● Event: Folds of Honor 500 (Round 5 of 36) ● Time/Date: 3 p.m. EDT on Sunday, March 20 ● Location: Atlanta Motor Speedway ● Layout: 1.54-mile oval ● Laps/Miles: 325 laps/500 miles ● Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 105 laps / Stage 2: 105 laps / Final Stage: 115 laps ● TV/Radio: FOX / PRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Notes of Interest
● Chase Briscoe, driver of the No. 14 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), earned his first career NASCAR Cup Series victory Sunday at Phoenix Raceway. He joins Alan Kulwicki (1988) and Bobby Hamilton (1996) as the third driver to earn his first Cup Series win at the desert mile oval. He is also the first Cup Series driver to take a car carrying the No. 14 to victory lane at Phoenix, and is the 200th Cup Series winner of all time. ● Briscoe started sixth at Phoenix and led three times for 101 laps. He held off a late-race charge from Tyler Reddick and Ross Chastain during a lap-293 restart and was in the top spot when the caution flag flew on lap 305 of the scheduled 312-lap race, setting up a green-white-checkered shootout. The 27-year-old from Mitchell, Indiana, then drove away from Reddick, Chastain and nine-time Phoenix winner and SHR teammate Kevin Harvick, among others, to score his first win in NASCAR’s top series and the first win for the No. 14 team since 2018. Clint Bowyer drove the No. 14 SHR Ford to victory in that year’s June race at Michigan. ● Sunday’s Phoenix win came in just the 40th career start for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year. It was just the fourth race for the new NextGen car, NASCAR’s latest version of stock car that debuted in 1949. In four races this season, Briscoe has earned a win, two top-three finishes and his career-best staring position on an oval – third at Las Vegas Motor Speedway the previous weekend. He is tied with Kyle Larson for fourth in the driver standings and currently holds a spot in the 16-driver playoff field. ● Transform Your IT –The blue-and-white colors of HighPoint return to the No. 14 Mustang for the first time in 2022 after first appearing on Briscoe’s car in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2020. Briscoe earned four of his nine wins in the Xfinity Series that year sporting HighPoint colors and earned all three of his top-10s in his rookie Cup Series season with the company headquartered in Sparta, New Jersey. The leading IT infrastructure and solutions company introduces a more tech-inspired livery just in time for the Cup Series’ first visit to the transformed Atlanta Motor Speedway. ● The track in Hampton, Georgia, underwent a reconfiguration in the offseason to create tighter, superspeedway-type racing on its 1.54-mile oval. The racing surface was narrowed from 55 feet to 40 feet and the banking was increased to 28 degrees – the most of any intermediate track on the schedule. ● In two starts at Atlanta, Briscoe has a best finish of 15th earned last July. He also has three NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Atlanta with a best finish of ninth in 2020, and a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start there in 2017. ● Last weekend’s victory was crew chief Johnny Klausmeier’s third win atop the pit box and first at Phoenix. Klausmeier’s 2019 SHR driver Aric Almirola qualified on the pole and brought home a top-10 at Atlanta.
Chase Briscoe, Driver of the No. 14 HighPoint.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk about the emotional moment of being able to take the No. 14 car back to victory lane for your hero and now team co-owner Tony Stewart, and discussing the win with him postrace. “This car is obviously his, and he has a lot of passion and drive for that car. He took a chance on another guy who is kind of like himself, a dirt Sprint car racer. We grew up in towns that are 45 minutes apart and my dad raced against Tony in Sprint cars. I was a diehard Tony fan growing up and diehard 14 fan, so for me to add my name to the list of guys that have driven the No. 14 car to victory lane is definitely special for me. Looking back, when I was 6 or 7 years old and wearing the Tony Stewart helmet and uniform, I never in a million years thought I would get to take his car to victory lane in the Cup Series, and it was really cool for him to call, and to get to hear how excited he was for that to happen.” Have you noticed any significant strides in yourself or the team compared to last year? “I think from a confidence standpoint I feel like I belong this year. Last year, it was very ‘eyes wide open.’ I was racing against guys I had watched on TV for years and that I’ve looked up to. Now I don’t look at the 18 car and go, ‘That’s Kyle Busch.’ It’s just the 18 car, another guy out there. I think that confidence has come a long way. Obviously with the results, the confidence builds. I feel like I belong. Especially, now, winning, I’ve proven I belong in the Cup Series. When you come in in your rookie year, you think you’re ready, but you’re never ready. To run up front and lead laps is special, for sure.” Next we head to Atlanta and, even though you’ve raced there twice in the Cup Series, the track has undergone significant changes since the last visit. You’re coming off a win, which typically gives the team a lot of confidence and momentum, but how does the track change affect your preparation for this weekend? “It’s going to be wild. It’s great to win on Sunday, but this coming week there are going to be 39 guys that are going to try the same thing. A couple of guys in the shop asked me how it feels to get that first win and it feels good, but it doesn’t mean anything if we go run 40th this week. You’ve got to be able to go do it again. So I think, this week, there are a lot of unknowns for a lot of reasons. The NextGen car still is a big variable that we don’t really know a lot about, but then the track is totally different than anything we’ve ever had. It’s supposedly going to be like a mini-Daytona or Talladega with pack racing and drafting, but what really happens when we get there? It’s going to be intense, it’s going to be wild, it’s going to be a narrow track with a lot of speed and a lot of excitement. It’ll be interesting to see where we stack up when we get there. I don’t know what to expect. I’ve been on the simulator quite a bit trying to figure it out, but we won’t really know what it’s going to be like until we get there.”