Chase Briscoe and crew chief Johnny Klausmeier made a powerful statement to the competition this past weekend with their win at Phoenix Raceway.
It marked a pivotal breakthrough for the No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing team as they finally made it to victory lane together for the first time since Briscoe joined them last year. This week, Klausmeier spoke to Auto Racing Digest about his budding relationship with Briscoe and their recent success.
As it turns out, there is far more than meets the eye when it comes to the recent emergence of this dynamic duo.
Klausmeier credited the win to the culmination of everything the team has worked on.
“We’ve 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 role in gaining track position, and Chase did a great job all day for us.”
And come together, it did. Following an underwhelming 2021 season filled with growing pains and learning curves, the team is finally showing the consistency it needs to compete for wins regularly.
This stark improvement in performance over the offseason speaks volumes about Briscoe and Klausmeier’s rapport and work ethic, as they have continuously grown and built upon their results to get to where they are now.
Last season, Briscoe came into the Cup series as a rookie fresh off a dominant nine-win season in the Xfinity Series the year before. He found himself paired with Klausmeier, a well-established crew chief who had worked with drivers such as 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 success in the first year.
“(2021) was a learning year," said Klausmeier, a native of Baltimore, Md. "Showing up every week and just racing without any practice made it really hard for us to develop. Coming in with a rookie driver, we knew there were going to be a lot of questions.
"In that situation, I knew that you just have to be very transparent with the driver. One must understand that they don’t know everything. You just have to take it one practice at a time.”
Klausmeier’s approach to the rookie Briscoe last year seems to have set the foundation for a wildly synergetic relationship. The two have complementary skill sets that afford them an enhanced understanding of the racecar from both a driver’s and engineer’s perspective.
Yet, their respective level-headedness and relentless work ethics serve as the common ground they need to thrive in such a high level of competition. Even then, Klausmeier adamantly commended Briscoe for his unrivaled determination, which famously helped him overcome many setbacks in his career.
“Chase fought and clawed 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 was given to him easy. And we really match each other’s work ethic because of it.
"Knowing all the work that 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 the competition needs to worry about moving forward. At the heart of it, they are two guys who love racing to its core. Their passion for the sport fuels a work ethic that only one who is infatuated with racing could emulate.
Ultimately, they are masters of their craft who refuse to settle for anything less than their best. Although only time will tell just how far the two of them can make it 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 accomplish those big 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 bigger picture every day.”
Currently, the duo is four races into their second season together and has already locked themselves into the playoffs. They sit in 5th place in the standings heading into Atlanta, and it’s becoming clear that they have race-winning speed.
There is still a lot of season left, and anything could happen, but Briscoe and Klausmeier are trending upwards fast. Between their savvy racing minds and their ability to mesh so well, there is no doubt fans need to keep an eye on the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Mustang this season to see what they can achieve.