HighPoint.com Driver Chases Crown Jewel Victory
- Event: Cook Out Southern 500 (Round 27 of 36)
- Time/Date: Sunday, Sept. 3
- Location: Darlington (S.C.) Raceway
- Layout: 1.366-mile oval
- TV/Radio: 6 p.m. EDT on USA / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
For the 74th running of the Southern 500, Stewart-Haas Racing driver Chase Briscoe will pilot a black-and-white No. 14 HighPoint.com Ford Mustang. The scheme is representative of Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, a track so fierce that one mistake leaves a black stripe down the right side of NASCAR Cup Series car and potentially ends a driver’s hopes of taming the beast for a crown jewel win.
A win at Darlington is coveted in NASCAR’s top national series and Briscoe ranks his 2020 NASCSAR Xfinity series win at the top of his list of career accomplishments.
“I wouldn’t have a career if it wasn’t for Mike and everyone at HighPoint.com,” Briscoe said. “Going into 2020, I was going to be done. They literally came in fourth quarter with 30 seconds left and kept things going. Without them, I think my career would have been over.”
Darlington, widely known as the track “Too Tough To Tame,” put up a fight that day. But Briscoe tamed it with an impressive win that fueled his path to the Cup Series at the end of that season. In the closing laps of that 2020 Xfinity Series race, Briscoe swapped the lead several times with the winningest driver in series history, Kyle Busch. On his way to the final lap, Briscoe bounced off the turn-four wall coming to the white flag, allowing Busch to pass him down the frontstretch. But Briscoe came right back, passing Busch in the final corner and holding him at bay to take the victory by .086 of a second.
“We won that race,” Briscoe said. “We battled all day. Through spins and mistakes on pit road. We went from the back to the front, and then it came down to us and one of the best drivers to ever race in this sport. There were a lot of races we won that year, but that was probably the one that I look back on and think that’s where I proved what I can do, and we proved what we were capable of as a team. No one gave up and we were all there for each other, every lap.”
It was the kind of finish Darlington is known for. In fact, it was the kind of finish that the late sportswriter, Benny Phillips, would have appreciated.
Phillips was a newspaper reporter with the HighPoint Enterprise, a daily staple of the Piedmont since its founding in late 1885. Phillips joined the paper in 1964 and NASCAR was his beat. In an article dated Sept. 1, 1965, Phillips wrote about the Southern 500 and described Darlington in a way that stuck forever.
“As treacherous as Mata Hari,” he wrote, a reference to an infamous German spy whose cover was performing as an exotic dancer, “as desirable as Hollywood’s most beautiful actress – as unpredictable as any woman – these are the virtues of ‘The Lady in Black.’”
From then on, “The Lady in Black” became as synonymous with Darlington as “Too Tough to Tame.”
Phillips crafted this description by walking in the shoes of those he covered, names like Petty, Pearson, Yarborough, Waltrip and Earnhardt, all of which have been inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Phillips best understood what it meant to see the world through a different lens. He was a standout football player in high school – a running back at Boonville High in Yadkin County, North Carolina – until he contracted polio. It made him a paraplegic. Instead of carrying a football and wearing shoulder pads, he was forced to hold crutches and don full leg braces. If he couldn’t play sports, he determined he’d still be a part of it. And the swashbuckling style of NASCAR, particularly as it played out on the asphalt at Darlington, resonated with Phillips. Just as the icons he covered who are in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, so, too, has Phillips been the recipient of a prestigious honor – the 2016 Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence.
“The Lady in Black,” the moniker made famous by Phillips, is the inspiration behind Briscoe’s black-and-white HighPoint.com Ford Mustang this weekend.
Phillips’ respect and appreciation for the Darlington oval was perhaps most evident in another of his classic descriptions of the track in 1974: “I am sure there are skeptics who say the place doesn’t live and breathe like a human being, and hasn’t a soul, and isn’t vindictive and good and kind and all the other things real humans are. But I know better.”
Briscoe now treads on a path blazed by others and, this weekend at “The Lady in Black,” balances his competitive nature with the respect Darlington demands.