Wednesday, Feb. 14:
● Daytona 500 qualifying (single-lap qualifying to determine pole for the Daytona 500)
● Time/TV/Radio: 8 p.m. ET on FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Thursday, Feb. 15:
● Bluegreen Vacations Duel (twin 150-mile qualifying races that set the field for the Daytona 500)
● Time/TV/Radio: 7 p.m. ET on FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Sunday, Feb. 18:
● 66th annual Daytona 500 (first of 36 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series races in 2024)
● Time/TV/Radio: 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Notes of Interest
● The 66th Daytona 500 Feb. 18 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway will mark Chase Briscoe’s fourth appearance in The Great American Race. The driver of the No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing earned his best Daytona 500 result in his second Daytona 500 start – third in 2022. It is his only top-10 finish at Daytona in six career NASCAR Cup Series starts at the 2.5-mile oval. However, in last year’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona, Briscoe won the pole led twice for a race-high 67 laps before getting ensnared in a late-race accident that left him an undeserved 30th.
● Entering his fourth season in 2024, Briscoe is Stewart-Haas Racing’s most tenured NASCAR Cup Series driver. With the departures of former Stewart-Haas drivers Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola, who together combined for 1,286 Cup Series starts and 39 seasons (Harvick: 23 seasons and 826 career starts; Almirola: 16 seasons and 460 career starts), Briscoe is now paired with rookie driver Josh Berry, sophomore driver Noah Gragson and the returning Ryan Preece, who begins his second season with Stewart-Haas in 2024.
● Briscoe and his NASCAR Cup Series counterparts had a dress rehearsal for the 2024 season by competing in the non-points Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum Feb. 3 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Briscoe finished seventh in the 23-car field, picking up an impressive 15 positions in the 151-lap race after starting 22nd.
● Briscoe has made seven starts on the Daytona oval outside of the NASCAR Cup Series. He has five NASCAR Xfinity Series starts and one start apiece in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series. In the Xfinity Series at Daytona, he finished fifth and third in the 2020 season-opener and August races, respectively, while qualifying on the pole in the latter event and leading a combined 27 laps between the two races. His Truck Series outing in the 2017 season opener resulted in a third-place finish, while his ARCA start in the 2016 season opener yielded a fourth-place finish.
● On-track action at Daytona begins with single-lap qualifying Wednesday night when the front row for the Daytona 500 will be set. The Bluegreen Vacations Duel – twin 150-mile qualifying races that set the 40-car field for Sunday’s race – follows on Thursday. Drivers in odd-numbered qualifying positions compete in the first Duel and those in even-numbered qualifying positions battle in the second Duel to fill out the remainder of the starting grid for the Daytona 500.
● Mahindra Ag North America returns for its third year as the anchor sponsor for Briscoe and the No. 14 team after extending its partnership with Stewart-Haas during the offseason. The multiyear agreement with the NASCAR team co-owned by NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart and industrialist Gene Haas will continue to feature Mahindra Tractors, a brand of Mahindra Ag North America, on Briscoe’s No. 14 Ford Mustang for the majority of the NASCAR Cup Series schedule. The red-and-black No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang made its debut in the 2022 Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum and then won in just its fifth race as a primary sponsor when Briscoe drove to victory on March 13, 2022 at Phoenix Raceway. The win secured Mahindra Tractors’ place in the NASCAR Playoffs and earned Briscoe the honor of being the 200th Cup Series winner in NASCAR history. Houston-based Mahindra Ag North America is part of Mahindra Group’s Automotive and Farm Sector, the No. 1 selling farm tractor company in the world, based on volumes across all company brands. Mahindra offers a range of tractor models from 20-75 horsepower, implements, and the ROXOR heavy-duty UTV. Mahindra farm equipment is engineered to be easy to operate by first-time tractor or side-by-side owners and heavy duty to tackle the tough jobs of rural living, farming and ranching. Steel-framed Mahindra Tractors and side-by-sides are ideal for customers who demand performance, reliability and comfort. Mahindra dealers are independent, family-owned businesses located throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Chase Briscoe, Driver of the No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang
What is your mindset as you begin your fourth season with Stewart-Haas Racing?
“I would say my mindset’s definitely different. I think all four seasons have kind of had a different feel to them, but this one I feel like is the one where I have the most pressure, and honestly it’s the most confident and the most excited I’ve been for a season. The mindset, honestly, is just excitement to finally get going. I feel like we’re in probably the best place we’ve been in as a team, and even the organization just has a lot of change going on, which is exciting. Just looking forward to see where it all goes, and obviously we can’t see where it goes until we start.”
As a kid growing up in Mitchell, Indiana, what did the Daytona 500 mean to you, and was competing in the Daytona 500 something you always aspired to do?
“I think the Daytona 500, for anybody in racing, it’s one of those races you watch the whole week leading into it. I remember always coming home from school and trying to catch the second Duel. It’s just a huge event, right? I would watch it every single year. Truthfully, growing up, I never in a million years thought I would ever get to run that race. It’s funny, on Facebook they have the memories and what not, and literally mine popped up and it was 13 years ago and I posted, ‘If you could win any race in the world, what would it be?’ And I said, for me, the Daytona 500 or Indy 500. But more realistically, I thought I would try to win this one sprint car race just because I never in a million years thought I would get to run it. I think everybody in racing dreams of getting to run the Daytona 500 and it’s definitely special every time you get to go there and do it.”
You’ve competed in three Daytona 500s (2021, 2022 and 2023). What is it like to drive in the Great American Race?
“It’s always, for me, one of those ‘pinch me’ moments the first lap or two. The prerace is crazy just knowing how many people are there, first off, but then even when you’re in the car and going around there, just knowing there are millions and millions of people watching the race on TV. I’ve made it a point every year before we take the green flag to look up at the grandstands to take it all in, just knowing you get to run that race. It’s super cool. There aren’t many races in the world that have that kind of feel and effect to it. Definitely a cool one, and I’m excited to run another one, truthfully.”
How important is the driver-spotter relationship at Daytona, and what kind of information do you need from your spotter when you’re in a 200 mph freight train?
“The spotter is the most crucial part when we go to a place like Daytona or Talladega, or even Atlanta now. For us, we really can’t see a whole lot from inside the racecar, so the spotter is the one guy who is trying to paint the picture of what’s going on and really is making the decision a lot of the time for us. You still have a decision to make, but he’s normally telling you kind of what’s the best-case scenario or what he would do just because he can see so much better. So there’s a ton of trust that comes along with that. Any time they’re clearing you with binoculars from half a mile away, there’s a lot of trust in that. The spotter is super crucial every time we go there and plays a massive role in the race. I don’t think you can go there and win that race if you don’t have a good spotter on the roof.”
Drivers are often asked about their strategy in a superspeedway race. But what strategy is there for the entire week of Daytona, where you want to show speed, but also keep a clean car through qualifying, the Duel and then, finally, the Daytona 500?
“The 500 is definitely a unique week because you’re obviously trying to keep your car for Sunday, but you also have to race that car before we get to Sunday. How your week goes, it’s hard, now, with how limited practice is. We won’t even get to run the car until we go out to qualify, so you don’t know if you even have a shot at the pole until we go out there. In the past, when we had practice before, you kind of knew what to expect before you went out to qualify, where now we don’t know. It’s kind of hard because you try to go all out for the front row, but then if you don’t get the front row, the Duels are an absolute handful and I think we had that happen last year. I qualified third or fourth and missed the front row, but then I started like 30th because of how we did in the Duels. It’s a hard balancing act, just trying to figure out what’s the best thing to do. Obviously, I haven’t figured it out yet, but it’s one of those things where you definitely have to try to make your car last, not only throughout the whole week but in the 500. It’s one of those races where you have to be running at the end, and if you’re just running at the end, you at least have a shot. Thirty other times throughout the year, just because you’re running at the end doesn’t mean you have a shot.”
You’ve got some new teammates this year in Josh Berry and Noah Gragson. After working the draft in years past at Daytona with Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola, is there going to be a bit of a learning curve when it comes to drafting with Josh and Noah?
“I think there’s definitely going to be a learning curve. Luckily, we’re going to get a lot of practice to start the year between the Duels, the 500 and then also Atlanta, so we’re going to get a lot of experience here right at the get-go. It’s definitely going to be different. In the past, I kind of knew what Kevin does and how he pushes and what he does in certain situations, and the same with Aric. Me and Aric probably worked together more than anybody over the last two years on superspeedway stuff. It’s going to be odd not having those guys, but Noah is obviously a really good superspeedway racer, he’s won some races in the Xfinity Series, and Josh has obviously learned from the best guy, too. I think we’re all going to be fairly plug-and-play, but until we go out there and do it, it’s hard to say. Like I said, luckily we get a lot of practice at it and hopefully we can perfect it.”
Ford always goes into superspeedway races with a game plan, and they get all the drivers together beforehand to go over that game plan. Are you able to provide a glimpse as to what that game plan is and what you as an individual do to execute that game plan?
“Typically, the game plan’s always the same and that’s trying to get a Ford to victory lane, just trying to use our numbers to our advantage. We have a ton of Fords in the Cup Series, and truthfully a lot of really good Fords, so the more we can work together at a place like that, the better it is for all of us. It gets tricky sometimes at the end of those races, everybody’s just trying to do what’s best for them. I would say the goal of every one of those meetings is just to kind of drill into our heads to try to help a Ford win the race, no matter which Ford that is. It doesn’t always come out that way, but that’s definitely the goal and the plan in those meetings.”
The Daytona 500 seems to be feast or famine for you – a best finish of third (2022) with two other finishes of 19th and 35th. Is getting a good result at Daytona akin to balancing on a razor blade, to where if you’re too aggressive or too conservative, you don’t get the result you want?
“I don’t know if there’s any secret formula there. I feel like the first year I literally just kind of rode around and finished 19th, and the second year I was really, really aggressive and finished third. And then the other year I was a little bit of both, I was patient at the beginning and aggressive at the end and finished 35th. So I don’t know what that right formula is. It’s so circumstantial. There are so many different variables that go into it. If you’re just in the mix there, you’re going to have a good day, hopefully, at the end, so you just want to be there. It’s kind of been one way or the other for us. We’ve been up front, but we’ve also been in the very back, so hopefully we can end up in the front. It’d pretty special to have another good run there.”
Is the Daytona 500 a mentally exhausting race when you’re trying to figure out what to do?
“It’s hard. That race is one of those where there’s just a lot going on and a lot of different mentalities. Some guys want to be aggressive and lead the whole time, other guys want to just ride around in the back the whole time. The intensity of that race kind of goes up and down throughout. I feel like that race always starts pretty intense because everybody’s pretty amped up, but then we go through a long period of just cruising around, just trying to get to the end. And obviously at the end, it really ratchets up. It’s an odd race because you have some guys, too, that know it’s already a points-paying race and you’re trying to get stage points, and other guys are just trying to make it to the end. So there are so many different mindsets going into that race, but in the end we all want the same goal and that’s obviously where it gets really crazy. It’s a different race than any of the other 35 we have, for sure.”
Last year was just OK. You obviously wanted more. How ready are you to start this season and go into the Daytona 500 with the same amount of points as everyone else?
“It’s the one thing I’ve been the most excited about since June of last year. With our points penalty and everything else, we really weren’t racing for anything outside of a win. If we didn’t have the points penalty, a second- or third-place finish means a lot that day, but for us last year, a second-place finish didn’t mean a single thing. It’ll be nice just to have a clean slate again, finally, be racing for something every single week and where points matter. That’s something I’ve been pretty fired up about really the whole offseason and even the end of last year, just knowing we’ll be racing for something again. It’ll definitely be nice.”
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