championship presented by Protect Plus.
Simply put, Briscoe is the best of the best on ARCA's rigorous short track schedule across the board.
"There's a lot of pride that goes with this...being the Short Track champion," Briscoe said.
"We buried ourselves early on...I had a bad run at Nashville; then we had to start crawling our way out. I sat down with Chad (Bryant/crew chief) after Nashville, and we put our heads together...to see what we could do to win this thing."
If Briscoe thought he "buried" himself with a ninth-place finish at Nashville, no telling what he was thinking in the next short track race at Salem where he finished 16th.
"At that point, I thought the Short Track championship was over for us. Keep in mind, I had only driven in a couple of short track races in a stock car up until Nashville. It was hard to see at that point how we could be the champions, especially in knowing how tough the ARCA short track schedule is, and I had never done it before."
Then, Briscoe, possibly in the nick of time, spit out a top-five finish at Toledo and a sixth-place at Madison. Yet, it didn't quite satisfy the Mitchell, Indiana rookie.
"I was so disappointed after Madison. We qualified on the pole....then I just couldn't figure out that place in the race. That was on me. It was really frustrating. That was a real low point for me personally in the season."
Despite the frustration, Briscoe buckled up tighter and won a hard-fought battle over Dalton Sargeant to earn his career-first victory at Winchester Speedway in late June.
"Once we got that first win out of the way, I felt like there were more right around the corner."
Indeed there was as by demonstration when Briscoe steered his way into the winner's circle at Iowa Speedway and Lucas Oil Raceway. Briscoe followed his three straight short track wins with his career-first superspeedway triumph at Pocono, and although it didn't count in the Short Track Challenge, it was clear that Briscoe meant business.
Briscoe came right back with a second-place finish at Berlin, the shortest track on tour and then earned back-to-back top-fives on the Springfield and DuQuoin mile dirts. He finally sewed up the Short Track Challenge championship at Salem Speedway last Saturday night with a sixth-place finish. It wasn't the result he was looking for, but it was plenty good enough to shore up ARCA's Short Track title.
"Once I figured out how to win, I would just come back with the same strategy...go all out and try to win and don't worry about the points. That's when it all started coming together. Each short track is so different in the ARCA Series and they're all challenging in their own way. There's definitely a lot of pride that goes with this short track championship, and I'm feeling it.
"I just want to thank Cunningham Motorsports - Briggs Cunningham and Kerry Scherer - for this amazing opportunity, and for bringing the best cars every week. My guys on my crew work so hard on this...my crew chief Chad Bryant...he's the best. And thanks to Protect Plus for sponsoring ARCA's short track championship. This one will stay with me forever."
The Short Track Challenge championship presented by Protect Plus is another championship within the overall season championship, an accumulation of points from all of ARCA's short tracks, deemed one mile in length or less. The Short Track Challenge championship by Protect Plus pays a $10,500 point fund at the end of the year.
Tom Hessert finished second in Short Track points, 135 behind Briscoe. Josh Williams, Matt Kurzejewski and AJ Fike completed the top-five respectively, and all will be receiving Short Track Challenge cash payouts in the year-end championship awards banquet in Indianapolis December 10.
In other Special Award categories, Briscoe is the leading SCOTT Rookie Challenge of the Year contender, the Bill France 4 Crown leader, the Valvoline Lap Leader, the S&S Volvo Laps Completed leader and the Menards Pole presented by Ansell leader.
Briscoe's crew chief Chad Bryant is the leading Cometic Crew Chief of the Year while Briscoe's car owner, Briggs Cunningham, leads a close race over Billy Venturini in the General Tire Superspeedway Challenge title fight. Cunningham also leads in the RE Lightning Challenge and Fast Track Award categories.
In the next event at Chicagoland Speedway this Thursday, September 15, the Bill France 4 Crown champion will be awarded. Briscoe holds a slim 20-point lead over Hessert. The General Tire Superspeedway Challenge championship is even closer, with Cunningham leading by just five points over Venturini.
Don Radebaugh email@example.com