DAYTONA – The 64th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 20 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway marks Chase Briscoe’s second start in the prestigious NASCAR Cup Series event and the first for the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team’s new sponsor Mahindra Tractors.
“There’s been a lot of preparation happening, not just for Daytona but for the West Coast races that follow,” said Briscoe. “This new car has thrown everyone for a loop and that’s making things a bit more hectic than it would typically be. We have to make sure we’ve got what we need for Daytona, where anything can happen. But the guys also need to be ready for what’s next. My role in that preparation really comes down to simulator time and giving them the most information I can on how things feel and what I’m looking for so that, once we get to the track and start to make laps, we can make changes as quickly as possible.”
Briscoe started 30th in his Daytona 500 debut in 2021 after a spin resulting in damage during his Duel qualifying race forced the No. 14 team to unload its backup car for Sunday’s race. He methodically worked his way toward the top-20 before rain brought things to a halt on lap 31. Once racing resumed, Briscoe was running 22nd when the car ahead of him lost control due to a flat tire and made contact with the No. 14 Mustang. The team made repairs and Briscoe returned to the track and avoided further incident to finish 19th in his first points-paying Cup Series race.
“Last year wasn’t a normal season, on track or off track, but a big part of that difference was not having as many fans around,” said Briscoe. “I felt it the most at Daytona. As a driver working your way up to the Cup Series, you want to have that big Daytona 500 moment with the full stands and the big prerace show. I didn’t get that. So, I might not be a rookie this year, but I think I’ll have more of the feelings associated with a first Daytona 500 than I did last year now that we’ll have a sold-out crowd and get to do all of those things we’ve missed out on over the last year and half. I really feel like I’m getting ready to go down to Florida and start my rookie season.”
Before Briscoe can make a run at redemption in Daytona 500, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year will have to make it through the Bluegreen Vacations Duel – twin 150-mile qualifying races that set the 40-car field for Sunday’s race. The front row for the Daytona 500 will be set based on the fastest times during single-lap qualifying on Wednesday night. Odd-numbered qualifiers compete in the first Duel and even-numbered qualifiers battle in the second Duel to fill out the rest of the starting grid for Sunday’s race.
“The goal, and truly the expectation, is to run up front consistently. Be a guy that’s on the hunt for wins most weekends, not just four or five times,” said Briscoe. “If we could get a win or two, make the playoffs, and then make a run in the playoffs, that would be a successful second season. Daytona is a place where you want to win. No matter who you are or what kind of background you come from, you want to be able to say you’re a Daytona winner. It’s not my favorite type of racing, but it’s one that fans always make sure they are watching. It’s humbling to be able to compete in it but winning it and starting the season off with a step in the right direction toward fulfilling those goals would be a moment I’d never forget.”
In addition to last year’s Daytona 500, Briscoe has had one other Cup Series outing at Daytona in August 2021, when he started in 16th and appeared headed for a top-10 finish before being caught up in a multicar accident during overtime. Unable to complete the final lap, he was scored 22nd, one lap down.
Outside of the Cup Series, he has made six previous starts at Daytona – four in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and one apiece in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and in the ARCA Racing Series. He has started within the top-10 for five of those races, with his best being a third-place qualifying effort in the 2016 ARCA season-opener. His best finish is third, earned twice – August 2020 in the Xfinity Series and February 2017 in the Truck Series.
After making their first appearance on the famed No. 14 during the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum on Feb. 6, Mahindra Tractors, a brand of Houston-based Mahindra Ag North America, joins Briscoe for his second appearance in The Great American Race. Part of Mahindra Group’s Automotive and Farm Sector, Mahindra Ag North America is the No. 1 selling farm tractor company in the world, based on volumes across all company brands. 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 at a great value. Mahindra dealers are independent, family-owned businesses located throughout the U.S. and Canada.
The longer the workday – or the race day – the more important comfort becomes. Mahindra Tractors offers many comfort features for its operators, including air suspension seats with extra cushioning. At the racetrack, this season, guests of SHR will be able to experience that comfort for themselves as the No. 14 pitbox has been retrofitted with the Mahindra comfort seat.
The start of a new season gives drivers a chance to evaluate how they performed the previous year and how they can improve on that moving forward. There are plenty of factors that will play into that evaluation – a new car and new tracks on the schedule – but you have changes in your life off-track that you also have to take into consideration. Has becoming a father had any impact on you as a driver?
“I think, for one, it makes me more relatable. Before becoming a father, I think a lot of people saw me as a kid or a young driver,” added Briscoe. “I am a young driver but, when you become a parent, it’s easier for people to see you as more mature and having your life together. Having a family that you have to provide for and always having that in the back of your mind as you make decisions. I think I’ve matured a lot since the day Brooks was born. It definitely translates to my racing. I race with a different tenacity. You’re racing for something a lot bigger than yourself and that gives you more motivation. I’m sure that will change and, as we go through this season, I’ll continue to adapt to fatherhood and that will absolutely carry over to how I race. Having Brooks around has been very eye-opening, but it’s been so much fun and I’m excited to have him and Marissa there.”
For the second consecutive year, Briscoe will join the FOX broadcast team for the ARCA race at Daytona on Feb. 19 as an analyst during its live coverage of the 80-lap event. Briscoe is the 2016 ARCA champion, a title he won by a commanding 535-point margin thanks to a series-best six wins. The ARCA race gets underway at 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1.
● Wednesday, Feb. 16: Daytona 500 qualifying (single-lap qualifying to determine pole for the Daytona 500)
● Time/TV/Radio: 8 p.m. ET on FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
● Thursday, Feb. 17: Bluegreen Vacations Duel (twin 150-mile qualifying races that set the field for the Daytona 500)
● Time/TV/Radio: 7 p.m. ET on FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
● Sunday, Feb. 20: 64th annual Daytona 500 (first of 36 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series races in 2021)
● Time/TV/Radio: 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio