COLE CUSTER – 2020 Charlotte I Race Advance

This Sunday, Cole Custer and the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) makes the short trek to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for Sunday’s 61st running of the iconic Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series race. Custer’s Mustang will once again highlight SHR co-owner Gene Haas’ newest holding, HaasTooling.com. Haas Tooling was launched just weeks ago as a way for CNC machinists to purchase high quality cutting tools at great prices. Haas’ cutting tools will be sold exclusively online at HaasTooling.com and shipped directly to end users.

While racing has returned, SHR’s contribution to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped. The race shop is serving dual purposes – race team and medical device manufacturer. SHR has partnered with healthcare provider Novant Health to produce intensive care unit mobile webcam carts. The carts allow a medical professional to monitor a patient electronically, ultimately limiting the professional’s possible exposure to COVID-19. Additionally, SHR helped transport and deliver 2 million facemasks to replenish Novant’s supplies during the pandemic.

In the first two Cup Series events since the onset of the pandemic, both at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, Custer finished 22nd last Sunday and 31st Wednesday night. Sunday’s race was his first in the Cup Series at the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval.

Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 is NASCAR’s longest event of the season, requiring the drivers, crew members and cars to be in excellent shape to go the extra distance. Most NASCAR races are 400 or 500 miles. Even though the Coca-Cola 600 is a grueling race, Custer’s goal is a solid finish. “We need to build consistency in these races and work up from there,” he said. “We’re definitely making gains with this package. It’s just figuring out how to improve every race.”

The traditional Memorial Day weekend event is bringing some normalcy during the COVID-19 outbreak. NASCAR is a longtime supporter of the United States military, and this weekend will be no different. For the past several years during the spring holiday weekend, NASCAR has worked with the families of fallen soldiers to be recognized on each Cup Series racecar. Custer’s No. 41 Mustang will carry the name of Dillon Baldridge, who was an Army sergeant based in Fort

Campbell, Kentucky, and was part of 1-187 Rakassans, 101st Airborne Division. The 22-year-old was killed in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, when an Afghan soldier opened fire in an apparent inside attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Baldridge, a native of Youngsville, North Carolina, died on June 10, 2017.

“It’s definitely really cool how we honor the fallen military members on our cars,” Custer said. “NASCAR has always done a really good job saluting the military and everything they’ve done for our country to keep us safe. We wouldn’t be here without the military. Especially during these times, you really appreciate the people who risk their lives for us. I think it’s really cool that we do this and hopefully we can give them a good run.”

While Sunday marks Custer’s first Cup Series start on Charlotte’s 1.5-mile oval, the Ford driver has a good track record there in the Xfinity Series. Even though he hasn’t visited victory lane there, he’s finished inside the top-10 in all seven starts, the only exception being in May 2019.

The California native has one Charlotte appearance in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck series, starting 16th and finishing 13th in 2016.

SHR has 62 Cup Series starts at Charlotte with one victory earned by No. 4 Ford driver Kevin Harvick in 2014. In total, the Kannapolis-based team has seven top-fives, 22 top-10s, and five pole awards there.

Haas Automation, founded in 1983 by Haas, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. The company manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are constructed in the company’s 1.1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.

Even though Custer had a trio of starts in the Cup Series in 2018, 2020 officially marks his Rookie of the Year campaign in NASCAR’s top series. He’s competing for rookie honors with notables Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick. The three have battled against each other in the Xfinity Series and are making the full-time transition to the Cup Series together.

 

COLE CUSTER, Driver of the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

One of the biggest differences from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series is the length of the races. Sunday’s Coke 600 is the longest of the season, how are you physically and mentally preparing for the lengthy race?  

“The 600 is definitely a lot longer than what we’ve done in the Xfinity cars and it’s definitely the longest race I’ve ever run. I think the biggest thing is staying hydrated and making sure you’re loose before the race and not sore. Just try and relax, especially in the first part of the race. At halfway you just need to try and settle in and get some laps done. The thing about it is you can’t really relax too much because you have to fight for the stage points, and fight for track position as much as you can. You have to stay hydrated. I guess I’ll probably need a snack in there somewhere, too, but it’s definitely going to be the longest, most grueling race that I’ve run.”

You’ve had two races since we’ve been back, including a rain delay. Do you feel like you’re starting to get into some sort of routine – on and off the track with competition meetings, etc.?

“I feel like we are getting in more of a routine. It seems like we were all kind of new at the start and didn’t know what to expect. Then, as it’s all kind of come together, we’ve been able to calm down and get in a rhythm. Now, I think it’s just trying to perfect things and get in a better rhythm. We’re trying to figure out how we can excel at every single part of the weekend. We’re just going to keep working at it and get better every race.”

Your Xfinity Series track record at Charlotte is pretty strong – all top-10 finishes with the exception of your oval finish last year. Why do you think you’ve excelled on both courses at Charlotte?

“Charlotte has always been a good track for me. I’ve always run pretty good there. It’s definitely one of the most difficult mile-and-a-half tracks that we go to because it’s so edgy. It’s starting to get bumpy and you have to move around a little bit. It’s definitely a challenging mile-and-a-half to race on. It’s worked out for me and been good to me in the past. It’s just a matter of trying to figure out how you can work traffic in these cars and work your way to the front.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2020 Charlotte I Race Advance

Kevin Harvick has started six NASCAR Cup Series races in 2020 and has one win, four top-five finishes and six top-10s, which would explain why he leads the driver standings by 34 points over Joey Logano.

Harvick has a solid start to the season despite the 70-day break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of it has to do with the fact he is a veteran with 688 starts and has been with crew chief Rodney Childers for seven years, longer than any other active driver-crew chief combination.

And he should be good as the series moves to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for the longest race of the year, the Coca-Cola 600. Harvick has two career poles at Charlotte to go with three wins, four second-place finishes, eight top-threes, 17 top-10s, and has led a total of 542 laps in his 36 career NASCAR Cup Series points-paying starts on the 1.5-mile oval. His average start is 15.7, his average finish is 15.4 and he has a lap-completion rate of 94.4 percent, completing 12,263 of the 12,991 laps available.

Harvick will pilot the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) coming off the first Wednesday race in 36 years, which took place at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. And he’ll race the 600-mile race Sunday and then turn around and race a 310-mile race at Charlotte on Wednesday night.

While the return to racing has been on everyone’s mind, so are our nation’s heroes, especially on Memorial Day weekend.

Harvick will have the name of Army SSGT Kristofferson “Kris” Bernardo Lorenzo on the windshield of his No. 4 Ford Mustang for the Coca-Cola 600. Lorenzo was killed with three other soldiers on May 23, 2011, in Eastern Kunar Province, Afghanistan. Their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.

The men were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. It was Lorenzo’s third deployment to a war zone.

He was born in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, and moved to the United States and graduated from Mount Miguel High School in Spring Valley, California, just outside of San Diego.

Lorenzo loved cars and often helped his friends as a mechanic. He also enjoyed racing, but also took pride in his heritage, donning shirts decorated with the stars of the Filipino flag and striking up conversations with Filipino strangers.

He loved his family, friends and food, with pork sinigang soup being his favorite.

Lorenzo is buried at Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego.

He is survived by his wife, Leah Liza Lorenzo and sons Keane and Tristan, as well as his father and stepmother, Saturnino Lorenzo Jr., and Aurora Lorenzo, of San Diego; his sisters, Catherine Lorenzo-Ligason, of San Diego, and Charina Lorenzo-Dela Cruz, of Camarillo, and many relatives in San Marcos and the Philippines.

Harvick hopes to score career victory number 51 in honor of Lorenzo and all the fallen heroes.

 

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

You’ve had a few days to reflect. What does it mean to you to get 50 wins?

“You know what, as I went through Sunday night and into Monday morning, went through Tuesday and got to Darlington, just the amount of people that have called. Fifty wins was great. I’m not knocking that by any means. Being next to Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett is quite an honor. I don’t want to degrade that at all. But the impact that Sunday had on the country, as I got text messages from congressman Kevin McCarthy talking about how great it was for America, (Philadelphia Phillies manager) Joe Girardi talking about how great it was for sports, how it gave them hope for baseball. The PGA called, talking about how the sports world was watching NASCAR to see what they needed to do to get their players back safely. The impact was way bigger than 50 wins. It was way bigger than breaking a tie with Tony Stewart. The impact of that race on Sunday meant so much in so many different directions. Totally on my part underestimated the impact that Sunday’s event had. Being the winner of that really, really drove it home for me, not only after the race with the fans not being in the stands, the lack of enthusiasm that you didn’t have, to share all your enthusiasm with everybody. There were just so many moments that were just so much bigger than anything that had anything to do with my stats. I was just really proud of our sport at that particular point for putting on a safe event and doing the things we did.”

You’ve talked before about trying different things with the schedule. Does the midweek race show you that Wednesday-night, midweek races can work going forward? 

“Well, we did it. Like I said before, we can make it work. From a team standpoint and from competitors, it’s great if we can shorten the schedule, do all those things. In the end, the telltale sign is going to be when those TV numbers come out. If they’re good, that’s what drives everything. That’s what everybody sells their sponsorship on, that’s what we all want to see, is great TV numbers. We’d love the fans at the racetrack, but in the end the biggest stick comes from how many people turn on the TV.”

Is the Coca-Cola 600 more physically or mentally challenging?

“It just depends on how hot it is, honestly. If it’s a good weekend and the weather is nice, then it’s more mentally challenging than physically challenging. Either way, it’s still challenging both mentally and physically in some way, shape or form. The hardest part mentally is just getting yourself to overcome those last hundred miles because you are used to the 400- or 500-mile races.”

What does it mean to honor and remember a military member on your No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford this Memorial Day weekend?

“There isn’t any sport that honors the military any better than NASCAR. I know a lot of sports do a lot of things for our military but, when you roll into this particular weekend with the Coke 600 and you are a part of the celebration and remembrance for all the things that have happened with our military, to see the support that NASCAR and everybody in our garage gives the military, especially on this particular weekend, is something that gives you goosebumps. We are honored to carry the names (of fallen soldiers) on our cars.”

 

RODNEY CHILDERS, Crew Chief of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

You started off early in the season, didn’t finish worse than ninth. You came in the points leader through the two-month break. Did you feel this past week kind of capped what you had already shown as potential through the first four races of the season?

“Well, that’s one thing I talked about a lot with the guys, is just we don’t necessarily have to go out there and win every race. We just need to keep doing what we’re doing, keep knocking out top-fives and top-10s. It’s easy to say top-10s, but that’s not really the goal, either. It needs to be top-fives. We were able to do that twice this week. But I think these situations have always been good for us. I think unloading off the truck is something that my group does a really good job at. I told the guys, ‘We need to take advantage of this over the next month and do the best we can because, if you look back through history, our stats of unloading off the truck fast are pretty good.’ That’s the thing we need to do. We don’t need to let people have time to catch up, whether it be practice or whatever. We strive to be the best when we get here and unload. It’s not always going to be that way. Lord, everybody goes through swings. There’s going to be one of these things in the next seven races that we miss it big-time and have to make big changes.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2020 Charlotte I Race Advance

It seems the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything in the world, one of the latest examples of which will be the seemingly surreal setting Sunday when Clint Bowyer and the rest of the NASCAR Cup Series drivers and teams arrive at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for the 61st annual Coca-Cola 600.

Instead of the usual pageantry in front of 100,000-plus fans in attendance, Sunday’s race, much like the most recent races run at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway last Sunday and Wednesday, will be held under a comprehensive health and safety plan that permits no fans, limited crew, strict social distancing, and mandated personal protective equipment and health screenings for all.

“Nobody likes having things like this,” Bowyer admitted. “But it’s what we have to do to race and be safe. We all hope it will get better soon. Everyone is doing their best now and we’ll get through it.”

Thankfully, at least one Memorial Day weekend tradition remains – the 600 Miles of Remembrance initiative honoring members of the armed forces who gave their lives to their country. The windshield header of Bowyer’s No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil Delvac 1 Ford Mustang will carry the name of Private First Class Andy Krippner of Garland, Texas, who lost his life in Kunar Province, Afghanistan in 2011.

Krippner spent just six weeks in Afghanistan and celebrated his 20th birthday days before his death. Krippner’s medals included the Army’s ribbon for enlisting in time of war, the worldwide fight against terrorism, a medal for shooting, grenade launching, and the Combat Infantry Badge.

“Everyone knows what we are going through right now as a country and it’s easy to get down, but when you hear the stories of Andy Krippner and others who have sacrificed their lives for this country, you get a new perspective,” Bowyer said. “I am incredibly honored to carry Andy’s name on our car and can’t thank him and his family and friends enough for the sacrifices made for our country.”

Krippner lost his life when the Army vehicle he was in hit an improvised explosive device. The other soldiers killed in the attack included SSGT Kristofferson B. Lorenzo, 33, of Chula Vista, California; PFC William S. Blevins, 21, of Sardinia, Ohio; and PVT Thomas C. Allers of Plainwell, Mich. The soldiers were part of the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Bowyer’s SHR teammates Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola will honor Lorenzo and Blevins on their Ford Mustangs Sunday. SHR fabricator Matthew Ridgway – who didn’t know them personally, but joined their battalion after the incident and according to him, “knows them as well as you could know someone you’ve never met based on the stories from fellow soldiers he served with.”

When asked why he felt he had to go at Afghanistan, Krippner responded: “Why don’t you want to go?”

Bowyer and his family understand that type of soldier mentality.

Bowyer’s paternal grandfather Dale E. Bowyer was a first lieutenant in the United States Army. He won the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism while fighting the armed enemy in Germany during World War II.

The Distinguished Service Cross, awarded for extraordinary heroism, is the second-highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the Army. While leading his platoon under heavy fire in an attack near Sinz, Germany, on Jan. 25, 1945, LT Bowyer was severely wounded by an enemy mine. He refused evacuation even though both his feet were shattered.

He shouted instructions and encouragement where he lay. Inspired by his bravery, the men re-formed, moved clear of the minefield and continued the advance. Only then did LT Bowyer allow himself to be evacuated, crawling clear of the minefield to avoid injury to others.

“His devotion to duty and to his men, and his courage and fearless determination, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service,” read the commendation he received. LT Bowyer eventually lost a leg due to his injuries. After his career in the Army, he lived in Iola, Kansas, and worked in the dairy business. He passed away in June 1974.

Bowyer never met his grandfather.

Charlotte’s 600-mile distance is the longest of any race and includes four stages instead of the standard three, meaning more bonus points are available.

“Everyone gets caught up in the return to racing and rightly so,” said Bowyer. “But these races mean a lot for points and making the playoffs. We need to run up front and get those bonus points and have a strong finish. It’s go time.”

The 1.5-mile Charlotte oval has been kind to Bowyer over the years. He has two top-five and five top-10 finishes in 26 races. One of his 10 career Cup Series victories came on the oval on Oct. 13, 2012. Bowyer led 29 laps and ran out of fuel on his victory celebration lap. His crew pushed the car to victory lane.

In last year’s All-Star race on the Charlotte oval Bowyer won the pole and led two laps, but handling issues left him with a 12th-place finish. Six days later in the 600 Bowyer started eighth, but handling issues plagued him early, then damage from an accident caused by other drivers left him three laps behind the leaders in 24th place.

He enters the Sunday’s race ninth in points after finishing 17th and 22nd in last week’s two events at Darlington in NASCAR’s first races since March 8 due to the pandemic. Bowyer ran in the top six most of the race in Sunday’s Darlington race before late-race problems dropped him to 17th. On Wednesday he won the first two stages – a first for a driver in 2020 – and led 71 laps surpassing the 3,000 mark for career laps led. But once again, very late race trouble that saw wall contact and a spin resulted in a disappointing finish.

“I was very proud of the Mustang my guys brought to me in such a short turnaround,” Bowyer said after Wednesday’s race. “The thing just took off behind two cars racing for lucky dog and smoked the wall and blew our night. We keep doing that our day will come.”

Just as it did on last week, Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will again carry Rush Truck Centers and Mobil Delvac 1 decals at Charlotte, as well as the special social media hashtag #ThankATrucker. The hashtag calls attention to the men and women transporting goods and providing a public service. Rush Truck Centers is considered an essential business by the government with its more than 100 dealerships operating across the country. Mobil Delvac 1 heavy-duty diesel engine oils are designed to help commercial fleets boost uptime. Mobil Delvac 1 oils can help deliver fuel economy savings, extend the life of engines and lengthen oil drain intervals.

The schedule continues at its frenetic pace after Sunday’s race. The Cup Series will return to Charlotte for a 500-kilometer race on Wednesday then make stops at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on May 31, Atlanta Motor Speedway on June 7, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on June 10, Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway on June 14, and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on July 21.

Sunday might be the most unusual Coke 600 staged in the race’s 61-year history but there’s likely never been a time Americans have yearned for live sports entertainment. Despite the situation, taking time to remember sacrifices from those like Krippner and others this Memorial Day weekend provides a good reminder of how good we really have it.

 

CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil Delvac 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What are your thoughts on NASCAR being one of the first sports to return to action?

“Everybody is watching us right now. The whole world is watching us. Everyone wants this to be successful. That was the important message from our sport the last two weeks. All the other sports are watching us to see how we are doing so they can pull the trigger for their sports. Pulling fans away sucked and it wasn’t much fun to be at the track. Your family wasn’t there and there was nobody to interact with. But, it’s what we had to do to put on the show. Hopefully the success is a sign of things to come and we’ll get to open this back up soon.”

What are your thoughts on not practicing for races?

“I think it shows we really don’t need practice any more in our sport. I don’t know if not having practice or qualifying changed anything in the outcome of these races in Darlington.”

Do you notice the extra 100 miles in the Coca-Cola 600?

“It just depends on how your ole’ hot rod is, how your night’s going. The Coca-Cola 600 can be one of those deals where you feel like you could’ve gone another three or four hours, or it’s one of those where it’s like, ‘My God, is this thing ever going to end?’ You hope it’s the way I was describing before. You hope it’s, ‘This is easy,’ and wish it’d lasted a couple more hours.”

What are your thoughts on the service of your grandfather and others in the military?

“I never got to meet him but I’ve seen a lot of letters from the President, medals and all these awards that he got. I have the highest respect for him and every soldier who has served this country. I love getting to meet them when they come to the track and I like getting to meet their families and just tell them thank you. We owe so much to everyone who’s served and we will always remember the ones who have given their lives.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2020 Charlotte I Race Advance

Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will head just a few miles down the road from the race shop for Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. This marks the third race in eleven days to continue NASCAR’s return to racing amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Almirola and the No. 10 team returned to racing strong by moving up a position in the point standings after a 12th-place finish in the first Darlington race and earning his best finish of eighth in the second Darlington race on Wednesday.

“I feel like we might have become even more competitive now that we’ve picked back up than we were before,” said Almirola. “We’ve got one of the crown jewels coming up this weekend. The 600-mile race at Charlotte is one everyone has on their bucket list to win. I’m excited based on the way we’ve run the last few races here at Darlington. I’m excited to continue the momentum from Darlington and see if we can get ourselves a win there.”

Once again joining the Memorial Day weekend tradition of honoring America’s fallen service members as part of the NASCAR Salutes initiative, the windshield header of each NASCAR Cup Series car will feature the name of a fallen service member. The No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang will feature United States Army SPC Seth Blevins. Army SPC Blevins was a 2008 graduate of Eastern High School in Sardina, Ohio, where he was in the band, ran track, played basketball and soccer. His academic and extracurricular activities qualified him for National Honor Society.

SPC Blevins was heavily involved in his local community as a youth, participating in a number of activities including the Brown County Fair. He attended the University of Cincinnati where he studied criminal justice. After being accepted into Ohio University in Athens, he applied for the ROTC program and joined the Army a year after.

The soldiers on the No. 4 (Army Staff SGT Kristofferson B. Lorenzo), 10 (SPC Blevins) and 14 (Army PFC Andrew M. Krippner) were all members of the same unit that made the ultimate sacrifice in the same incident . On May 23 in eastern Kunar province, Afghanistan, their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. They were nominated by SHR fabricator Matthew Ridgway – who didn’t know them personally, but joined their battalion after the incident and according to him, “knows them as well as you could know someone you’ve never met based on the stories from fellow soldiers he served with.”

“It is such an honor to drive a race car in memorial day weekend and honor and remember some of fallen heroes that have paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we get to do what we do,” Almirola said. “It is so cool and such a humbling experience to represent these men and women. For me personally, I’ll be able to represent Seth Blevins and to have his name on the windshield is just a very cool experience. To be able to pay my respect to someone like Seth who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country so we can be free every day is amazing – but it’s not free. People like Seth and many more of our fallen heroes have paid that sacrifice and we’re so grateful and thankful for all of them men and women who serve our country.”

Almirola will run a special red, white, and blue patriotic paint scheme with Smithfield adorning the hood. Smithfield Foods Inc., who will sponsor Almirola’s car this weekend and at the majority of races this season, is an American food company with agricultural roots and a global reach. Its 40,000 U.S. employees are dedicated to producing “Good food. Responsibly®” and have made it one of the world’s leading vertically integrated protein companies.

The 36-year-old has eight NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Charlotte and garnered one top-five finish, three top-10s and has completed 99.4 percent of all possible laps. He also has two starts in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series at Charlotte, which both resulted in top-10 finishes.

Almirola has three top-10s this season and sits seventh in the points standings with 186 points – 72 behind first place Kevin Harvick.

 

ARIC ALMIROLA, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What does it take to win at Charlotte?

“It takes the same thing to win at Charlotte as it does Darlington honestly. You’ve got to have a car that handles well with grip and it’s a fast track. It’s got to be a fast car and unload fast with no practice and I feel like our organization has really closed the gap on where we were a year ago. We were not very good at Darlington last year and then I felt like we could have had all SHR cars running in the top-10 this year. As an organization we have certainly closed the gap and I think that will translate to Charlotte as well.”

Why is Charlotte a race that drivers have on their bucket list?

“Charlotte has been really good to me. I think it will be nice to race at Charlotte at home. It still stinks we can’t have fans here, but it’s still nice racing at home and knowing our shop is just a few miles up the road from the race track. We have a lot of pride running at Charlotte knowing it’s a home race for the teams and the crews guys and everyone.”

How is racing three times in 11 days?

“Racing Darlington two weekends in a row is unique and challenging itself. Being able to go from Darlington to the next new race track will bring back some normalcy like we’re used to. I’m excited about that and excited to get back in the routine and get back going from track to track.”

CHASE BRISCOE – 2020 NXS Darlington I Race Report

Event:  Darlington 200 (Round 5 of 33)
Series:  NASCAR Xfinity Series
Location:  Darlington (S.C.) Raceway (1.366-mile oval)
Format:  147 laps, broken into three stages (45 laps/45 laps/57 laps)
Start/Finish:  11th/1st (Running, completed 147 of 147 laps)
Point Standing:  1st (223 points, 19 ahead of second)

Race Winner: Chase Briscoe of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 1 Winner: Noah Gragson of JR Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Overview:

Chase Briscoe beat one of the best drivers in NASCAR to score his fourth career Xfinity Series victory and his second this season. The driver of the No. 98 HighPoint.com/Ford Performance Racing School Mustang started 11th for the 200-lap race around the 1.366-mile oval and ran consistently among the top-10 through the race’s first 90 laps. A quick pit stop on lap 91 for four tires and field allowed Briscoe to restart in second place on lap 96. The 25-year-old driver from Mitchell, Indiana, promptly took the lead, pacing the field for the next 34 laps. A caution on lap 133 allowed Briscoe to pit one final time for fresh tires and fuel, and another lightning-fast stop put Briscoe in the lead for the lap-138 restart. This set up a battle between Briscoe and Busch, the winningest driver in Xfinity Series history with 96 career victories. But Briscoe would not be denied, crossing the finish line first in a fender-scraping, tire-rubbing duel where the margin of victory was just .086 of a second.

Chase Briscoe, driver of the No. 98 HighPoint.com/Ford Performance Racing School Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:        

“This is the best thing that could happen, honestly. For those that don’t know, we had a miscarriage Tuesday of our daughter and, to be honest with you, I wasn’t sure what racing we would do. God is so good. Earlier when I got dressed, I prayed that whatever His will is, just let it be done today. I knew He was going to have a high because of the low, and it’s just unbelievable to win here at Darlington and to beat Kyle Busch doing it.

“I just kept making a lot of mistakes on the final lap. Emotionally, I wasn’t there. Getting into turn one, I knew that there was no way he was going to drive in deeper than me. I wasn’t going to let it happen. Kyle was gracious enough to at least leave me a little bit of a lane and it was a heck of a race. This is the number one win. Honestly, winning the Daytona 500 couldn’t even top the feeling of the ups and downs. This is what my family needed and what my wife needed.

“This has been the hardest week I’ve ever had to deal with. At the initial start, I was all over the place emotionally, and then when I had the lead with 50 to go, I was just making so many mistakes because I was literally crying inside the racecar. There’s nothing else to say other than God is just so glorious. Obviously, I’m happy to get HighPoint.com and Ford Performance Racing School in victory lane, but this is more than a race win. This is the biggest day of my life after the toughest day in my life, and to be able to beat the best there is, is so satisfying.”

Notes:              

● The win gave Briscoe the lead in the championship standings. He holds a 19-point advantage over second-place Harrison Burton.
● This was Briscoe’s 55th career Xfinity Series start, but only his second at Darlington. He finished sixth in last year’s race.
● Briscoe led three times for 45 laps.
● Briscoe finished eighth in Stage 1 to earn three bonus points and fourth in Stage 2 to earn an additional seven bonus points.
● There were five caution periods for a total of 28 laps.
● Twenty-four of the 39 drivers in the Darlington 200 finished on the lead lap.

Next Up:          

The next event on the Xfinity Series schedule is the Alsco 300 on Monday, May 25 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1 and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

KEVIN HARVICK – 2020 Darlington II Race Advance

Kevin Harvick scored his 50th win Sunday in NASCAR’s comeback race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

It was one of the most historic victories for Harvick in the series, ranking right up there with his very first win in March 2001 at Atlanta Motor Speedway three weeks after Dale Earnhardt’s death.

As historic as Sunday’s win was, Harvick wants more, including number 51, which could come in Wednesday night’s Darlington 500k at Darlington.

Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), will bring back the same car he won with on Sunday. He dominated the race with 159 laps led and won by 2.154 seconds over Alex Bowman.

Wednesday’s race will be a bit different than Sunday’s as it will be only 500 kilometers – 311.4 miles – and will be run at night, as opposed to Sunday’s race that was conducted during the day.

Harvick will have the No. 1 pit stall for Wednesday’s race but will start 20th as the top 20 cars invert to create the front half of the grid. But if his pit crew is as good as it was Sunday, Harvick could once again be in contention for the win.

He’ll also have Mobil 1 on board as a sponsor and partner.

Mobil 1 isn’t just the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand, it also provides the entire SHR team with leading lubricant technology, ensuring that all SHR Mustangs have a competitive edge over the competition on the track. In its 18th consecutive season as the “Official Motor Oil of NASCAR,” Mobil 1 is used by more than 50 percent of teams throughout NASCAR’s top three series.

Harvick will also have Christopher Bucciarelli’s name on his Mobil 1 Ford Mustang during the Darlington 500k in continuation of NASCAR’s support of The Real Heroes initiative. Bucciarelli works in imaging at the Novant Health Matthews Medical Center and is from Monroe, North Carolina. He spent 11 years as a United States Navy corpsman and had three combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as a corpsman for the United State Marine Corps.

Bucciarelli joined Novant in 2018 and is regarded as dependable, loyal and always willing to go above and beyond for his patients and team members. He volunteered to work at the field hospital that was planned during the COVID-19 crisis. He realized his passion for emergency care during his time working with Med Center 1 in 2018 after Hurricane Florence. Bucciarelli’s son Keegan, who is 6, are avid NASCAR fans, and his favorite driver is Harvick.

Here’s hoping Mobil 1, along with Bucciarelli, can help Harvick score win number 51, which would put him only three behind Lee Petty for 11th on the all-time NASCAR wins list.

 

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

You have 50 wins. Can you talk about that accomplishment?

“When you say those two names (Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson, also with 50 career wins), obviously they’re a huge part of what built this sport. Obviously Hall of Famers. What a huge honor it is to have my name sitting next to theirs. I’ve been fortunate, especially since I’ve come to Stewart-Haas Racing. This was 27 wins together with this group of guys. I think that experience going into our seventh year here really paid off Sunday, getting our car right, making adjustments on our car, rebounding from the adversity of a bad pit stop, all the things that came with turned into a race win. That says a lot about the experience of our team, the depth we have with everything that Gene (Haas) and Tony (Stewart) give us. It’s been a lot of fun to drive fast racecars. To have your name next to those guys goes to show you how fortunate I am to be able to ride in those fast racecars. We’ve been able to capitalize on a few.”

Drivers describe Darlington as one of the more physically demanding tracks. Normally, you have a full week to recover. You’re going back there to race Wednesday. Does that change how you recover from a race?  What do you normally do to recover from a NASCAR race?

We have been off for 10 weeks. We should be pretty fresh from the physical standpoint. For me, I’ve been working hard to make sure I was in as good a shape as I’ve been in in a long time coming back, not even knowing what the schedule was, but just wanted to be better.I think as you look at that, really the biggest thing is 300 miles for us is a short race. I think as you look at the weather, being at night, it’s going to be fairly cool. The 600 miles (at Charlotte) the next weekend will be the one that you really have to pay attention to as far as what you do.Hydration is the key for me. For the most part, it’s really about making sure that you put enough fluids back in your body.”

Why do your prefer Mobil 1 synthetic?

“I’m a synthetic guy because, in 1993 when we were sitting in the engine shop, we dumped Mobil 1 synthetic in and that’s all we did and gained seven horsepower. From that day on, we would actually save our money and then go to the local auto parts store because, at that time, it was like $5.50 a quart and the conventional and other oils were like $3.50. At the big races, we would put the Mobil 1 in the car and the regular races would put the regular oil in there. You know I’m going to say synthetic.”

COLE CUSTER – 2020 Darlington II Race Advance

Cole Custer and the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) head back to Darlington (S.C.) Raceway on Wednesday for the second consecutive event at the egg-shaped oval. Custer’s Mustang will once again highlight Gene Haas’ newest holding, HaasTooling.com. Haas Tooling was launched just weeks ago as a way for CNC machinists to purchase high quality cutting tools at great prices. Haas’ cutting tools will be sold exclusively online at HaasTooling.com and shipped directly to end-users.

After much anticipation, the 2020 NASCAR season resumed Sunday with a 400-mile race at Darlington. Custer received the 14th starting position after a drawing was held to set the field. The Cup Series rookie had a strong run in Stage 1 of the race but, after his car’s handling tightened up, he was relegated to a 22nd-place result. The 22-year-old feels fortunate to have another opportunity to master the South Carolina “Track Too Tough To Tame” Wednesday night.

“I think we definitely made gains during Sunday’s race,” Custer said. “The car drove fairly well. I think if I would’ve gotten a little more confident with running the wall, that we could’ve had a better day. I think we’re going in the right direction. It’s just a matter of working out the little things and being a rookie, and we’ll be on the right track.”

Riding along with the California native for Wednesday’s race will be Novant Health employee Dean Hines. Hines is part of NASCAR’s support of The Real Heroes initiative. He has been a patient transporter at Novant Health Matthews Medical Center since 2011. Hines, who calls himself a huge NASCAR fan, is from Kinston, North Carolina. Hines is said to always put his patients first. His contributions to the hospital, especially during these uncertain times, warrant the honor of him riding along with Custer at Darlington. Hines’ patients are always complimenting him for instinctively knowing how to comfort them with his kind words of healing and understanding during their darkest times. Along with his passion for people, Hines also enjoys playing multiple musical instruments with his band on the weekends.

SHR has 39 starts at Darlington and two victories, both earned by No. 4 driver Kevin Harvick – one in 2014, and most recently on Sunday after Harvick led a race-high 159 laps. In total, the Kannapolis-based Ford team has 11 top-fives and 19 top-10s in the Cup Series at the South Carolina track.

Harvick hit a career win milestone with Sunday’s victory. “It’s pretty cool seeing Kevin get to 50 wins,” Custer said. “He’s been on a tear and it’s pretty impressive to watch. Being able to be this close to it and see how he goes about it, and how he prepares for a weekend and thinks about things. I think he’s different than anybody else on how he puts it all together, and I’m sure he’s going to win a lot more races.”

Haas Automation, founded in 1983 by SHR co-owner Haas, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. The company manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are constructed in the company’s 1.1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.

Even though Custer had a trio of starts in the Cup Series in 2018, 2020 officially marks his Rookie of the Year campaign in NASCAR’s most prestigious series. He’s competing for rookie honors with notables Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick. The three have battled against each other in the Xfinity Series and are making the full-time transition to the Cup Series together. Custer was the third-highest-finishing rookie at Darlington Sunday and looks to improve his position Wednesday night.

 

COLE CUSTER, Driver of the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What did race day feel like Sunday after the 10-week hiatus?

“It was definitely different. I think the strangest thing was how quiet it was before and after the race, without the fans. But other than that, it was kind of back to normal – driving to the track and climbing in the car. But it was definitely strange not having the fans there.”

What was it like to start a race after such a long break without practice or qualifying?

“It was a little tough to start the race after the long break and no practice or qualifying. It left you guessing a little bit more. I felt like we fired off pretty good and the guys had built a great car. It was well prepared for the race. It’s just those little things that you try and work through in practice, but you don’t have that time to work through them now. You just have to jump into it, so it might lead to more mistakes, when more experienced guys might have more of an advantage.”

Once the race started, did it take some time get acclimated?

“I feel like the first lap was pretty good. I was pretty well adjusted to it. I think the biggest thing that I had to get acclimated to was just how I was going to run this car that I’ve never run before. The different lines, and how I was going to work the racetrack and do everything involved with that. It was just a matter of me getting used to the car.”

Was the level of difficulty even higher because of the nature of the Darlington track, and a race that’s notoriously difficult even with hours of track time beforehand?

“It was definitely a little bit difficult because it was Darlington but, at the same time, you try and do as much preparation as you can. Get yourself in the mindset of which different lines you’ll be running, working the dirty air and things like that. It would’ve been nice to test some of those things during practice, but I feel like we all do a pretty good job of showing up to the racetrack and being ready.”

Do you think you’ll feel much more comfortable coming back to Darlington Wednesday? What did you learn from Sunday’s race that you’ll apply when you return Wednesday?

“I think going back on Wednesday I’ll be a lot more comfortable. Just kind of being used to the whole racetrack and being confident in moving my car around is probably the biggest thing. I was pretty conservative with running the top during the race because I didn’t want to hit the wall my first time there and ruin our day. I think going back I’ll have a good feel for it to be aggressive.”

Any big similarities or differences from racing the Xfinity Series car there to now having done it in the Cup car?

“I definitely feel like there were a decent amount of similarities to the Xfinity car, how you got around the corner and which lines you would run, and stuff like that. I think the biggest thing is how you work traffic and how you want to pass people. I think traffic was the biggest thing that was different.”

 

MIKE SHIPLETT, Crew Chief of the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What did you learn during yesterday’s race that you’ll apply when we return on Wednesday?

“Since it was Cole’s first time with these cars at Darlington, we learned a lot for the race we will have on Wednesday. The track will be different since it is a night race, so we will have to make a few small adjustments.”

How good did it feel to hear cars on the track after 70 days without activity, see people in the garage, etc.?

“It was good to get back to the track and keep Cole’s rookie year going. We had a lot of plans for the early races this year that we had to make adjustments for to start the new 2020 season. We were following all of NASCAR’s protocols, so we didn’t get to talk much to the other teams.”

Your overall assessment of how NASCAR and the teams did with being organized and following the new and different policies and procedures at-track?

“NASCAR and the team did a great job with getting us back to racing.”

Now that Cole has one Cup Series race under his belt at Darlington, is there anything in particular that you’ll focus on for Wednesday that you think could really help him?

“We are going to work on the things that will get us the most speed moving into the race on Wednesday, now that he understands the lines he needs to run with this car.

CLINT BOWYER – 2020 Darlington II Race Advance

Clint Bowyer drove by a lot of cars Sunday as he raced in the top-10 most of the day before late trouble left him with a 17th-place finish in the NASCAR Cup Series’ return to competition in The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

“Man, that was a bummer,” Bowyer said after the race.

“We were pretty damn good all race long until the money was on the line. Then things fell apart very quickly.”

It marked the first Cup Series race since March 8 and ran under a comprehensive health and safety plan that permitted no fans, limited crew, strict social distancing, and mandated personal protective equipment and health screenings for all.

Sunday looked like it could have been a great day for Bowyer, who started 13th and drove to seventh by the end of Stage 1. He kept that speed and finished fifth in Stage 2. It appeared he would battle for victory as he raced in sixth with 60 laps remaining, but a loose-handling car late in the run combined with several issues left him with a 17th-place finish.

While the finish was disappointing, Bowyer moved from 13th to 10th in the standings.

The 40-year-old Emporia, Kansas, native not only passed cars on the track Sunday but also passed a lot of trucks on the road during his 300-mile commute between his Mocksville, North Carolina, home and the Darlington track.

“It was kind of cool to drive to Darlington and see all of the trucks driving up and down the highway,” Bowyer said. “That kind of reminds you that things are still moving in America. Businesses are shipping and truckers are bringing people what they need to live their lives.”

He hopes to see that again Wednesday when he commutes to and from Darlington for NASCAR’s 500-kilometer – 310-mile – race that evening.

Just as it did on Sunday, Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will again carry Rush Truck Centers and Mobil Delvac 1 decals at Darlington, as well as the special social media hashtag #ThankATrucker.

The hashtag calls attention to the men and women transporting goods and providing a public service. Rush Truck Centers is considered an essential business by the government with its more than 100 dealerships operating across the country. Mobil Delvac 1 heavy-duty diesel engine oils are designed to help commercial fleets boost uptime. Mobil Delvac 1 oils can help deliver fuel economy savings, extend the life of engines and lengthen oil drain intervals.

“There are lots of heroes right now, but I hope NASCAR fans will take the time to thank a trucker,” said Bowyer, whose No. 14 Ford Mustang includes several corporate partners heavily involved in the trucking industry, like Rush Truck Centers, Mobil Delvac 1, PEAK Antifreeze and Coolant, as well as Cummins.

According to the American Trucking Associations, there are more than 700,000 trucking businesses in the country, employing 7.8 million people, including 3.5 million truck drivers. More than 36 million trucks log 297 billion miles per year, moving 71 percent of the nation’s freight.

“Whatever you have at your house or business, a trucker probably played a role in getting it to you,” Bowyer said.

Before Bowyer returns to Darlington on Wednesday where he will start fourth, he’ll join Adam Alexander and Michael Waltrip in the FOX Charlotte studio to broadcast Tuesday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Darlington. Bowyer, the 2008 Xfinity Series champion, joined FOX as an analyst and studio guest this season.

His schedule only gets busier after Wednesday night’s Cup Series race as the series then moves to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, followed by a 500-kilometer race at Charlotte on May 24. The schedule also includes recently announced stops at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on May 31, Atlanta Motor Speedway on June 7, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on June 10, Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway on June 14, and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on July 21.

While everyone is glad for the return of live racing, SHR wasn’t idle during the hiatus between the March 8 Phoenix and Sunday’s return at Darlington.

The organization co-owned by Gene Haas and three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart has been building ICU webcam carts for Novant Health. The team began building a prototype cart in mid-April for use in hospital intensive care units. SHR recently delivered 10 of its ICU webcam carts to Novant Health with the plan to build 110 units over the coming weeks for use across Novant Health’s integrated system of physician practices, hospitals and outpatient centers.

In support of the Real Heroes Project, a collaborative initiative by 14 sports leagues, Wednesday’s race will again honor health care workers serving on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19. Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford will carry the name of Josie Fongoh, RN, from the emergency department of the Novant Health Mint Hill (S.C.) Medical Center. The 38-year-old Charlottean has been working in health care in North Carolina since 2012 after moving to the United States from Cameroon, Africa. She began her career as a certified nurse assistant before obtaining her license as a registered nurse. She has experience in hemodialysis, rehabilitation, and currently in emergency nursing. She is recognized as a compassionate and skilled nurse providing emergency care at the Mint Hill facility since 2018. She recently completed her master’s program as a Family Nurse Practitioner and is entering the next phase of her health care career in internal medicine.

 

CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil Delvac 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What was Sunday in Darlington like?

“Once you get into the car, it’s normally business as usual and it was really that way in Darlington. Was it weird driving down there by yourself, walking to the car with no fans and no atmosphere? Yes, and it sucked. But once you got in the car, it was pretty normal. Those racecars don’t know if there are fans there or if there is a pandemic going on or not. You still have to keep four tires on the track and go as fast as you can.”

Was there any “rust?”

“Not nearly as much as I thought. We set a good pace in the first run. Within six or seven laps, I was comfortable and ripping it 100 percent.”

What did you learn for Wednesday night’s race?

“We learned a lot about the balance of our racecar. There were some adjustments we will do again and there are some adjustments we won’t do again. It was just our fifth race as a team and we’re still working on our communication. Communication plays a big factor in deciding the adjustments you make.”

Is there a difference between day and night races at Darlington?

“The night races are always different. One of the things that caught us off guard is, typically at Darlington, you get tighter as the race goes on, but we got looser. We are trying to decipher why that was with our setup and, again, what happens when it cools off even more Wednesday. Plus we have weather moving in Wednesday at Darlington. We have to keep an eye on that storm and understand what the track conditions are going to be like and make the best decisions possible.”

Why should race fans tune in Tuesday to watch you as part of the FOX broadcast team announcing the Xfinity race?

“I’m excited about Tuesday night and working the Xfinity race. This series is always awesome to watch. There’s a great mix of veterans with a lot of experience and rookies without much experience who are in really good, fast hot rods. That’s always a recipe for massive entertainment, especially on a track that’s as hard to get around as Darlington. I think the sparks will fly.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2020 Darlington II Race Advance

The No. 10 Smithfield / #GoodFoodChallenge Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) returned to live racing Sunday at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, where driver Aric Almirola started fifth by a random draw and finished 12th to advance one position in the NASCAR Cup Series playoff standings. The team sits seventh with 151 points – 67 out of first place. SHR teammate Kevin Harvick dominated the race to earn his first win of the season.

Almirola raced inside the top-five in the first stage and earned six stage points. He was forced to race his way back through the field after an uncontrolled tire penalty forced him to the rear of the field in the second stage. He gained four positions on the final restart and held the Smithfield/#GoodFoodChallenge Ford just outside the top-10 before the checkered flag waved. He was the second highest-finishing SHR driver.

“Overall, it was a good day after earning some stage points and moving up in the standings, but we’ve got some rust to knock off,” Almirola said. “The Smithfield car was good until we lost track position and, when we finally had the opportunity to run back toward the top-10, it was toward the end of the race. We definitely learned a lot that we can take back on Wednesday. That’s the good thing. We know where our weakness is and now we just need to get buttoned up and run a clean race.”

Without a single practice lap or qualifying, Almirola and crew chief Mike Bugarewicz were put to the test. Communication was key and patience led the team to progress in the point standings.

“We have a few areas to fine-tune on our team,” Bugarewicz said. “We show potential every week to run top-10 and top-five. We just need to clean up a few areas and we’ll be in good shape.”

Advancing one position in the standings wasn’t the only positive during the team’s return to racing. Almirola and Smithfield teamed up to bring meals to families in need through Smithfield’s #GoodFoodChallenge.

From last Tuesday through May 21, Smithfield and Almirola are conducting the #GoodFoodChallenge. Smithfield launched the campaign amid the COVID-19 outbreak and has donated more than 40 million servings of protein to Feeding America – Now fans are asked to continue to help. The easiest way is via social media posts using the hashtag #GoodFoodChallenge, which automatically donates 10 meals to Feeding America through Smithfield. They can also visit www.SmithfieldGoodFoodChallenge.com if they’d like to donate monetarily.

Fans and industry members have rallied around the cause with an abundance of social media posts during Sunday’s The Real Heroes 400. Almirola and the Smithfield/#GoodFoodChallenge Ford team look to continue that charitable momentum Wednesday night.

Wednesday’s race will also again support The Real Heroes project by recognizing a front-line health care worker by replacing Almirola’s name above his driver-side door with that of Clayton Vaught, a supervisor of diagnostic radiology at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center. Vaught’s work ethic is said to be second to none. He is thought of as a tremendous leader and team player. He works at Novant Health and Stone institute, a urology group that takes care of kidney stones. Vaught is a die-hard NASCAR fan who, throughout the years, has hosted a group of more than 30 fans at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway campgrounds and fires up the grill for everyone involved. Clayton is in the market for a new favorite NASCAR driver.

“It’s people like Clayton who make all of this possible,” Almirola said. “Without our front-line health care workers, we wouldn’t be racing on Wednesday. Hopefully, I can win him over and gain a new fan.”

 

ARIC ALMIROLA, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield/#GoodFoodChallenge Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

How was it finally getting back to racing? 

“I’m proud of everybody. I’m proud of NASCAR for being the first sport to get things going again. It was kind of eerie to walk out to pit road and not see anyone in the grandstands, but it sure felt good to get back in the racecar and that thrill of competition was much needed. I hope everybody enjoyed it and I hope everybody started getting their fix on sports from watching us race. We’re one step closer to getting back to normal.”

What would it mean to win at Darlington?

“It is such a physically demanding track, it’s such a demanding track on the car, on the crew, on everybody. When you win at Darlington, you’ve done something. Darlington is just a really tough racetrack. It’s called ‘Too Tough to Tame’ and the ‘Lady in Black’ for a reason. It such a challenging place. To go there and have success, to walk away with a trophy, is a bucket list kind of race that you want to win.”

CHASE BRISCOE – 2020 NXS Darlington I Race Advance

Event:  Darlington 200 (Round 5 of 33)
Date:  May 19, 2020
Location:  Darlington Raceway
Layout:  1.366-mile oval

Chase Briscoe Notes of Interest

•  The Darlington 200 is the fifth event of the 33-race NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule. It will mark the first event for the Xfinity Series since racing went on hiatus following the March 7 LS Tractor 200 at Phoenix Raceway.

•  Racing was forced into hibernation by the COVID-19 pandemic, but Briscoe made sure he stayed sharp. The 25-year-old from Mitchell, Indiana, competed in numerous iRacing events on both asphalt and dirt track tracks, and when he wasn’t in his sim rig, Briscoe was mastering the art of hibachi-style cooking and knocking out home-improvement projects while keeping up with his two French bulldogs, Ricky and Callie.

•  Briscoe comes into Darlington second in the championship standings, just three points behind series leader Harrison Burton. Briscoe has three top-10 finishes this season, highlighted by a win Feb. 23 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

•  Briscoe has just one NASCAR start at Darlington. It came in last year’s Xfinity Series race when Briscoe started fifth and finished sixth in the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200. 

•  Briscoe won the 2019 rookie-of-the-year title in the Xfinity Series and is racing for a championship in 2020. He is a three-time winner in the Xfinity Series and the 2016 ARCA Racing Series champion. Briscoe finished fifth in the Xfinity Series championship standings last year, narrowly missing out on advancing to the Championship 4 and competing for the series title.

CHASE BRISCOE, Driver of the No. 98 HighPoint.com/Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang:

 

Were you able to learn anything from watching Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race that will help for when you take the green flag on Tuesday?

“I felt like I learned a little, but I think I’ll learn the most after talking to the Cup guys. Track conditions will likely be a little different for us with our race starting later. The more information we can get for our HighPoint.com/Ford Performance Racing School Mustang, the better since we’re running what we unload. It looked like each of the Stewart-Haas Racing cars was strong at some point in the race, with Kevin Harvick being the strongest at the end, so I think we can get some good feedback from our teammates.”

You spent a lot of time iRacing during the sport’s hiatus. While it’s not the same thing as real racing, do you feel like it kept your mind and reflexes sharp?

“Doing any type of racing keeps you sharp and in the right state of mind, and iRacing is, for sure, a part of that. There’s so much similarity between how you drive a track on iRacing and in real life. If you lose your focus for a second, that could mean a mistake that costs you or someone else a good finish, and I think we saw a lot of that in some of the Saturday Night Thunder races.”

How difficult is it to race at Darlington, even when you have plenty of track time beforehand?

“What makes it tough is it’s just so different from every track we go to. The groove, the surface and the shape are unlike any on the schedule, and it’s so narrow. You’ve got to take care of your tires or you aren’t going to be able to make any moves for position and move around on the racetrack to find speed. Under the lights at Darlington is going to be different, for sure. It’s easy to make mistakes – we saw that on Sunday – so patience is going to be the most important thing. I’m ready to be back in the HighPoint.com/Ford Performance Racing School Mustang and I’m ready for the challenge of Darlington.”