Daytona 500 Media Day (Chase Briscoe)

CHASE BRISCOE, No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang Dark Horse – HOW HAS THE DYNAMIC CHANGED AT THE SHOP WITH THE NEW GUYS COMING IN?  “I definitely would say that there has been way more togetherness, just how the drivers interact together.  We all work out, so we see each other almost every single day now where in the past I would see Kevin on Sunday and wouldn’t see him again until Saturday.  We definitely from that side of things we see each other a lot more and work around each other a lot more.  Our teams, I feel like, have done a better job of working together.  In the past, it was kind of four different teams that worked under one roof, where now it’s four teams kind of collectively working towards the same goal for one organization.  All of that has been different and a good change, something that we’ve needed to do, especially in the landscape of the Next Gen car.  I’m excited to see how it finally goes now that we start racing, but it’s definitely been a totally different dynamic than what I’ve had the last three years for sure.”

YOU HAVE A NEW LOGO.  IT’S LIKE A FRESH START FOR EVERYBODY.  “I was telling someone earlier that it’s almost like I moved to a different team, truthfully.  I had to throw out all my shirts.  We had to get new stuff.  My teammates are all new with the exception of only one.  The good thing is my team, the 14 team, stayed.  Literally, every single person except for the truck driver is the same, so, from that standpoint, everything is the same, but everything else – just the process of how we do things at Stewart-Haas, the logo, the color on the walls at the shop, everything is totally different, so it’s kind of like moving to a new place.”

YOU HAVE MORE TIME AT SHR THAN ANYBODY ELSE FROM A DRIVER’S STANDPOINT, BUT YOU ARE THE SAME AGE AS YOUR TEAMMATES.  WHAT’S THAT LIKE?  “I think it’s definitely four guys that truthfully are extremely hungry.  All four of us only have one Cup win combined, so all the guys have a lot to prove.  We all know what we’re capable of.  We all kind of have grown up as complete opposites as we can, but we’ve all kind of have grown up the same way for the most part by just grinding throughout our career, so that part of it is exciting.  It’s just different now with not having Kevin and Aric there with how much more I’m gonna have to speak up and stand up for things I believe in, so all of that will be interesting and it will be something I learn as I go along, but it’s definitely a different dynamic for sure.”

SO WHAT IS THE FEELING LIKE GOING INTO THIS RACE?  “I think there’s a lot that from a momentum standpoint this weekend is extremely important, I think.  When you look at everything we went through during the off-season if we can go out there today and sit on the pole for example, that’s a huge shot in the arm for us as an organization and that’s something I think is really possible going into tonight.  From that standpoint, I think it’s important to come out of here with a good weekend.  Points are gonna be really important all year long, so for us to have four cars come out of here in a good situation would be really good and just be a good kickstart to our year.  So it’s a big weekend for us as a company and hopefully we can prove a lot of people wrong.”

HOW DO YOU THINK THE NEW CAR WILL REACT AND PUSH IN THE DRAFT?  “I would say that the pushes are gonna be way more timid at the very beginning at least.  If we were showing back up in the same car like lap one I think you would see us just blasting each other, trying to get the guy out to the lead or whatever, where I think we’re gonna be a little more timid and just careful about our pushes.  I know visually the Ford to me looks way more rounded than anything we’ve had in the past, especially the back bumper, so I’ve been kind of anxious leading up to this week just knowing that, so, yeah, I think the Duels will be a little timid at the beginning, but I do think there’s not near the forgiveness that we’ve had at least on the Ford side in the past, so that will be interesting when we really start pushing each other hard and see what happens.  The Toyotas are different.  The Chevys are gonna have to push us differently now too, so it’s all gonna change and it’ll just take some time for all of us to learn it.”

IS THERE WORRY OR CONCERN THAT THE ADVANTAGE THE FORDS HAD WITH THE OLD CAR WILL GO AWAY?  “I’m definitely anxious to see how this thing pushes and gets pushed.  I feel like the last two years we’ve worked extremely hard on just making our car be able to get pushed without it being out of control, and we finally figured that out in the last fall race.  Now, the reset button has been pushed, so I don’t know what to expect.  From a single-car speed standpoint, we were super fast last year and I think this year we should be faster just by what it says on paper, but the Toyotas are a huge wildcard for us.  We don’t know where they’re gonna be at, so there’s definitely some question marks going into this week in general, but one I’m definitely excited to finally get going.”

HOW DO YOU VIEW THE CHANGE THIS CAR WILL HAVE ON SHR?  “I think you can say that the Fords were at a little disadvantage last year, but that’s my thing.  We need to be the best Ford and we were the worst Ford, so if Penske and Roush could figure it out, then we have the same engine, the same body, the same everything as them, so how they’re putting their pieces together to make that puzzle is different than how we’re doing it.  That’s where I think we’ve gotten better over this off-season of just having better clarity of how to put that puzzle together.  We still don’t know how to do it, so we’re gonna figure that out as the season goes on, but I definitely think from the standpoint of the new Dark Horse body, relative to the field, we’re gonna be way better.”

DOES THIS FEEL LIKE A NEW START?  “Yeah, a little bit.  I definitely think the whole organization has hit the reset button.  Tony said it in the XM interview the other week.  There’s no need to look back.  We are at the bottom, so there’s really no need to be worried.  I mean, there’s a lot of reasons to be worried, but there’s no point in looking back and doing things like that, so I think, for us, we’re all motivated.  I think every guy and girl in the shop knows that if we don’t figure it out your job is on the line.  He’s already come out publicly and said he’s willing to make changes, so I think that’s good.  I think we kind of need that kick in the butt as an organization to have it publicly said, something that I think we all kind of knew was out there but it’s never been said, so I definitely think this year is a little bit of a clean slate.  I will say that just going to the shop there’s a whole different feel.  When I went there last year it was doom and gloom every time I would go in there, and now everybody is excited.  Everybody has been ready to go and it gives me that same vibe truthfully we had in 2020, where everybody is excited to go to work, which is something we haven’t had in a long time there, so I’m excited to see how the season finally stacks up.”

HOW MUCH DID THE RESULTS AT THE END OF LAST YEAR HELP AS FAR AS THE ENERGY FOR THIS YEAR?  “I would say the short track stuff, we were really good everywhere last year like at Martinsville and the flat tracks.  Bristol, not so much, but I would say that the Clash especially, for us, I can’t speak for the other guys, but the 14 car we started literally dead last and was able to drive up there and pass Hendrick cars and Gibbs cars and finish seventh, which was really good for us.  So I think from that standpoint some of the things we did in the off-season, you can say the Clash is a total throwaway, but at the same time it was still important for us just because we wanted to go there and see where we stacked up.  It’s still a race where everyone is taking their best effort, so I would say we took a little bit out of there and I would say what we’ve done in the off-season that the Clash is kind of just the start of seeing the rewards of that.”

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO GET OFF TO A GOOD START?  “It’s super important, truthfully, to have two good races to start the year off.  I feel like if you look back in the past, where you ended at the end of the West Coast swing is pretty much where you stayed within three or four spots in points.  It’s just so hard to dig out of that hole and every year I feel like you have to expect to have three or four bad finishes – like 30th-plus, and those are kind of your mulligans for the year, and you don’t want to use those up at Daytona or Talladega or Atlanta, so, for us, points are extremely important.  I feel like there’s gonna be more than 16 winners, so points are gonna be at an all-time high, but even if there’s not 16 winners, points determine your playoff berth.  For us, I think we realize how important points are and we talked about it, even if we do sit on the pole tonight, the Duels still pay points and we need to try and go get them, so I think that tells you how important points are and especially getting out of here with a good points day is important.”

SO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE MORE THAN 16 WINNERS?  “I think there will be more.  I think you could see 17 or 18 pretty easily.  I just think you look at the guys that didn’t win last year.  I know you had a couple of guys that you probably didn’t expect to win, but I think you could have that same thing happen again.  Where it really happens, I think if you get to more than 16 is all about Daytona, Atlanta and Talladega.  Those are your wild cards,  If a William Byron or somebody that’s winning all the other races wins those races, then I don’t think you get to 16.  But if you come out of there with a Corey LaJoie or somebody like that, then I think you’re definitely over 16 winners just because that takes one of those spots away that somebody else is probably gonna win.  You look and Bowman didn’t win a race last year.  Chase didn’t win a race.  I feel like we’re capable of winning a race.  There are a lot of good cars that didn’t win a race last year, so I definitely think you could see more than 16.”

THERE’S ONLY ONE ATLANTA RACE IN THE REGULAR SEASON.  “Yeah, it’s one less, but I just feel like there’s so much of the wild card races early now that I think it’s gonna change the strategy in that middle part of the season.  Guys are gonna have to be way more aggressive on strategy calls and things like that, and when you have that, sometimes it’s a 50-50 call and it goes your way and you can luck into winning one of the races.  I don’t know.  I just have a gut feeling it’s gonna be over 16.  We could have nine winners this year, who knows, but I feel like there’s gonna be more than 16.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE RACING AT ATLANTA?  “I think it is the most mentally draining racetrack we have on the schedule.  Daytona and Talladega have always been mentally draining at the end of the day, but you go to Atlanta and things happen four times the speed because you lose a mile with that racetrack.  It’s an interesting track because it races like a superspeedway, but it’s still an intermediate.  The corners didn’t change.  The radius of the corners, all of that is still the same that we’ve always had, so it’s not like a Daytona or a Talladega where your car goes around there wide-open super easy.  You’re manhandling the car at all times, so Atlanta is a very challenging racetrack and by far the most mentally draining with just how much your brain is trying to process and listen to your spotter, but then actually apply what your spotter is saying is hard because things happen so far there.  It’s a tough one for sure.”

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