Notes of Interest

● Chase Briscoe enters the high banks of Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on a high after scoring his highest finish of the season last Sunday at Phoenix Raceway. Briscoe wheeled his No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang Dark Horse to a strong ninth-place drive in the 312-lap race around the 1-mile desert oval, putting the Mitchell, Indiana, native at .500 for the year when it comes to top-10 finishes. Briscoe scored a 10th-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500 and, four races into the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season, Briscoe is 19th in the championship standings.

● For the last three years, the spring race at Bristol has been on dirt. The track’s iconic concrete was covered with more than 23,000 cubic yards of red clay that weighed roughly 30,000 tons, or in American measurement, the equivalent of two Brooklyn Bridges. For many NASCAR Cup Series drivers, competing on dirt was a bridge too far, but not for Briscoe. The 29-year-old is a third-generation racer whose career began on dirt tracks in and around his home state of Indiana. Since he was 13, Briscoe has followed in his grandfather’s and father’s footsteps, racing sprint cars on the rough-and-tumble bullrings of the Midwest. It wasn’t until 2014 that a 19-year-old Briscoe moved to North Carolina to pursue a career in stock car racing.

● So how does one go from rural dirt tracks in the middle of the country to the gleaming palaces of speed that comprise the NASCAR Cup Series? Briscoe volunteered in race shops before landing the chance to pilot an ARCA Menards Series entry for Briggs Cunningham III for two races in 2015. Briscoe parlayed that opportunity into a fulltime ride for 2016, winning six races and the championship before advancing to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2017 with Brad Keselowski Racing. After winning the Truck Series Rookie of the Year award, a limited NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule followed in 2018 with Stewart-Haas Racing and Roush Fenway Racing. Briscoe earned his first career win with Stewart-Haas at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. He then competed fulltime in the Xfinity Series with Stewart-Haas in 2019 and 2020, qualifying for the NASCAR Playoffs both seasons. After advancing to the championship round with a series-leading nine wins in 2020, Briscoe was promoted to the Cup Series as the driver of the No. 14 Ford Mustang for the 2021 season. He went on to claim the Cup Series Rookie of the Year title and promptly backed up that award by winning his first Cup Series race on March 13, 2022 at Phoenix in just his 40th career start. The victory secured Briscoe’s place in the NASCAR Playoffs and earned him the honor of being the 200th Cup Series winner in NASCAR history.

● With the Bristol spring race now back to its traditional concrete surface, Briscoe is not lamenting the loss of dirt around the .533-mile oval. In fact, its traditional layout harkens back to two other high-banked tracks Briscoe competed on as he climbed the racing ladder to the NASCAR Cup Series. Salem Speedway and Winchester Speedway, both in Indiana, provided Briscoe with a hint of what throttling around Bristol’s 28 degrees of banking would be like. Salem is a .555-mile oval with 33 degrees of banking and Winchester is a half-mile oval with 37 degrees of banking. Briscoe made three ARCA Menards Series starts at Salem and one at Winchester. In his three starts at Salem between 2015 and 2016, Briscoe won two poles (April and September 2016), led a total of 155 laps, and scored two finishes of sixth or better, with his best result being fifth in his debut at the track in 2015. In his lone ARCA race at Winchester in 2016, Briscoe dominated by winning the pole, leading the most laps (142 of 200) and winning the race by 1.132 seconds.

● The Food City 500 Sunday at Bristol will mark Briscoe’s fourth career NASCAR Cup Series start on the track’s concrete surface. He has two top-15 results, with his best drive coming in his first Cup Series start at Bristol – 13th, earned in September 2021.

● In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where Briscoe competed from 2018 through 2020 before earning his promotion to the NASCAR Cup Series, Bristol was one of Briscoe’s best tracks. He made six Xfinity Series starts at the track and, in his last four starts, Briscoe never finished worse than fourth. In fact, he capped off his Xfinity Series career at Bristol in the best way possible – with a win. Briscoe won the 2020 Food City 300 in September, vanquishing the back-to-back runner-up finishes he earned in his two prior starts at Bristol in August 2019 and June 2020.

● Briscoe competed at Bristol for the first time in 2017 when he drove a Ford F-150 for Brad Keselowski Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. Briscoe acquitted himself well, qualifying 15th and finishing 12th. It remains his only Truck Series start at Bristol.

● Mahindra Ag North America is in 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 continues 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. 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 Dark Horse

Are you happy to see the spring Bristol race return to concrete, or are you one of the guys who enjoyed the dirt race?

“I’m all about just going to Bristol, in general, but I definitely loved the dirt race. I feel like the Cup Series needs to have at least one dirt race. Truthfully, the first year was not the greatest race, but the last two years I thought was a really, really good race. I was kind of bummed to see it leave. That was obviously a race I always looked forward to and one that felt like I could go to and run up front at every year we did it. It’s kind of bittersweet getting rid of it, but at the same time, Bristol on the concrete is always one of the more fun races on the schedule. Maybe one day we can go back to dirt racing, but, yeah, I’m definitely going to miss it. ”

Does dirt racing have a place on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule? If so, where would you go?

“I definitely think we have to have a dirt race, for sure. You just look at the Cup Series and every driver in the Cup Series is either a dirt guy, a short-track guy, or a road-course guy. The road-course guys and the short-track guys get to go back to their roots and the dirt guys don’t get to. I just feel like, from a motorsports perspective, having the Cup Series go to the dirt is a big thing. That crossover, it gets NASCAR fans interested in dirt racing and dirt-racing fans interested in NASCAR. I feel like it’s something that we need to do, now where we take that race, I don’t know. I feel like Eldora is the best place to do it. From a racetrack standpoint, there are a lot of other variables obviously that go into hosting a Cup race, but they’ve proven that the Truck Series can put on an incredible race there. I think the Cup Series can put on an awesome race there, too. I just feel like that racetrack and how it’s laid out just races really, really well with our style of racecars. Yeah, if I’d have to pick one place, I’d have to pick Eldora.”

We’ve talked about how different the current Cup car is to an Xfinity Series car, but with six Xfinity Series starts at Bristol – your last of which ended in victory lane – do you feel you have a good handle on the racetrack despite limited Cup experience on Bristol’s concrete?

“I don’t know. I feel like Bristol is one of those places you never really feel like you have it conquered, by any means. I’ve been able to have speed there in the past. The Xfinity car and the Cup car definitely race totally differently around Bristol. But I feel like I’ve always had speed at Bristol, I just haven’t been able to put the whole race together, especially on the Cup side. I definitely have struggled to get a good finish there even when we’ve had speed. Physically, it’s probably the most demanding race of the year, and going there twice will certainly add to the physical side. But I feel like it’s one of my more favorite racetracks that we go to. I always look forward to going there and having a lot of fun when I’m there. I just need to obviously find that little bit more. I feel like I understand it 90 percent, I just have to find that other 10 percent.”

Bristol is a tough place, period. It’s an even tougher place to win. How satisfying was your Xfinity Series win at Bristol in September 2020, which came during COVID?

“It was a super-cool race. That was one of my favorite races we won that year. That was honestly the only race that had fans during COVID and I just remember how cool it was that I was finally able to celebrate one of those wins with fans. I hadn’t been able to do that all year long. Any racecar driver, they want to win at Bristol. We talk about driver’s racetracks, and when you look at the list of guys who have won there, it’s a really special list to be on. To walk out of there with a sword is a super-cool thing, and especially to win at Bristol at night, it’s one of the most marquee events to win at. To be able to do that was really special.”

When your car owner, Tony Stewart, first talked about Bristol, he said it reminded him of Winchester Speedway and Salem Speedway. Did you think that’s an apt analogy?

“I definitely think they’re really similar. I’ve been able to run at Winchester, that’s actually where I got my first stock car win, so a super-special place. For me, it definitely reminds me a lot of Winchester, and it reminds me a lot of Salem – Salem’s 25 minutes from where I grew up. So I’ve had a lot of experience watching cars on super-high-banked racetracks and it definitely reminds me a lot of both those places. When I was in the ARCA Series, I remember when I went to Bristol for the first time in a Truck, it seemed very similar to Winchester. There are not a lot of racetracks in the world that have 30-plus degrees of banking, and any time you can get experience on them, it’s a big deal.”

How important is patience at Bristol, and when do you also have to determine when enough is enough and assert yourself so you’re not getting taken advantage of out there on the racetrack?

“It’s hard. I feel like you’re not ever patient at Bristol. I feel like you’ve just got to go. Just from the racetrack side of things, you literally have to attack it every single lap. If you take just a second to breathe, it seems like you’re going to go slower, so you have to constantly be in attack mode. Even the racing of the cars, I feel like you’re constantly trying to be extremely aggressive, not necessarily using your bumper, but just trying to get under them or try to get around them. There’s really no time to take a break there just because if you waste even five laps to get around a guy, the leaders are coming. So you’ve got to be extremely aggressive there all day long, and that’s why you see a lot of wrecks there, as well.”

You first saw Bristol back in 2017 when you competed in a Truck Series race. Was that an eyes-wide-open moment?

“From the racetrack side of things, it wasn’t anything crazy just because I’d run at Salem and Winchester. But that was one of the only tracks I remember walking into as a driver thinking how cool it was, I was finally able to run at that racetrack. I remember even my dad was like, ‘Man, this is so cool that you’re getting to race at Bristol.’ It’s a special place. It’s one of those places you dream of getting to race at.”

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