Chase Briscoe and crew chief Johnny Klausmeier made a powerful statement to the competition last weekend with their victory at Phoenix Raceway.
It marked a pivotal breakthrough for the No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing team as they finally reached victory lane together for the first time since Briscoe joined them last year. This week, Klausmeier spoke with auto racing abstract about his budding relationship with Briscoe and his recent success.
It turns out that there is much more than meets the eye when it comes to the recent appearance of this dynamic duo.
Klausmeier attributed the victory to the culmination of everything the team has worked on.
“We had speed all year, but it all came together in Phoenix,” he said. “It was a team effort for sure. The car was fast, the pit crew played a huge part in gaining track positions and Chase did a great job all day for us.”
And come together, he did. After a disappointing 2021 season filled with growing pains and learning curves, the team is finally showing the consistency it needs to regularly contend for wins.
This huge improvement in performance over the offseason speaks volumes about Briscoe and Klausmeier’s relationship and work ethic as they have continually grown and built on their results to get to where they are now.
Last season, Briscoe entered the Cup Series as a rookie fresh off a dominant nine-win Xfinity Series season the year before. He found himself paired with Klausmeier, a well-established crew chief who had worked with the likes of Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer in the past.
Tasked with showing a rookie the ropes while also dealing with limited track time due to COVID protocols, Klausmeier approached Briscoe with a focus on growth rather than first-year success.
“(2021) was a learning year,” said Klausmeier, a native of Baltimore, Md. “Showing up every week and running without practicing made it very difficult for us to develop. Arriving with a rookie driver, we knew there would be a lot of questions.
“In that situation, I knew you just had to be very transparent with the driver. You have to understand that they don’t know everything. You just have to take one practice at a time.”
Klausmeier’s rapprochement with rookie Briscoe last year appears to have set the stage for a tremendously synergistic relationship. The two have complementary skill sets that allow them a better understanding of the race car from a driver’s and engineer’s perspective.
However, their respective level-headedness and relentless work ethic serve as the common ground they need to thrive at such a high level of competition. Even then, Klausmeier strongly praised Briscoe for his unparalleled determination, which helped him overcome many setbacks in his career.
“Chase fought and fought to get to this level, and now that he’s here, I’m extremely proud to be able to work with him,” Klausmeier said. “He made it through the trenches. Nothing came easy for him. And we really agree on each other’s work ethic because of that.
“Knowing all the work he’s put in to get to this point makes people want to work harder for him.”
This attitude is exactly why Briscoe and Klausmeier are a tandem that the competition has to worry about moving forward. At heart, they are two guys who love racing. His passion for the sport fuels a work ethic that only someone who is in love with racing could emulate.
Ultimately, they are masters of their craft who refuse to settle for anything less than the best. Although only time will tell how far they can go together, Klausmeier already believes in his driver behind the wheel with the utmost confidence.
“The sky is the limit for Chase,” Klausmeier said. “Of course, it takes time to achieve such great achievements, but I believe in him. Right now, we’re focused on racking up playoff points and getting multiple wins, but we’re working toward the big picture every day.”
The duo are now four races into their second season together and have already made it to the playoffs. They sit fifth in the standings heading into Atlanta, and it’s becoming clear that they have the speed to win races.
There’s still a long season to go, and anything could happen, but Briscoe and Klausmeier are trending fast. Between their clever racing minds and their ability to fit in so well, there’s no question fans should keep an eye on Stewart-Haas’ No. 14 Mustang this season to see what they can pull off.