Mahindra Tractors Racing: Chase Briscoe Talladega Advance

NKP #14: Chase Briscoe, Stewart-Haas Racing, Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang, #24: William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, Axalta Ruby Chevrolet Camaro

●  Back-to-back top-10 finishes have vaulted Chase Briscoe from 18th in the NASCAR Cup Series championship point standings to 12th heading into the GEICO 500 Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. The six-position gain has come via a 10th-place drive April 7 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and a sixth-place run last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. That sixth-place finish in the Lone Star State was Briscoe’s fourth top-10 of the year and his best result in the nine races held so far this season. The driver of the No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang Dark Horse for Stewart-Haas Racing is eyeing another solid points tally despite Talladega being a track where drivers often end up pointed in the wrong direction.

●  “The Big One” is as tied to Talladega as “Roll Tide” is to the state of Alabama. The mammoth, 2.66-mile oval puts the nearly 40-car field in a 200 mph freight train that always seems destined for derailment. Briscoe, however, has found a way to stay under the radar and come home with solid results and equally solid points hauls. In six career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Talladega, Briscoe has only one finish outside the top-15. His average finish of 14.8 is fourth-best among full-time Cup Series drivers, trailing only Chase Elliott (13.6), Todd Gilliland (14.0) and Ryan Blaney (14.5). Briscoe’s best Talladega finish is fourth, earned in last year’s GEICO 500.

●  Fourth was also Briscoe’s best result in four career NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Talladega. In April 2019, Briscoe finished fourth after leading nine laps. It was his only top-10 at Talladega in the Xfinity Series. His other three starts delivered unspectacular, yet safe, results. All were among the top-20, giving Briscoe an average finish of 14.3 in his Xfinity Series career at Talladega.

●  Briscoe’s lone NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series start at Talladega came in October 2017. He qualified a strong fifth but finished 22nd.

●  Briscoe first saw Talladega in April 2016 when he made his debut at the track in the ARCA Menards Series. Briscoe qualified a distant 20th but finished the 74-lap race in third. It was the first of nine top-three finishes Briscoe earned that year on his way to winning the ARCA title by a staggering 535 points.

●  For the longest time, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway was the track most likened to Talladega. While slightly shorter in length than Talladega, the 2.5-mile oval displayed the same characteristics – pack-style racing and calamitous wrecks. But in 2022 Atlanta Motor Speedway entered the chat thanks to a reconfiguration that turned the 1.54-mile oval into a much tighter version of Daytona and Talladega. Drafting and pack racing are now the name of the game at Atlanta, and when the series raced there nearly two months ago, Briscoe found his groove, juking and jiving all the way to the front where he challenged for the lead before getting collected in a late-race accident. Said Briscoe about that Atlanta race on Feb. 25: “We were able to be up front all day and be super aggressive making moves. I thought we were going to be in a really good spot there, but that’s part of it when you’re racing that tight and everybody is going for it at the end. We were just on the unfortunate side of it today. (The racing) was fun. That was the most fun I’ve ever had here, and I think some of that is just our guys did a really good job of bringing a car that we could be aggressive with and make moves. I’m actually looking forward to coming back here. That was a lot of fun. Guys were just making huge moves and big runs, but we were able to not get close to crashing a lot of times, like we would at Daytona or Talladega.”

●  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

Talladega marks the 10th race of the season and you came into this year as the most tenured Stewart-Haas driver. How has it been so far this year with two new teammates in Josh Berry and Noah Gragson?

“It’s been really good. Honestly, it’s probably been my favorite year at Stewart-Haas. All of my teammates are relatively the same age as me. We’re all kind of the same, where we’re at career-wise, and it’s just been a lot of fun from the camaraderie side and just getting to know them better. I just feel like from a teamwork standpoint, we’re way better than we’ve ever been as far as working together. I would say 10 races in we’re farther ahead from a teamwork standpoint, so hopefully we can continue to grow that.”

Six career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Talladega and only one finish outside of the top-15. That’s some good, solid consistency at a track where all too often you can leave the race early with your car on a hook. What’s allowed you to be so consistent at Talladega?

“I have no idea. There’s nothing really I do there that I feel is special. It’s just one of those things where luck’s on your side or the man upstairs is looking out for you. We’ve been just fortunate to miss the wrecks there and have good days. Hopefully, with where we’re at from a points standpoint – we’re literally back and forth on this cutline all throughout the season, and Talladega is one of those places where you can lose a lot of points really quickly. Hopefully, we can just have one of those solid days. Obviously we’re going there to win the race, but Talladega is one of those places where if you can just come out of it with a top-15, you’re almost happy just because you didn’t bleed a ton of points.”

Was there anything you learned at Daytona earlier this year that you can apply to Talladega?

“I don’t know if you can learn a whole lot from Daytona. But I definitely feel like Atlanta with just how racey we were and how comfortable I felt in the draft and making moves and being extremely aggressive, I’m going to take that same mentality to Talladega. It’s a little bit different because your balance doesn’t make as big of an impact as it would at Atlanta, but I definitely felt like being on the aggressive side was better than being on the patient side. I feel like I learned a little bit there and just felt more comfortable. That was probably the most comfortable I’ve ever felt in one of those speedway-style races, so hopefully that’ll translate to Talladega.”

So Atlanta also figures into that mix to where it might give you an idea of what you could have at Talladega?

“I don’t think it really translates from a car standpoint. Talladega is such an even playing field for everybody – very similar to Daytona – where at Atlanta the balance of your car definitely comes into play. But just from a standpoint of being comfortable making moves and being aggressive, for whatever reason, at Atlanta the moves just felt like slow motion to me, like everything had slowed down. I’ve never had that happen before, so I’m hoping it’ll be the same at Talladega where everything just kind of feels slower and my mind can process things a little easier.”

What’s the atmosphere like at Talladega?

“It’s probably the most unique one in all of NASCAR. You really just have a party where a race just so happens to be. I mean, they’re there to watch the race, right? But they’re really going there to just hang out, camp out and have a good time. Both of Talladega’s races are at that perfect point of the year for camping, like you have the end of the spring and you have the end of the fall, too. It’s just one of those cool racetracks where everybody’s there to have a good time. If you’re having a bad time at Talladega, I don’t know what to tell you.”

How did racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series prepare you for racing in the Cup Series at Talladega?

“Honestly, I don’t think it really prepared me at all. Just the aggressive level of the Cup Series is so different from what you have in the Xfinity Series. The Cup Series, you have 20 guys who are just really, really good plate racers who know how to make moves and manipulate the air. And on the Xfinity side, you’re only racing against two or three of those guys, and if you put them in the Cup field, they’re kind of on the tail end of those top-20 guys. And the cars drive so differently now, too.”

It seems like there’s always a plan to start the race, and oftentimes it’s driven by the manufacturers. But when the race is underway and variables pop up and split decisions need to be made, how are you able to stick to that plan?

“You stick to the plan because Talladega is one of those places where if you get off the plan, it kind of just ruins your day. Like, you can pit by yourself, but then you’re just hung out to dry. You have to have a plan, but I also I feel like that plan never plays out. You’re constantly calling audibles the whole race because it’s constantly changing. One lap, you might be running 10th, and then you get shuffled and you’re running 28th, and now your plan’s completely different than it was two laps ago. So, you’re constantly calling audibles there. It’s one of those races where the crew chief is super important, and just our communication from an IT standpoint is extremely important when we go to places like that. There are just a lot of variables that go into Talladega.”


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