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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Local racing fans will have one of their best opportunities, at least in terms of reasonable travel, to catch Mitchell's Chase Briscoe in NASCAR Cup Series action this weekend when the tour heads to Nashville Superspeedway for the Ally 400 on Sunday.
The race is slated for a 5 p.m. start, and will be 300 laps (90/95/115) for 399 miles over the 1.33-mile concrete oval track. The race will be televised on NBC, and broadcast over MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Briscoe hoping to rally in Ally
The 2022 season is nearing its midway point, with the Ally 400 the 17th of 36 events, and Briscoe is hoping to start a rally in Nashville. He will be back with Mahindra Tractors as the primary sponsor this week on his No.14 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). He is 13th in the driver championship standings, and currently holds a spot in the 16-driver playoff field by virtue of his March 13 win at Phoenix Raceway.
Only 10 races remain before the NASCAR Cup Playoffs start, and Briscoe feels things are smoothing out with the No.14, but he knows all that matters is reaching the finals on Nov. 6 at Phoenix, the site of his only Cup win.
“Well, you still have to get to Phoenix," Briscoe declared. "If you don’t get to Phoenix, it doesn’t matter how good you are. If you had asked me four or five weeks ago, I would have said no way. But we got back to what we were doing at the beginning of the year and I feel like we have our speed back.
"If we do that and get to Phoenix, I am confident we can go there and battle. It is just a matter of getting there. If you aren’t one of the final four guys, it doesn’t matter how good you are there.”
Enjoying a Sunday off
Last Sunday was special for Briscoe, who marked his first Father's Day as a father to baby Brooks, while also paying respect to his own father, Kevin, and grandfather Richard.
Now, coming off the season’s only off weekend, Sunday’s race marks Briscoe’s second start at the 1.333-mile layout. In last year’s inaugural Cup Series event there, Briscoe started 16th and ran inside the top-10 for a majority of the race before a loss of brakes sent him into the outside wall on lap 228. The No. 14 was scored 31st despite a strong run to that point.
While Briscoe only has one start at Nashville, the No. 14 team has shown great improvement in the last two races at intermediate tracks. The Mahindra Tractors driver finished fourth in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway on May 29, then won his career-first pole at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Illinois near St. Louis on June 5. He led the first 27 laps before a flat left-rear tire forced him to make an unscheduled pit stop.
"Hopefully, we can continue this (trend)," Briscoe said. "But, I don’t think there is a championship favorite. There are a lot of guys who are capable. This NextGen car, it is so weird how it is. One week you can be really good and the next week you can be way, way off. We just have to continue to get better and put ourselves in a position to keep trying to run up front."
Still adjusting to NexGen car
Briscoe indicated that drivers are still learning the nuances of the series' new car.
“I haven’t felt like it’s a lot different, to be honest," he said. "I feel like it’s still a racecar. It still does a lot of the same things. I felt like maybe when I got decent on the road courses is when I started maximizing the brake zones in the old car, and with this car you can do that a lot better, so I guess just how you drive with the brake pedal on the road courses would be the biggest thing that I kind of have to retrain myself on.
"But truthfully, with the IMSA stuff I’ve done, it’s kind of similar to that feel, so I wouldn’t say that I’ve had as much muscle memory to relearn or forget about switching from the old car. I haven’t had any issues — knock on wood — but it is different, I think, for the guys who have done it for a long time and are trying to retrain themselves with a lot of those things."
The new car seems to lend itself to necessary aggression when it's time for a restart.
“This car doesn’t create as big of a hole on restarts from an aero standpoint," Briscoe noted. "The old car, with that 500 package, it would just create such a huge hole that you’d get such big runs on restarts and you could gain six, seven spots on a straightaway. It was just different how it responded down the straightaway, where this car doesn’t necessarily seem to have that as much.
"I feel like, with the old car, you would maybe sometimes gain two or three rows on lane choice even on some of these mile-and-a-halves because guys didn’t want to be on the bottom on the straightaway. With this new car, it seems like everybody takes inside out, it’s back and forth and you don’t really get that huge row gain like you used to be able to with the old car.
"So, I feel like you have to be a little more aggressive in this car just because it seems like obviously restarts is the easiest time to get the positions, and then after that it gets pretty aero-sensitive."
Contact Times-Mail Sports Writer Jeff Bartlett at email@example.com, or on Twitter @jeffbtmnews.
This article originally appeared on The Times-Mail: Chase Briscoe rolls into Nashville for the NASCAR Cup Ally 400 Sunday