DARLINGTON, S.C. — NASCAR driver Chase Briscoe was grateful to bring a moment or two of happiness to wife Marissa in the worst week of their lives.
It was Tuesday, during a 12-week exam, that they learned that their expected child — they only learned Monday that it was a girl — had no fetal heartbeat.
Two days later, Briscoe won the Xfinity Series' return to action amid the coronavirus pandemic when he held off Kyle Busch at Darlington Raceway.
"This has been the hardest week I've ever had to deal with, and God is so good," Briscoe said after Thursday's victory. "Even when I took the lead with 50 (laps) to go, I was crying inside the race car."
Briscoe had joined his wife's appointment on a video call from the infield at Darlington, awaiting the rain-delayed race's original start time Tuesday night. He and Marissa shared their news Wednesday via Instagram, hoping it might help others cope with similar tragedies.
Now his story will reach so many more.
"This is more than a race win," he said. "This is the biggest day of my life after the toughest day in my life, and to be able to best the best there is is so satisfying."
Briscoe said he never seriously considered not racing Thursday, believing that doing so might be "therapuetic" in the first event for NASCAR's second-tier national circuit since March 7 at Phoenix Raceway.
Briscoe used two strong restarts and a quick pit stop to win. He got the lead out of the pits during the final caution, then pulled away from Busch and Justin Allgaier on the subsequent restart with seven laps to go for his fourth career win and second this season.
"Honestly, winning the Daytona 500 couldn't even top the feeling of just, like I was saying earlier, the ups and downs," Briscoe said. "This is what my family needed and what my wife needed."
Busch seemed to have the race in hand as he took the second stage in a dominant showing, but he was called for speeding in the pits and ordered to the back of the 39-car field. Yet the reigning Cup Series champion was there to challenge Briscoe at the end, their cars touching off the final turn before Briscoe crossed the finish line in front by 0.08 second.
Allgaier was third, Austin Cindric finished fourth and Noah Gragson, who started in pole position and won the race's first stage, wound up fifth.
For Busch, it was another error that cost him a win at Darlington. In the Cup Series race Wednesday night, he clipped Chase Elliott late to cause a spin — Elliott waited on the track's apron and extended his middle finger at Busch as he passed — and finished second to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin.
Busch, going for a record-extending 210th win across NASCAR's three national series, was satisfied with his run.
"I had a good showing, put on a little bit of an exciting show there at the end," he said.
Busch said his wife Samantha reached out to Marissa to offer solace. The Busch family had similar heartache in the past. Briscoe appreciated the words of consolation from the Busches and all the friends in NASCAR he has heard from the past two days.
Busch and Timmy Hill were in all three Darlington races. The two plan to run all four races — two Cup Series and one each in the Xfinity Series and the Truck Series — at Charlotte Motor Speedway next week.
After the delay Tuesday because of rain, more storms delayed Thursday's planned noon start for another 4 1/2 hours.
The Cup Series, working under strict safety and health protocols, had a successful return at Darlington with two races.
Kevin Harvick earned his 50th Cup Series win when he took Sunday's race, the first for the series in 10 weeks. Hamlin won a rain-shortened race Wednesday night, the first time the top circuit ran on that day since 1984.