Notes of Interest

● The EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix Sunday at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, is the first of five road-course races on the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series schedule. After COTA, the series’ next road-course race is June 9 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. The three remaining road-course races after Sonoma are July 7 on the streets of downtown Chicago, Sept. 15 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, and Oct. 12 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval.

● Contrast best describes a lap around COTA. High speed and rapid changes of direction comprise the layout between turns two and 10, with this first sector akin to the Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel complex at the famed Silverstone Circuit in England. The end of the lap from turn 12 through turn 20 before hitting the frontstretch features low-speed combinations. The long backstraight, however, is where drivers want to retain as much speed as possible to either attack or defend through the tight turn 12. This corner, along with the uphill run to turn one and the hairpin in turn 11, provide good passing opportunities.

● Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix will mark Briscoe’s fourth NASCAR Cup Series start at COTA. In his maiden Cup race at the 3.426-mile, 20-turn road course in 2021, Briscoe qualified 27th and rallied to finish sixth. It remains his best result at the track, with his two other finishes being 30th (2022) and 15th (2023).

● Briscoe has 19 career road-course starts in the NASCAR Cup Series with five top-10 finishes spread across COTA (sixth in 2021), Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin (sixth in 2021), Watkins Glen (ninth in 2021), the Charlotte Roval (ninth in 20222) and the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (sixth in 2023).

● Briscoe has made 11 career road-course starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – the stepping-stone division to the elite NASCAR Cup Series. In fact, it was road-course racing in the Xfinity Series that helped put Briscoe on the map when it came to his burgeoning NASCAR career, as he scored two road-course wins among eight top-10 finishes. At the inaugural race on the Charlotte Roval on Sept. 29, 2018 in what was Briscoe’s 14th career Xfinity Series start, the Mitchell, Indiana-native scored his first Xfinity Series win. Briscoe said afterward that he tapped into his dirt-track experience in wheeling his Ford Mustang to a strong 1.478-second margin of victory over runner-up Justin Marks. “It drove like a dirt track instead of a road course, and it felt like I was in a sprint car. I just tried to make sure the rear tires never spun. I had to give up a little time coming off the corner, but I’d make it back up on the straightaway, and that’s why I was always better at the end of the run.”

● Briscoe’s second Xfinity Series win on a road course came in another inaugural race – the 2020 Brickyard 150 on the road course at Indianapolis. On July 4, 2020, Briscoe started 12th and methodically worked his way to the front, taking the lead on lap 24. He wound up leading five times for a race-high 30 laps to take the victory by 1.717 seconds ahead of second-place Justin Haley. Despite the win happening during COVID restrictions, Briscoe was elated to win at his home track in a car owned by Indiana icon Tony Stewart. “Everybody knows that my hero in racing was Tony Stewart. To get to drive for him and watch him win at the Brickyard, climbing the fence was always his signature thing and I just wanted to do it. Obviously, it’s not the same prestige as winning on the oval, but we still won at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It doesn’t matter if you’re racing on the oval, the road course, the dirt track or even the parking lot, it’s special when you win here. Growing up, coming here all the time, it’s unbelievable to think that I just won here.”

● Briscoe also has a road-course win in the ARCA Menards Series. On June 5, 2021 in the ARCA Menards Series West race at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, Briscoe dominated. Despite starting third, Briscoe took the lead on the opening lap and never relinquished the point, leading all 51 laps to take the victory by a whopping 3.110 seconds over his nearest pursuer, Dylan Lupton.

● In three road-course starts in ARCA, Briscoe has two top-fives, with his first coming in 2016 when he finished fourth at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville after starting the 67-lap race in 10th.

● In Briscoe’s lone road-course start in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, he started 18th and finished seventh in the 2017 race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ontario.

● 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

How would you rate yourself as a road-course driver?

“I feel like I’m above average. I’ve definitely had way more success in the lower series compared to Cup, where I’ve been kind of hit-or-miss. We’d run really, really good, or we were just off. Truthfully, I feel like the NextGen car has definitely hurt me quite a bit on the road-course side. I feel like the old car with just how badly it drove, you were always slipping and sliding around, it didn’t want to stop. I feel like this NextGen car certainly has closed up the gap. The guys who were typically off on road courses are definitely closer because the NextGen car is just easier to drive on the road courses – it stops better, it turns better, it just does everything better. I feel like I’ve been good on road courses from a speed standpoint, just need to find that little bit more to finally seal the deal on a road course.”

Some guys like road courses, others don’t. Where do you stand when it comes to competing on road courses?

“Having a positive attitude at any racetrack is important. For me, I enjoy road-course race but, truthfully, I used to be terrible at it. So, it kind of got frustrating at times. Then finally something just clicked with me and I was able to win a couple of road-course races and, now, every time we go to a road course, I’m super excited. I look forward to it from the driver’s side of things. Not that you don’t make a difference at the ovals, but I feel like at the road courses, as a driver, you make a little bit more of a difference, so I enjoy that part of it. Just driving a car on a road course is a lot of fun. You’re manhandling it and trying to run as hard as you can and it’s just a lot of fun to do it, so I always enjoy going there.”

You’ve mentioned how your dirt-racing experience makes you a better road-course racer. How so?

“I think there are just a lot of things that carry over. The NextGen car takes some of that out of the equation, but you still have more power a lot of the time on exit than you really need, so you’re spinning the tires and you’ve got to really finesse the throttle, which is a lot like dirt racing. Just how you have to really slide the car around and hustle the car is very similar to dirt racing. I just feel like you drive more on the edge on a road course than you do on an oval. And then just the constant switching directions and the counter-steering, there’s a lot that reminds me of dirt racing. When you look at road racing in the past, a lot of dirt guys were really good in NASCAR. Obviously Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson now, even Christopher Bell, there are a lot of guys who grew up dirt racing who have a lot of success on the road courses in NASCAR, and I feel that’s because there’s a lot of correlation, as crazy as it seems.”

What do you work on to become a better road-course racer? Obviously, there’s sim, but does your relationship with Ford Performance Racing School also allow you to hone your road-racing techniques?

“There’s a lot that goes into road-course racing, and laps and repetition are probably the biggest keys to that. No matter what road course you’re getting on or what car you’re driving, the techniques and the styles that you run on road courses are super important. It’s been great to have that relationship with Ford Performance Racing School, to get over there and be able to run laps. Almost every single road course we go to, I’ll go to the racing school that week and just do a little bit of a warmup over there, trying to get into the mindset of road-course racing. There’s a lot that goes into road-course racing, especially to be really good at it. Braking is probably the most important thing, trying to be as efficient as you can under braking, and being able to go over to the racing school and just playing around with different types of braking, and being able to be aggressive and trying different things that at the racetrack we don’t get the opportunity to do because we don’t want to mess anything up. Plus, we don’t get a lot of time to practice, so it’s nice to be able to go over there and spend the day and really just try different things.”

The current Cup cars seem exceptionally suited to road-course racing where the cars are forgiving and drivers aren’t penalized for mistakes. Because of that, it seems like there’s more rooting and gouging out on the racetrack than ever before. What’s your take?

“I don’t if there’s more rooting and gouging, but I feel like it’s just way harder to pass now. Track position is more important than ever. In the past on road courses, even if I had to do a pit stop or whatever and I had to do a restart from midpack, I felt confident that if I’d been up front, I could get back up there. Now, it seems that’s not the case. You could be leading the race and then have to restart 20th and you’re kind of just stuck back there because everybody’s almost the same speed. In the past, we’d go to a road course and you’d see five-, six-second spreads throughout the field, where now it’s almost like all of us are within a second and a half. It just makes it harder to get to each other to root and gouge just because the brake zones are so short, everybody’s so efficient now. It’s definitely changed the game going to road-course races with this NextGen car.”

With track position at such a premium on road courses, can you afford to be nice, or do you need to have a selfish and unforgiving attitude?

“I think you have to be extremely selfish now and just aggressive from lap number one, not only at road courses but, truthfully, everywhere. That’s kind of one of the biggest things I focused on during the offseason, just not giving anybody anything this year. That’s why I think I’ve probably been more aggressive on the racetrack this year as far as throwing blocks and different things just because you have to now. It’s so hard to get that position back, and if you give one away, it can take you 30 laps just to get that one position back, so you have to be extremely aggressive. I think when you look at the guys who win these races now, they’re all the same way. The aggressive guys are the ones running up front and winning races. So it’s the same on the road courses, but it’s the same on the ovals, now.”

Take me for a lap at COTA. What parts do you like and what parts are a challenge, and what does it take to make a quick lap?

“COTA is an extremely long lap. There are a lot of opportunities to make mistakes there, there’s a lot of elevation. You go up into turn one and there’s this massive hill. I don’t know how many feet of elevation it is, but it’s a lot, more than anywhere else on the schedule. Then you go around a super-tight 180, and then you go back down the hill to probably the fastest-feeling part of the track – the esses where you’re just back and forth. You’re constantly on edge and you’re sliding the car around a lot. There’s a lot of time to be made up there. Then you kind of go through a slower section, I want to say it’s turn nine, it’s extremely rough. It’s one of the harder parts in our racecar because of how rough it is, which leads you down into, I believe it’s (turn) 11, which is probably one of the more crucial corners on the racetrack in terms of speed. It leads you onto the longest straightaway, so you’ve got to be really hard on the brakes, but then try to get your car pointed and straight as quick as possible and put the power down. That leads onto a really, really long straightway into a huge braking zone for what they call the stadium section, which is a really fun part of the racetrack. It’s really flat and there are a lot of different lines you can run. I don’t think anybody really runs that area the same. When you look at the fast guys, everybody’s got their own, unique line through there. And then you come to a super-long righthander, which for me is the hardest part of the racetrack, I’ve always kind of just struggled to find what works there. Out of that corner, it’s kind of off-cambered and rough, which leads you into (turn) 19, which is a lefthander. Really for me, from that long righthander, I think it’s turn 18, all the way to turn 20, that’s been the biggest struggle spot for me. It’s really rough back there and your car never really wants to react to what you want it to, so I’ve always kind of struggled through that area. And that’s a lap – it’s a really long lap, for sure.”