Notes of Interest
● The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season begins on the West Coast for the second year in a row with the non-points Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum. Last year’s race on the purpose-built, quarter-mile, asphalt oval inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was the debut of the new NextGen car, the seventh variation of the NASCAR stock car first introduced in 1949. Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Mahindra Tractors team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) showed up ready to impress as Briscoe was third-fastest in practice and finished second in his heat race after starting seventh. He lined up sixth for the 150-lap feature and was running fourth on lap 53 before a mechanical issue ended his race.
● Last year’s Clash was the first look at a more comfortable and confident Briscoe as he entered his sophomore season in NASCAR’s premier series. Two weeks later, the young driver competed in his second Daytona 500, ultimately finishing third following a three-way battle for the lead on the final lap.
● Briscoe struggled to find success on the short tracks in NASCAR prior to last season, but the inaugural edition of The Clash with the NextGen car was an opportunity for the former dirt racer to find a new path to success. Just four races into the season, the Mitchell, Indiana, native earned his first career Cup Series win on the Phoenix Raceway mile oval.
● Briscoe went on to earn career-best finishes at two of the most historic short tracks on the NASCAR schedule – Richmond (Va.) Raceway and Martinsville (Va.) Speedway – but his standout performance didn’t stop there. He made his first appearance in the playoffs by way of his win at Phoenix and advanced to the Round of 8. Gritty performances in the cutoff races at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval and Martinsville showed the rest of the Cup Series that the No. 14 team wasn’t one that gives up.
● That never-give-up-attitude is what landed Briscoe a multiyear contract extension during the offseason. Now going into his third fulltime Cup Series season with SHR, the 28-year-old racer can compete for a championship with the peace of mind that is still unfamiliar for a driver who fought for the smallest of opportunities en route to fulfilling a dream. When his contract extension was announced, Briscoe said, “It’s the place I’ve known longer than anywhere else in my NASCAR career. I remember getting signed by Ford in 2017 and I told people, ‘You know, if I could pick one place to be, it would be Stewart-Haas Racing. And if I could drive one car, it would be the 14 car. That would be the ultimate dream.’ And now, here I am.”
● Mahindra Tractors returns for its second year as primary sponsor for Briscoe and the No. 14 team at The Clash. Houston-based Mahindra Ag North America joined SHR prior to the 2022 season with Mahindra Tractors as the anchor sponsor on the No. 14 Ford Mustang. Briscoe’s strong start to the season and perseverance through the playoffs made Briscoe the perfect fit for the Official Tractor of Tough. As a tribute to those who don’t back down, Mahindra Tractors and the No. 14 team will be hosting several customers at The Clash who were impacted by the storms that overwhelmed California in January. Families were selected by the local, independent Mahindra dealerships in recognition of their courage and toughness.
● When the NASCAR Cup Series returns to the L.A. Coliseum Saturday, drivers will take to the track for practice prior to single-car qualifying to determine the starting order for four heat races. Sunday, on-track action will begin with four, 25-lap heat races consisting of 10 cars each. Below is a breakdown on how the heat races will be filled out:
Chase Briscoe, Driver of the No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
When the 2022 season ended, you said you felt like you had underachieved. Do you still feel that way, or have you had a chance to reevaluate during the offseason?
“My feelings have changed a little. You always want more, but the more I look back on it, I realize it was a good season. The more I think about the things we accomplished, the more proud I am of everything we went through to get there. You want to win more races and to just perform better in general, but now I feel like I’ve realized what a big deal it was to do those things with these guys – to win a race early on, to come back stronger in the playoffs and overcome those moments when it looked like our playoff run was done to almost make it to the Championship 4. As a driver, I want more, and I know as a team we want more, so yes, I’m happy with what we did and I feel more now that it was a success, but we are ready to do more this season.”
Success is measured in many different areas, but is there one overall goal that you’ve set for this year?
“Winning multiple races. I’d be good with two, three, four – one won’t be enough his year. But I’d like to start that off with The Clash, then we can take that momentum into the points-paying races and earn our spot in the playoffs.”
Do you remember how you felt going into last year’s event in L.A., and how does it compare to your outlook going into this weekend?
“I remember going into last year excited for what The Clash was going to be like and not really knowing. It was a new car, new track, new venue, and I think there was little bit of hesitation on what to expect, but I was really excited for that first time. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised with how well the NextGen drove at the Coliseum and how the track raced. We had a lot of fun in 2022, so I’m definitely excited to get back there. It’s a great way to kick off the season, and it felt like we had one get away last year, so hopefully this year we can come out with a win.”
You performed well in practice, the heat race and the early part of the feature race, and it was really the first time you looked comfortable racing on a short track in the Cup Series. Did racing on a track that small and having some kind of success to start the season help with confidence on some of the other short tracks on the schedule?
“Yeah, it definitely helps with confidence, but I think the NextGen car is really what helped me out with short tracks. I had a really hard time in the old car on short tracks, and the NextGen just seemed to fit my driving style and how I like to race a short track a little better. I still have a lot I need to work on, but I think The Clash was probably the first time feeling like I could be successful and had finally found what I needed, and from there I was just more comfortable going into races like Martinsville and Richmond.”