Wednesday, Feb. 15: 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. 16: 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. 19: 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
Notes of Interest
● Sunday’s 65th annual Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway marks Chase Briscoe’s third start in the prestigious NASCAR Cup Series event. In last year’s race, Briscoe drove his No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) to a third-place finish, his best at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. His Daytona 500 debut in 2021 resulted in a 19th-place finish.
● Briscoe begins his third fulltime points-paying season in the Cup Series with the same team but with new stability as the 28-year-old was signed to a multi-year contract extension during the offseason. He and the Mahindra Tractors team also began 2023 at the non-points Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum two weekends ago with a performance reminiscent of their 2022 outing in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Briscoe was consistently fastest in his practice group and in the top-five overall throughout Saturday’s two-hour practice session on the tight, quarter-mile paved oval. Damage sustained late in practice hindered the No. 14 team’s qualifying effort, but Briscoe still turned the 11th-quickest lap and went on to finish second in his heat race Sunday to earn a seventh-place starting position for the 150-lap feature. Unlike last year’s feature, when Briscoe retired early with a mechanical issue, he completed every lap this year and was strongest on the long run. However, a string of cautions in the latter stages of the race slowed his ability to advance higher than 15th.
● On-track action at Daytona begins with single-lap qualifying Wednesday night, when the front row for the Daytona 500 will be set. The Bluegreen Vacations Duel – twin 150-mile qualifying races that set the 40-car field for Sunday’s race follows on Thursday. Drivers in odd-numbered qualifying positions compete in the first Duel and those in even-numbered qualifying positions battle in the second Duel to fill out the rest of the starting grid for Sunday’s race.
● In his two August outings at Daytona, which marks the end of the Cup Series regular season, Briscoe finished 21st in 2021 and was scored 31st last year after getting caught up in an accident on lap 124.
● Briscoe made six previous starts at Daytona prior to joining the Cup Series – four in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and one apiece in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and in the ARCA Racing Series. He started inside 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 was third, earned twice – August 2020 in the Xfinity Series and February 2017 in the Truck Series.
● Mahindra Tractors adorns the No. 14 Ford Mustang for The Great American Race for the second straight year. Houston-based Mahindra Ag North America joined SHR prior to the 2022 season with Mahindra Tractors as the anchor sponsor for Briscoe and the No. 14 team. Following a successful year that included a top-three in last year’s Daytona 500, a career-first win at Phoenix Raceway and a tenacious run through the playoffs, the No. 14 team’s cheering section in Daytona will include an international contingent as executives from Mahindra Tractors will host Mahindra Group leadership from India and other U.S. Mahindra companies and their customers.
Chase Briscoe, Driver of the No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
We’re going into the second season with the NextGen car and the No. 14 team did a lot of experimenting with the setups in the middle of the 2022 season. Do you feel like you are in a better place to start this season in terms of knowing what to expect and how to prepare?
“I think so. Some things have changed but, overall, it’s still the car we ran last year. I feel like we’re always learning. If we aren’t learning, we’re going backwards. So, there are still some things that we’ve got to figure out that take time but, yeah, we’re definitely starting off with more than we knew last year and we’ll just keep learning.”
You’ve had two very different Daytona 500 experiences. Does this race set the tone for how you approach the season?“Not necessarily. The Daytona 500 is such a unique race. You never know how the race will play out. No one is really thinking about points, you’re so focused on being in the right position at the right time, so the intensity of the race is a little more than what we see at some other places. Everybody is just trying to get to the end and you see a lot of different strategies. You definitely want to start the season off on a strong note, but at the same time it’s not the end of the world if you don’t have a great run at Daytona. I’ve been on both sides of it. One where we didn’t finish great and then last year finishing up front. It’s definitely a lot nicer when you can have that good points finish to start the year off and kind of build that momentum early. So we’ll see what we can do.”
The schedule for this year looks different than it has in the past. Is it more important now to qualify well?“Unless you’re good enough to get on the front row, qualifying still doesn’t really matter. You’re not getting any idea of how your car performs in the race, so the Duel is going to be the focus. It’s always been important, but with no practice before, it almost gets treated as a practice session to make sure we’ve got everything close to where it needs to be. But, you also need to do what you can to finish well or you’re already starting off on the wrong foot for the 500. We’re all in the same position going in so it’ll be interesting to see how everyone races the Duel and whether it’s a race with a lot of excitement or everyone just taking it easy to make it to Sunday.”