MADISON, Ill. (AP) — As he’s trying to race his way into the NASCAR Cup series playoffs, Chase Briscoe now faces a fresh challenge with the potential for his Stewart-Haas Racing team to deteriorate around him.

Owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas announced this week that the four-team garage would cease operations at the end of the season, leaving the future up in the air for Briscoe and teammates Josh Berry, Noah Gragson and Ryan Preece.

“It might really be hard for us just to even get cars to the race track,” Briscoe said during qualifying Saturday at World Wide Technology Raceway. “You know, if people are leaving. It’s not like you’re going to get somebody to start coming to work there even on short-term basis.

“Once people leave, there’s nobody coming back. We already do it on way less people than the other four-car teams, so it is kind of scary just knowing the position that we’re in right now.”

Briscoe will enter the race Sunday 16th in the points standings, but just outside the 16-driver playoffs because Daniel Suárez has claimed a playoff spot with a victory at Atlanta. Berry is 19th and Gragson 21st.

“For my side of things, nothing’s really going to change, right? I mean, I’m going to keep racing hard and fighting and doing everything I can to stay racing at this level,” said Berry, a rookie.

Berry said he hopes to find a new home where he can stay with crew chief Rodney Childers and other members of his crew.

“Nothing’s really ever came that easy for me. So, you know, when I got this opportunity, I almost felt like it was too good to be true,” Berry said. “And here we are less than a year later dealing with all this, but we’re not going to quit. We’re going to keep digging.”

Amid the distractions, the team struggled on the track. For just the second time this season, none of the four drivers qualified in the top 20. The other time came on the road course at Circuit of the Americas.

LARSON IN LIMBO

After missing the start of the Coca-Cola 600 because he was competing in the Indy 500, Kyle Larson filed a waiver seeking to regain his playoff eligibility. But he isn’t fretting about it.

“It’s not up to me,” Larson said. “So, yeah, just I’ll be here every weekend.”

Other Cup Series contenders said they expect Larson to get the waiver.

“I do think he’ll get it and that he should get it,” Brad Keselowski said. “There’s some rather unique circumstances and, you know, I like the idea of drivers running the double I think that’s good for our sport.”

Kyle Busch agreed that Larson shouldn’t be punished when he’s “doing more for motorsports than anybody else.”

“Kyle Larson is going to win five or six or seven races this year,” Michael McDowell said after winning the pole. “To sit here and say that he’s not going to get a waiver because he tried to do the double and brought a tremendous amount of eyeballs on our sport and a tremendous amount of eyeballs on IndyCar and just helped motorsports all together is crazy.”

LOGANO’S LAMENT

Joey Logano, the 2022 winner and a two-time Cup Series champion, had the fastest time in practice but sagged to 12th in qualifying.

“We don’t have any mulligans left at this point. Where we are in points, we need to get up in points, get all the points we possibly can, win a race if possible,” said Logano, who is currently 17th in points. “I look at this track as one of our strongest, the last two times we’ve been here. finishing first and third. So I feel like we should have a good shot.”

Logano’s only win so far this season came in the All-Star race at North Wilkesboro, which doesn’t help in the playoff hunt.

“There’s a million reasons to love it. But, you know, there’s no points, right?” said Logano, who has failed to record a top 10 in the last six races that awarded points. “It doesn’t really affect the season a whole bunch outside of just a momentum-builder.”

BUSCH

Kyle Busch has led the most laps in both races at the St. Louis-area track, recording a second-place finish in 2022 before winning last year. It’s also special place for the team because Busch’s crew chief, Randall Burnett, is from the St. Louis suburb of Fenton, Missouri.

“You have to drive World Wide Technology Raceway differently than other places we go. As a driver, that’s fun and gives you a different challenge,” Busch said. “It’s also unique because it’s not quite a short track but it’s not quite a superspeedway. It’s egg-shaped and drives like a short track.”

BETTING ODDS

Denny Hamlin is the 5/1 favorite to win in St. Louis, according to BetMGM Sportsbook. He was second in St. Louis last year. Larson is the second choice at 13/2, followed by William Byron and Martin Truex Jr. at 8/1 and Christopher Bell and Ryan Blaney at 9/1.

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