In the Know – Phoenix Finale

“In the Know”
Phoenix Raceway

The excitement is high as we head to Phoenix Raceway this weekend for the NASCAR Cup Series season finale. The Cup Series Championship will take place at 3pm ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The four drivers in the Championship round are Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson of Hendrick Motorsports, and Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex of Joe Gibbs Racing.
The Xfinity Series will battle it out on Saturday at 8:30pm ET. Catch Noah Gragson, Austin Cindric, Daniel Hemric and A.J. Allmendinger fighting for a title on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

This race marks the end of an era for the 15-inch tire. Goodyear has run 15-inch tires since the beginning of its involvement in NASCAR, which dates back to the late 1950s. The tire maker will switch to 18-inch with the debut of the Next Gen Cup car next year (the Xfinity and Truck Series will remain on 15-inch), starting a new page in the history books.

“For the Cup Series this weekend, someone will go down as the last driver to win a championship on a 15-inch tire,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “Goodyear has done a lot of development on its 15-inch racing program over the last 60-plus years, including the move from bias ply to radials back in the late 1980s, and now we transition to 18-inch for the 2022 Cup season.”

The Details

NASCAR Cup Series Overview

Event: NASCAR Cup Series Season Finale (Round 36 of 36)
Time/Date: 3 p.m. EST on Sunday, Nov. 7
Location: Phoenix Raceway
Layout: 1-mile oval
Laps/Miles: 312 laps/312 miles (502 kilometers)
Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 75 laps / Stage 2: 115 laps / Final Stage: 122 laps
TV/Radio: NBC / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

NASCAR Xfinity Series Overview

Event: NASCAR Xfinity Series Season Finale (Round 33 of 33)
Date: Saturday, Nov. 6
Location: Phoenix Raceway
Layout: 1-mile oval
Time/TV/Radio: 8:30 p.m. EDT on NBCSN/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

What Our Drivers are Saying:

Phoenix-FinaleKevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Light #BuschPitBoss Stewart-Haas Racing

How would you assess this season?
“That’s a good question. For us as a group on the 4 car, I think we’ve worked through things pretty well. We’ve been in position to win two or three races, but one thing or another didn’t let that happen or didn’t make it happen, however you want to look at it. But I’ve had a lot worse seasons, I know that for sure. I’ve lived through a whole bunch that were way worse than this one. This one has been a bit of a struggle to get the finishes that we have, but in the end, I’ve raced like that for years in my career. You know, a lot of people that watch and cover the sport in this particular period forget about 20 years ago. It’s hard to explain to people some of the things that you’ve been through. I feel like my first press conference was the biggest one I’ll ever do, the first year was the most stressful I’ll ever have, 2002 was a horrendous year, and somehow we won a race that year playing the track-position game and put ourselves in the right spot. I’ve personally been through some pretty tough years and this one has just been a struggle because you had to work so hard to get everything you have. I think from a team standpoint, we’ve also learned a lot about the other side of the fence as far as having to dig your heels in and do things that you haven’t had to do. And whether you like it or not, that race is coming up next week and you’re going to have to participate, whether your car is slow or fast, and you’ve got to figure out how to make the most out of that. For us, I know we have 23 top-10s, and you look at the top-fives, they’re not where we want them to be. But when you look at the overall picture and the grind that we’ve been through this year, I think everybody’s done a good job and I think a lot of that comes from the maturity and the experience of this Busch Light team and being together so long.”

Phoenix-FinaleAric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

What’s the most important thing to be successful at Phoenix?
“You have to have everything at Phoenix. You have to have downforce, grip in your car and good brakes. You have to make sure your car turns well through the center of turns one and two, which is a sharp, banked corner. And then you have turns three and four, which are really fast and sweeping and flat. You’ve got to have a car that’s versatile and is a good compromise for both corners. We had that at Loudon, where we won, and we had it last weekend at Martinsville. ”

Phoenix-FinaleChase Briscoe, Driver of the No. 14 HighPoint.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

You’re one race away from checking Cup Series Rookie of the Year on your list of 2021 goals. Talk about how it feels to end the season with that kind of accomplishment.
“I wish there were more guys competing for it this year. It’s always fun when you can have another points battle to be a part of, but it’s still cool to be able to win it and, more so, to win it in all three series. That’s something I always wanted to do, so it’ll be nice to cap that off. It’s still a big accomplishment even though we were only competing against one other guy. He had just as many opportunities to win it. I wish we had more high points to our season, but it’s nice to have something to hang our hat on for the year. We’ll certainly go out to Phoenix and try to execute and come out with the best finish possible, but we know we’re coming out with some kind of success at the end of the year no matter how it goes. And to be on a list of only three guys that have won Rookie of the Year in the Truck, Xfinity and Cup Series is really cool. It’s humbling. I never thought I’d even get to win a Truck race, so now to be here with a chance to be rookie of the year in all three is very humbling.”

Phoenix-finaleCole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

You scored your first career Cup Series top-10 at Phoenix last year in what was then your seventh career start. How big of an accomplishment was that for you?
“It was a huge finish for us. It was a huge boost to have a really solid day and a fast Mustang. We overcame obstacles all weekend, and it really helped us continue to carry that all through the rest of the year. I think we got better most every single race in one way or another, so it was something that gave us the momentum to do that. We came back to Phoenix in November and didn’t get the finish we wanted, but we left there with the Rookie of the Year title, which obviously was special. It was definitely a rookie season with a lot of peaks and valleys, results-wise, and a really interesting season to be a rookie with no practice, no testing or qualifying, so it was a lot of just learning on the fly, but I think we all managed it very well. It’ll be good to get back there this weekend.”

Phoenix-Finale-scaledRiley Herbst, Driver of the Xfinity No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

You scored a fourth-place finish thanks to a strong restart in the final laps the last time you raced at Phoenix. What’s the plan heading into Saturday’s race?
“Last time we were in Phoenix, we had an impressive finish and really started to show what this team could do if presented with an opportunity. We avoided the chaos at the end and brought home a top-five. Heading into this weekend, the ultimate goal is to win, but most of all, we want to finish out the season with another strong finish. This team has worked hard all season long. I know we can get it done.”

SHR Stats

Kevin Harvick hasn’t finished outside the top-10 in his last 16 starts at Phoenix. The last time he finished outside the top-10 was March 3, 2013 when he finished 13th. Of Harvick’s nine NASCAR Cup Series victories at Phoenix, he won four straight between November 2013 and March 2015. The streak ended when Harvick finished second at Phoenix in November 2015, but when the series returned to the track in March 2016, Harvick won again. Harvick is the only driver to win four Cup Series races in a row at Phoenix. Johnson was next best with three straight wins between November 2007 and November 2008. Only five drivers have won consecutive Cup Series races at Phoenix, but Harvick is the only driver to win consecutive races twice, as he also swept both races in 2006. In 37 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Phoenix, Harvick has earned an average finish of 8.8, the best of any active Cup Series driver. Denny Hamlin is next best with an average finish of 10.8 over 32 Cup Series starts.

The 312-lap race around the desert mile oval will be Cole Custer’s 75th Cup Series start and his fourth at Phoenix. The 23-year-old from Ladera Ranch, California, scored his first nine career Cup Series top-10s in the March 2020 Phoenix race, which was just his seventh career Cup Series start, en route to earning Rookie of the Year honors. He followed up that ninth-place finish with another near-top-10 in this race a year ago, which was derailed by an unscheduled pit stop to replace a loose wheel during the final stage. He finished 28th. Last March at Phoenix, another top-10 bid was ruined when contact from behind in the closing laps sent Custer into the wall and relegated him to a 31st-place finish.

In Chase Briscoe’s first start at Phoenix in March of this year, and just his fifth in a Cup Series car, he started 26th and finished 22nd. Since then, the No. 14 team has earned three top-10s with a best finish of sixth earned twice – May 23 at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and July 4 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. In the first 35 races this season, the HighPoint.com Ford Mustang finished inside the top-20 19 times. The 26-year-old driver from Mitchell, Indiana, has four career NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the Phoenix mile oval and each resulted in top-10 finishes. His best is sixth, scored twice – March 2019 and March 2020.

Phoenix is the track where Aric Almirola has arguably been most consistent in recent years. In his last eight starts there, he has earned four top-10 finishes – two of those being top-fours. He’s also led 33 laps at the mile oval.

When the Xfinity Series rolled into Phoenix back in March for its fifth race of 2021, Riley Herbst emerged with a solid fourth-place finish thanks to some savvy driving in the closing laps. Saturday’s race will be Herbst’s fifth career Xfinity Series start at Phoenix. In addition to the fourth-place result earned in March, he finished among the top-11 in two of his other three starts.

Of Special Interest

Be sure to check out our merch hauler at Phoenix Raceway this weekend! If you can’t attend in person, you can shop anytime at store.stewarthaasracing.com

F948BDE2-4E62-4297-AF59-9211BC260940

In the Know – Martinsville

“In the Know”
Martinsville Speedway

This Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race is the last chance for the eligible postseason contenders to earn a spot in the 2021 Championship 4 Round. Catch all the action at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Saturday’s Xfinity Series race will also see 8 playoff contenders fighting for a spot in the Championship 4 Round. You can follow the action at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and MRN.

The Details

NASCAR Cup Series Overview

Event: Xfinity 500 (Round 35 of 36)
Time/Date: 2 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Oct. 31
Location: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway
Layout: .526-mile oval
Laps/Miles: 500 laps/263 miles
Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 130 laps / Stage 2: 130 laps / Final Stage: 240 laps
TV/Radio: NBC / MRN Radio / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

What Our Drivers are Saying:

Martinsville-FallKevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Unibet Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing

How are you approaching this Sunday’s race at Martinsville, where you’re racing the track and those eight drivers still in the playoffs? More specifically, do you approach this race differently than you did when you raced at Martinsville back in April?
“It’s pretty much the same. You have to be on the offensive a lot of the time, but you also have to put yourself in good positions defensively, as well, to make sure you don’t get your car torn up, or get it torn up as little as possible as you go through the day. It’s definitely a little bit different at the end of the year just because of the fact that everybody’s agenda is different. You have eight guys who are left racing for a championship. You’ve got guys that want to win races and you’ve got guys who just want to have a good finish. So, there are a number of different agendas that, really, we’re dealing with all the way through the playoffs.”

Martinsville-FallAric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield/IHOP Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

What does it take to run well at short tracks?
“No matter what the situation is, we as racers always love going to short tracks. It’s what we grew up doing and it puts the outcome in the driver’s hands more than the superspeedway races. You can’t pass much, so it’s extremely important that you stay mentally and physically focused throughout the entire run.”

Martinsville-FallChase Briscoe, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

Martinsville doesn’t really compare to any of the other short tracks you race at throughout the year, so how do you feel about going back there as the season winds down?
“I’m not really sure what to expect. I have a hard time at these short tracks and you could see that at Richmond, too. I just didn’t grow up doing this kind of racing and there isn’t anything I can apply from my background that works at these places. It’s good that I’ve at least had a chance to run Martinsville in the Cup car this time around, but I’m honestly still kind of lost with what to expect. We’re not going to have the best starting spot, which isn’t great because that means it’ll be easier to get caught up in something early on. But, I think it will be an exciting race. Martinsville has always been one of my favorites to watch as a fan and, with the way the points are right now, I would expect it to be entertaining. Everyone is going to be mad by the end of it and fighting for whatever spot they can get.”

Martinsville-FallCole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 Dixie Vodka Peach Cocktail Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

What would it mean to you to win one of those grandfather clock trophies?
“I’d have to figure out somewhere to put it. (Laughs.) I’d probably put it somewhere in my kitchen, or in the middle of the living room or something, because it would be probably the biggest and best trophy I’d ever gotten. That’s one every single person wants. It’s so unique, it means so much in our community in NASCAR to win that trophy. At the end of that race, everybody wants to get that clock and they’re going to beat and bang for it.”

SHR Stats

Kevin Harvick has made 40 career starts at the .526-mile oval and recorded 20 top-10s, the second-highest tally among all active Cup Series drivers. Only Hamlin has more top-10s (22). Among those 20 top-10s earned by Harvick is a win in April 2011. He defeated Dale Earnhardt Jr., by .727 of a second to win the Goody’s Fast Relief 500. It was Harvick’s 20th NASCAR Cup Series start at the track and his 16th career Cup Series victory. Harvick now has 58 career Cup Series wins and is alone at 10th on the all-time win list. Harvick’s best Martinsville finish since joining SHR in 2014 is a pair of fifth-place results – Oct. 29, 2017 and March 20, 2018. He finished ninth in his most recent visit to the track in April.

In 26 starts, Aric Almirola has earned one top-five finish, five top-10s, and has led 75 laps. Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz visited victory lane at Martinsville in March 2018 with former Stewart-Haas Racing driver and current FOX analyst Clint Bowyer after leading 215 laps. “Buga” is in his sixth fulltime season at SHR and his second with Almirola.

Chase Briscoe’s first trip to the track affectionately known as “The Paperclip” back in April was the first true short-track test for the Cup Series rookie. The No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford team finished 27th after sustaining damage in multiple incidents. When the Xfinity Series made its return to Martinsville in the fall of 2020 after a 13-year hiatus, Briscoe finished seventh.

Sunday’s 500-lap race around the .526-mile, paperclip-shaped Martinsville oval will be Cole Custer’s 74th Cup Series start and his fourth at Martinsville. The 23-year-old had a best Martinsville finish of 13th last October before returning this past April and recording an 18th-place finish. Custer had solid runs among his six NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Martinsville from 2014 through 2016. He qualified on the pole and led a race-high 96 of 200 laps before finishing fourth in the October 2015 race, when he drove the No. 00 JR Motorsports entry.

Of Special Interest

Be sure to check out our merch hauler at Martinsville Speedway this weekend! If you can’t attend in person, you can shop anytime at store.stewarthaasracing.com

Martinsville-Fall-Merch-graphic

In the Know – Kansas

“In the Know”
Kansas Speedway

There have been 31 NASCAR Cup Series races at Kansas Speedway, one event from 2001 – 2010 and two races per year since 2011. Three drivers have started all 31 NASCAR Cup Series races and lead the series in starts at Kansas Speedway – one of those is our own Kevin Harvick.

Kansas Speedway is the final 1.5-mile track on the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule. Check out the Hollywood Casino 400 on Sunday, October 24, at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

The Details

NASCAR Cup Series Overview

Event: Hollywood Casino 400 (Round 33 of 36)
Time/Date: 3 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Oct. 24
Location: Kansas Speedway
Layout: 1.5-mile oval
Laps/Miles: 267 laps/400.5 miles
Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 80 laps / Stage 2: 80 laps / Final Stage: 107 laps
TV/Radio: NBCSN / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

NASCAR Xfinity Series Overview

● Event: Kansas Lottery 300 (Round 31 of 33)
● Date: Saturday, Oct. 23
● Location: Kansas Speedway in Kansas City
● Layout: 1.5-mile oval
● Time/TV/Radio: 3 p.m. EDT on NBC/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

What Our Drivers are Saying:

Kansas-FallAric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Farmland/Hy-Vee Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing

What goals do you have for the remaining three races of the season?
“We’re sitting 14th in the standings right now, so finishing here or a spot better would be better than last year and the year before. Overall, our goal is to have a few more clean races without any issues or bad luck. Last weekend at Texas, we didn’t really get to see what kind of speed we had after all the damage in the first stage. We were lucky to make it through the way we did, but we’re usually really good at Texas and didn’t get to show that. Kansas will provide some good redemption if we can run a clean race.”

Kansas-FallChase Briscoe, Driver of the No. 14 DEKALB Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

You were having a good run at Texas last weekend, one of your best on an intermediate track this year. Can you carry that over to Kansas this weekend?
“We’ve come a long way since the last race at Kansas. Just last weekend, we were able to show we can come into the 550 (horsepower) races with top-10 speed. I think that can for sure transfer over to this weekend and we’ll try to go pick up where we left off. Kansas is a place where you can move around and find your line – the opposite of Texas, really. I’ve always enjoyed racing there, reminds me a lot of dirt racing and having those options to find what you need as the track and car change.”

Kansas-FallCole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 Feeding America®/Wow Wow Classic Waffles Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing

This will be your final race of the season on a mile-and-a-half tri-oval. What can you carry over from this year’s previous races on the intermediate tracks?
“Every single track is different. You can’t bring the same thing to them. We struggled a little bit at some of those races earlier this year, but I think we have a really good idea on what we need to bring to Kansas this weekend. We’ve been working hard to put in all the preparation we can, but it all still comes down to making our best educated guess because we don’t have practice or anything to work our cars in before the race. You just have to hope you hit it right.”

Kansas-FallKevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Subway Delivery Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing

Your history at Kansas is impressive. Three wins, five second-place finishes, 10 top-threes, 11 top-fives, 18 top-10s and 949 laps led across 31 career NASCAR Cup Series starts. What makes you so good there?
“I think Kansas has been a great racetrack and, really from a driver’s standpoint, a fun racetrack because of the fact that it’s worn in so well. You can race at the top of the racetrack, which is the preferred groove as the tires wear out. It’s faster at the bottom of the racetrack on new tires. But as a driver, having options is something that is a lot of fun. As they repave Atlanta and you look at some of the other racetracks, really Kansas is going to be one of the more unique racetracks because of the fact the asphalt and the shape of the racetrack is so driver-friendly as far as where you can drive on the racetrack. You can literally drive from the wall to the apron all the way around the racetrack. So, it’s a fun racetrack. It’s been good to us and, hopefully, we can continue that trend on Sunday in our Subway Delivery Ford Mustang.”

98-Monster-Kansas-3Q-01-scaledRiley Herbst, Driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang (Xfinity Series)

You’ve had some strong runs at Kansas in the past. Talk about your experience at the 1.5-mile oval.
“Kansas has been good to me in the past. I got my best finish in July 2020. The No. 98 team’s intermediate-track package is really good, and they’re the defending winners at Kansas, too. We’ve had an up-and-down season on the 1.5-mile tracks, but I have high hopes for Kansas. I’m hoping we can be in contention to win at the end.”

SHR Stats

Sunday’s 400-mile race will be Cole Custer’s 73rd Cup Series start and his fourth at Kansas. The 23-year-old from Ladera Ranch, California, had solid runs in both Kansas outings last year, finishing seventh in July and 14th in October. The seventh-place finish in July was his fourth Cup Series top-10 in 19 starts. His bid for a second-consecutive Kansas top-10 last October was thwarted by a late-race speeding penalty on pit road. He finished 24th when the series last visited Kansas the first weekend in May. Custer has four Kansas appearances in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, the most recent three in the No. 00 SHR Ford, with a best finish of 11th in the 2019 event after leading a race-high 85 laps.

In his last two NASCAR Cup Series races at Kansas, Kevin Harvick has finished second. In his most recent visit to the 1.5-mile oval back in May, Harvick finished .336 of a second behind race winner Kyle Busch. In last year’s Hollywood Casino 400, Harvick finished .312 of a second behind Joey Logano. Harvick scored his first NASCAR Cup Series win at Kansas in the 2013 Hollywood Casino 400 with a massive 1.140-second margin over runner-up Kurt Busch. Harvick scored his next Kansas win in the 2016 Hollywood Casino 400 with another impressive performance, crossing the stripe 1.183 seconds ahead of next best Carl Edwards. Harvick’s most recent Kansas victory came in May 2018 when he beat Martin Truex, Jr., by .390 of a second. Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon lead the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Kansas with three victories apiece. Only Harvick, Hamlin and Logano are still active, and only eight of the 15 Cup Series winners at Kansas are active. Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 marks the 32nd Cup Series race at Kansas. Harvick’s 11 top-fives at Kansas are the most among active drivers, as are his 18 top-10s, and he leads nearly every Loop Data category: Average Finish of 7.9 (series-best); Average Running Position of 8.644 (series-best): Driver Rating of 109.7 (series-best); 642 Fastest Laps Run (series-best); 5,863 Laps in the Top-15 (81.7 percent, series-most) and 1,055 Quality Passes (series-most).

In May, Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) earned a 20th-place finish at Kansas but have since finished inside the top-15 five times at intermediate tracks with a best of 11th earned twice – in May at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in and in August at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

In 19 starts, Aric Almirola has seven top-10 finishes and has led 69 laps at Kansas Speedway.

The Kansas Lottery 300 will mark Riley Herbst’s third career Xfinity Series start at Kansas. His best finish at the 1.5-mile oval is ninth, earned in his first Xfinity Series start at the track in July 2020. In addition to his Xfinity Series starts at Kansas, the third-generation racer from Las Vegas also has one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start and four ARCA Menards Series starts. His best Kansas finish is fourth in the 2018 ARCA race.

Of Special Interest

Be sure to check out our merch hauler at Kansas Speedway this weekend! If you can’t attend in person, you can shop anytime at store.stewarthaasracing.com

Kansas-Merch-Graphic

In the Know – Texas

“In the Know”
Texas Motor Speedway

With the NASCAR All-Star Race moving to the Spring Texas date, this week’s race will be the first championship points-paying race of the 2021 season. The Playoff points have reset and the eight drivers advancing to the Round of 8 have their sights on a win at Sunday’s Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500.

Texas Motor Speedway was repaved in early 2017 and is still considered a low tire wear track.

“Texas has begun to age a little bit, but it is still grouped in with some of the more ‘low wear’ tracks that NASCAR goes to,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “We were able to make a compound change to the right-side tire here last fall to give the cars more grip. We have seen some good results from this tire set-up since then, having run it at Texas, Michigan and Las Vegas already this season. We want tires to wear at Texas because of the speeds these cars are running. Speed generates heat, and as this tire wears, it runs a little cooler and performs well over a long run.”

The Details

NASCAR Cup Series Overview

Event: Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 (Round 33 of 36)
Time/Date: 2 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Oct. 17
Location: Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth
Layout: 1.5-mile oval
Laps/Miles: 334 laps, 501 miles
Format: Stage 1: 105 laps / Stage 2: 105 laps / Final Stage: 124 laps
TV/Radio: NBC/ PRN/ SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

NASCAR Xfinity Series Overview

● Event: Andy’s Frozen Custard 335 (Round 30 of 33)
Date: Saturday, Oct. 16
Location: Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth
Layout: 1.5-mile oval
Time/TV/Radio: 3 p.m. EDT on NBC/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

What Our Drivers are Saying:

Texas-FallAric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Walk-On’s Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

You ran well at the All-Star Race this year at Texas. Should we expect similar results this weekend?
“Texas this year was one of the first races that we brought really good speed and had an overall good day. We won the All-Star Open and advanced to the All-Star Race and still had a good run at it. Texas has always been good to us. We found something earlier this year there and our team has continued to work hard and make improvements. We led some laps in 2019 when we weren’t in the playoffs at Texas and just came up short behind Kevin (Harvick), so we know this team can find the speed to compete even in the midst of being outside of the playoffs.”

Texas-FallChase Briscoe, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

Typically we race at Texas twice a year, but that changed for this season with the addition of a race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin and the All-Star Weekend moving to Fort Worth. How prepared do you feel for your first full race at Texas?
“I’ve always run pretty good at Texas, so I don’t feel lost going into this weekend. I haven’t won there, but I’ve finished second a couple of times in Truck and Xfinity, so I’ve had good results, but it’ll be a bit different. I’m a little curious about how different it will be with resin on the track instead of the traction compound we’ve used in the past. In the All-Star Open, I felt like our car was really, really good, so maybe we can take something from that. But it’s hard to know if anything from that race will apply because we were running with less horsepower, and you could do some other things with the car that I don’t know if we’ll be able to do now. We’re not going to have the most ideal starting position and Texas is a place where track position is important. We’re going to have to do some things to gain that position because I feel like at Texas you run the speed of the guys you’re around, so if we can get up front with the faster cars, I think we could stay there.”

Texas-FallCole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 Feeding America®/Wow Wow Classic Waffles Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing

Texas seems to be one of the tracks on the schedule drivers seem to get just a little bit more excited about. Do you feel that’s the case?
“Yes it is. If you want to see some cars going really fast, then Texas is the place to go. I mean, it’s just a big track, a lot of grip, a lot of speed. We’re just going as hard as we can pretty much the whole lap and the whole race. And honestly, you usually see more incidents there than a lot of the other intermediate tracks because there’s not a whole lot of room to race. You’re constantly going to try and kind of fight over a line.”

Texas-Fall-3-scaledRiley Herbst, Driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang (Xfinity Series)

There are still four races to go in the 2021 season. What are your goals for the remainder of the year?
“The goal is to win one. That’s been my goal all season long, and we still have four more chances to get the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang to victory lane. We’ve grown all year, and despite the bad luck we’ve experienced, we’ve gotten better with each race. I know we can win.”

SHR Stats

Sunday’s 500-mile race will be Cole Custer’s 72nd Cup Series start and his third points-paying outing at Texas. An accident ended his day early in his Texas Cup Series debut in July 2020 before he returned in November to finish 14th. He also finished 14th at Texas this past June in his second career appearance in the non-points NASCAR All-Star Race. Custer was victorious at Texas in the November 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series race, one of his six outings at the track in that series. He has three other top-five finishes to go with an eighth-place result in his most recent Xfinity Series visit in November 2019.

In 20 NASCAR Cup Series starts, Aric Almirola has five top-10 finishes, one top-five, one pole, and has led 101 laps at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval in Fort Worth. Almirola finished runner-up there Nov. 3, 2019, behind teammate Kevin Harvick, who was vying for a championship. Earlier this year, Texas hosted the NASCAR All-Star Race, where Almirola pointed his way in by winning the All-Star Open. He finished eighth.

Chase Briscoe finished fourth in the non-points-paying All-Star Open in June. In five NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Texas, Briscoe finished in the top-five twice with a best finish of second in the first of two races at the Fort Worth track in 2020. He also finished in the top-five in both of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series outings in 2017.

The Andy’s Frozen Custard 335 will mark Riley Herbst’s 73rd career Xfinity Series start and his fourth at Texas. Herbst’s best finish at Texas is 12th, earned in the series’ prior visit to the track in June.

Of Special Interest

Be sure to check out our merch hauler at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend! If you can’t attend in person, you can shop anytime at store.stewarthaasracing.com

Texas-Merch-Graphic

In the Know – Charlotte ROVAL

“In the Know”
Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL

The NASCAR Cup Series Round of 12 wraps up this weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL. The elimination round takes place at 2 PM ET this Sunday on NBC, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Four driver’s title hopes will come to an end, as the field is cut to eight.

All four of the Stewart-Haas Racing Cup drivers will feature a pink window net on their car this week. The inspiration for “Window of Hope” came from one of Kurt Busch’s young fans to show support for breast cancer survivors and those continuing to battle breast cancer. Following the ROVAL, each driver will sign their window net. The nets will then go up for auction with all proceeds benefiting breast cancer research and treatment.

Charlotte Motor Speedway debuted its’ 2.28-mile, 17-turn ROVAL road course in 2018 in the Bank of America ROVAL™ 400. The unique circuit hosted the first road course race in the history of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Featuring twisting, left-right turns, chicanes on the frontstretch and backstretch and a 45-foot elevation change, the ROVAL™ quickly gained a reputation as one of NASCAR’s most challenging tracks. It remains the only road course in NASCAR in which race fans can see every turn from the main grandstands.
Fun fact from Charlotte Motor Speedway: during a typical race weekend, fans consume more than 34,000 slices of pizza, 9,500 gallons of soda and water, 13,500 feet of hot dogs and 309,000 pounds of ice.

The Details

NASCAR Cup Series Overview
Event: Bank of America Roval 400 (Round 32 of 36)
Time/Date: 2 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Oct. 10
Location: Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval
Layout: 2.28-mile, 17-turn road course
Laps/Miles: 109 laps/252.88 miles
Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 25 laps / Stage 2: 25 laps / Final Stage: 59 laps
TV/Radio: NBC / PRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

NASCAR Xfinity Series Overview
Event: Drive for the Cure 250 presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (Round 29 of 33)
Date: Saturday, Oct. 9
Location: Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval
Layout: 17-turn, 2.28-mile road course
Time/TV/Radio: 3 p.m. EDT on NBC/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

What Our Drivers are Saying:

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

The Roval serves as a playoff cutoff race, with the field of 12 playoff drivers getting whittled down to eight. You’re still in the mix to advance to the Round of 8 – is that a testament to the work you and this Mobil 1 team have put in all season long?
“My team’s done a good job all year. We’ve had a lot of weeks where we’ve walked out of these tracks with a sixth-, seventh-, eighth-place finish. Our team itself has done a great job. We just needed to do a better job getting faster cars and sometimes that’s just not in the cards. You just have to plug away and take what you can get out of it and try to make the least amount of mistakes, and that’s the part our team has done well. We’ve gotten a lot of decent finishes throughout the year, and that just comes from experience. You dot the I’s and cross the T’s and, really, that’s what it all comes down to. We’ve lost a lot of races with fast cars and we’ve won some races with slow cars – you grind away and you just keep yourself in there and see where it all shakes out. Sometimes it’s in the car to win and sometimes it’s not, you just never know so you just grind away every lap.”

Aric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Ford Warriors in Pink Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

Since you’re not racing for points in the NASCAR playoffs, how do you approach this race differently?
“It’s one last opportunity for us this year to have some success at a road course. I think we’ll be good. We had a good car at the Daytona road course earlier this year and I thought we made huge gains over the past few years. The Roval is still a playoff cutoff race next year, so you have to treat this weekend just like any other. We’re practicing this week on the Ford simulator and just trying to learn all that we can to have the best performance possible. The Roval is such a tricky course and the guys in the playoffs are going to give it their all and push their cars past the limit, so it may provide us opportunities to capitalize on and be there at the end.”

Chase Briscoe, Driver of the No. 14 Ford Performance Racing School/HighPoint.com Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

This will be your first Cup Series start at the Roval, but it’s one of your more successful tracks. Are you excited to try it out in this series?
“I’m super excited. The Roval is where I got my first Xfinity win and led a ton of laps there in the Xfinity car in the last two races where it felt like we were the car to beat but threw it away, so I’m excited to get there in the Cup car. The competition is going to be a lot tougher. The other Chase (Elliott) seems to be really good at the Roval, so we’ll see what we can do. I feel like we’ll have a pretty good shot. We’ll have to drive through a lot of cars but, not being in the playoffs, we can do some things strategy-wise to steal some track position. Then I think we’ll be fast enough to stay up there. The road courses have been our strongest all year long, so we’ll continue to build on that and hope to do really well this weekend.”

Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 Autodesk Fusion 360/HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing

You had a solid top-10 on the Roval in your first-ever Cup Series race there a year ago this weekend. What do you remember about that day, and do you feel it will have any carryover into this weekend?
“What I remember most is that we had a lot of ups and downs in that race, which is typical on road courses, in general, especially on the Roval and especially on restarts. There’s always a lot going on and the potential for mayhem is always there. The crew stuck with it all race long and we ended up with a top-10 that we could feel good about. And I think one of the bigger positives that came out of that day was that we learned some things with regard to road-course racing that definitely carried on over into this year with all the road-course races we had on the schedule. Coming off of a pretty solid race at Talladega, I can’t wait to get to the Roval, and the team feels the same way.”

Riley Herbst, Driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang (Xfinity Series)

The No. 98 Monster Energy team has had some success on road courses this year and in the past. What would it mean to get your first win on the Roval at Charlotte?
“Your first win is special no matter what track, but to get it at Charlotte and lock in our spot to the Round of 8 would be awesome. The No. 98 Monster Energy team has worked hard this year, so our goal is to win one before season’s end. This team has been strong on the Roval in the past, and I’ve had some success in leading laps and running up front, so hopefully we can put it all together and end up in victory lane on Saturday.”

SHR Stats

In three career NASCAR Cup Series starts at the Roval, Kevin Harvick has never finished lower than 11th. His best result came in 2019 when he led twice for 34 laps on his way to a third-place finish. Harvick has made a total of 48 NASCAR Cup Series starts on road courses. He has 20 starts at Sonoma, 20 at Watkins Glen, three at the Roval, two on the Daytona road course and one apiece at COTA, Road America and the Indianapolis road course. He has scored two wins – Watkins Glen in 2006 and Sonoma in 2017 – along with 10 top-fives and 24 top-10s with 195 laps led. When Harvick scored his first road-course victory at Watkins Glen in 2006, he had to beat his current team owner to do it. Tony Stewart – the “Stewart” in Stewart-Haas Racing – had won the past two NASCAR Cup Series races at the seven-turn, 2.45-mile road course and was poised to capture a third straight win as he was leading Harvick with four laps to go in the 90-lap race. But Harvick, who had already led once for 24 laps, passed Stewart on lap 87 as the two drag-raced down the frontstretch and into turn one. Harvick held onto the lead despite Stewart in his rearview mirror, earning a margin of victory of .892 of a second.

Sunday’s 109-lap race will be Cole Custer’s 71st Cup Series start and his second on the 2.28-mile, 17-turn Roval. He finished ninth in his Cup Series debut at the track a year ago this weekend for his seventh top-10 of the season en route to capturing Rookie of the Year honors. The finish came in just his second career road-course race in the Cup Series. Custer had 11 road-course outings in the Xfinity Series from 2017 through 2019 that included a pair of outings on the Roval. He finished seventh in 2018 and eighth in 2019.

The first time the Cup Series raced on the Charlotte Roval was in 2018. Aric Almirola started 20th that day and finished 19th, which was good enough to advance him to the next round of the playoffs after a nail-biting final stretch. Last year, he was in a similar position on the Roval but needed to gain 12 positions at the end of that race to move on. The Smithfield Ford driver turned on the jets in the closing laps and came up just five spots and a few seconds short of the next playoff round. Almirola has 28 road-course starts in the NASCAR Cup Series. He has two top-10 finishes with a best of eighth at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, five top-20s at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International with a best finish of 12th, three top-20s on the Charlotte Roval with a best finish of 14th, and a top-12 finish in the non-points Busch Clash Feb. 9 on the Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway road course – his best road-course finish of the year.

The Drive for the Cure 250 on Saturday will mark Riley Herbst’s 72nd career Xfinity Series start and his second on the Roval. After starting 13th in a wet race there last year, Herbst led seven laps before finishing 12th.

Of Special Interest

Be sure to check out our merch hauler at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend! If you can’t attend in person, you can shop anytime at store.stewarthaasracing.com

In the Know – Talladega

“In the Know”
Talladega Superspeedway

Anything can happen at Talladega Superspeedway. At 2.66 miles, this track is the largest paved oval the series competes on with 33 degrees of banking in the turns. Since its opening year, Talladega has hosted many races and has been repaved four times.

“Since its repave in 2010, Talladega’s track surface has aged a bit and will wear tires somewhat this weekend,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “Having said that, teams will still have the opportunity to mix in two-tire and no-tire stops in their pit strategy throughout the race. Being able to do that will help teams gain track position and potentially help them line up with teammates so they can work together in the draft.”

Drivers will try to avoid “The Big One” while battling it out with two races left in the Round of 12 – for both the Xfinity Series and the Cup Series.

The Details

NASCAR Cup Series Overview
Event: YellaWood 500 (Round 30 of 36)
Time/Date: 2 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Oct. 3
Location: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway
Layout: 2.66-mile oval
Laps/Miles: 188 laps/500.8 miles
Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 60 laps / Stage 2: 60 laps / Final Stage: 68 laps
TV/Radio: NBC / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

NASCAR Xfinity Series Overview
Event: Sparks 300 at Talladega (Round 28 of 33)
Date: Saturday, Oct. 2
Location: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway
Layout: 2.66-mile oval
Time/TV/Radio: 4:30 p.m. EDT on NBCSN/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

What Our Drivers are Saying:

Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Light #Hunt4Busch Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

What are your expectations for Talladega?
“For me, it’s been a destruction derby over the last couple of years. We’ve run really well at Talladega, but that’s just kind of the phases you go through when you go to Talladega. I’m doing worse than 50-50 on whether you crash or finish the last few years, but it’s one of those places where you want to race up front and race hard all day because you have to try to win stages. I believe you have better odds at the front of the pack when it comes to staying out of a wreck if you can keep that track position all day. You’re going to race in a pack – three-wide at times – and you’re going to get pushed and have to push at times. You just never know what’s going to happen because Talladega is its own animal. It’s hard to finish a race there. As we’ve seen over the past however many years, you try to put yourself in the right position and hope you have a little bit of luck on your side that particular day. I know our Busch Light Ford Mustang will be fast enough to contend for the win, but you just have to get to the finish.”

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

What would it mean to you to pull off another win this year, especially at a track that you’ve seen so much success at in the past?
“It would really just solidify this season for us. We came into the year expecting to compete for multiple wins. Our year as a whole has not been what we expected, but to put another win under our belt for 2021 would give us such a sense of accomplishment. It would mean the world to put Smithfield in victory lane again there, too. We have a few other races left this season that we can be competitive at, but Talladega is always circled on my list.”

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

Your first race at Talladega in April was really the first top-15 for the No. 14 team. How are you feeling about heading back there with a little more experience under your belt?
“I’m excited, and I don’t think that’s something you hear a lot when people talk about superspeedways. I love this type of racing and, now that I am more comfortable in the car and with the team and how they work, I think we’ve got a good shot to go finish up front. We’ve made progress at every other track this year and I think we can do the same. But there’s always that unknown factor at these superspeedway races. Anything can happen and it will. You’ve got guys who are trying to make the next round of the playoffs before we get to the Roval and others that are just going for a win knowing these are the kinds of races where you can go from midpack to the front if you can find the right line and drafting group.”

Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 Autodesk Fusion 360/HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing

You drove to a top-10 finish in your last visit to Talladega in April and you finished just one spot out of the top-10 in the Daytona 500 at Talladega’s sister track in February. Do you feel you can carry that momentum into this weekend?
“Those were solid races that we needed at the time, and I think if a thing or two would’ve gone our way at the end of those races, we would’ve ended up with even better finishes. The superspeedways have been one of our strong suits at SHR this year and I’m confident our HaasTooling.com Ford guys are bringing us a fast Mustang for this race. These are races where you can’t control a whole lot and you have to hope for the best, especially during the playoffs when guys are going all out for stage points and then at the end of the race. You have to race your race the best you can to put yourself in a good position. It can be a pretty stressful race, but I guess all of the races can be stressful if you let them.”

Riley Herbst, Driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang (Xfinity Series)

You scored a fourth-place finish at Talladega back in April. What are you expecting in your return trip this race weekend?
“Talladega is unpredictable. Anything can happen and you have to be in the right place at the right time to come out on top. It really helps when you have teammates, and luckily I have my Ford teammates and we’ll work together on Saturday to try and get a win for the manufacturer. Not only did we have a good result in the spring, we also have grown our superspeedway program to where we led laps at both Daytona races this year. Now to just seal the deal and win.”

SHR Stats

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light #Hunt4Busch Ford Mustang, finished fourth in his last outing at Talladega in April. Harvick led three times for 12 laps to increase his laps-led total at the 2.66-mile oval to 276. It was his eighth top-five and 17th top-10 in 41 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Talladega. Harvick’s eight top-fives at Talladega tie him with Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano for the second-most among active NASCAR Cup Series drivers. Harvick’s 17 top-10s at Talladega are the second-most among active NASCAR Cup Series drivers. Only Busch has more (21 top-10s). Among those stats is a lone win at Talladega. Harvick came out the victor in a dogfight of a NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega on April 25, 2010. There were an incredible 88 lead changes in the 200-lap race around the 2.66-mile oval and three massive accidents that collected a total of 24 cars. Harvick kept his car intact throughout each bout of calamity and despite leading only two laps, the second lap led was the one that counted most. Harvick got underneath race-leader Jamie McMurray in the track’s tri-oval to sweep past McMurray and take the win by just .011 of a second. It was just the 12th of Harvick’s 58 career Cup Series wins. In addition to his 41 NASCAR Cup Series starts at Talladega, Harvick has eight NASCAR Xfinity Series starts, with a best result of second in April 2006.

At Talladega in October 2008, Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) enjoyed one of its most dominant days ever. The team qualified 1-2-3-4 for the first time in its history. SHR drivers then led 155 of the race’s 193 laps (80.3 percent), including the last lap by Aric Almirola, who delivered SHR’s milestone 50th points-paying NASCAR Cup Series victory and the organization’s 11th win of 2018.

With his third-place finish in the June 2020 race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Aric Almirola tied the record of eight consecutive Talladega top-10s set by Dale Earnhardt Jr., from April 2001 to October 2004. Despite seeing his streak come to an abrupt end thanks to a multicar accident on lap 57 of last October’s race on the 2.66-mile oval, followed by his 15th-place finish there April 25, Almirola’s average finish in his last 10 Talladega outings is 9.3 – best in the NASCAR Cup Series. In 23 career starts, Almirola has one win, nine top-10 finishes, five top-fives, and has led 71 laps. In the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Talladega, Almirola visited victory lane in May 2017.

Sunday’s 500-mile race at Talladega will be Cole Custer’s milestone 70th Cup Series start and his fourth on the 2.66-mile oval. The reigning Cup Series Rookie of the Year’s 10th-place finish there in April was the best of his first three Cup Series visits and was the first of his two top-10 finishes earned so far this season. The 23-year-old from Ladera Ranch, California, had promising runs in both of last year’s Cup Series events at Talladega. In the spring race, he was set to restart fifth for the green-white-checkered finish, but his Mustang began to stumble from a lack of fuel, sending him to pit road for a splash-and-go. He finished 22nd. In the fall race, he was able to drive to the front on multiple occasions, but while running fifth just past the race’s halfway point, he was collected in a multicar incident that ended his day.

Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) gear up for the final superspeedway race of the season at 2.66-mile Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. In Briscoe’s first NASCAR Cup Series start at Talladega, he led his first lap in Cup Series competition and finished the 188-lap race in the 11th position – his best finish over the first 10 events of the season. Briscoe has made four Xfinity Series starts at Talladega with a best finish of fourth in 2019. He also has one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start there in 2017, when he finished 22nd, and one ARCA Menards Series start in 2016, when he finished third.

The Sparks 300 on Saturday will mark Riley Herbst’s 71st career Xfinity Series start and his fourth at Talladega. While luck wasn’t on his side after being involved in accidents during his first two starts at the track, he bounced back in his last start in April when he finished fourth. Herbst also has five Talladega starts outside of the Xfinity Series – four in the ARCA Menards Series and one in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He scored a runner-up finish in the 2019 ARCA race.

Of Special Interest

Be sure to check out our merch hauler at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend! If you can’t attend in person, you can shop anytime at store.stewarthaasracing.com

In the Know – Las Vegas

“In the Know”
Las Vegas Motor Speedway

With four of the original 16 playoff drivers now eliminated in the Cup Series, the next round of playoff racing will see increased intensity. We’ve got 12 drivers set to battle it out in the next round at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on September 26th at 7 PM ET, including SHR driver of the No. 4, Kevin Harvick.

“Since Las Vegas is a low wear track, we formulate our tread compounds to specifically introduce some wear on this type of surface,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “Last fall, we were able to add a little more grip to the right-side tire at Las Vegas and a couple other similar tracks. After some positive results in 2020, we have brought that back to the track in 2021, and that has continued with earlier races at Las Vegas, Texas, Kansas and Michigan with this right-side.”

Riley Herbst, driver of the No. 98 in the Xfinity Series, heads home to Las Vegas to kick off the 2021 Xfinity Series Playoffs. After a third-place finish at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway last Friday night, the 22-year-old Las Vegas native secured his spot in the postseason for the second year in a row, making him two-for-two in his Xfinity Series career. Catch the Xfinity Series race on September 25th at 7:30 PM ET.

The Details

NASCAR Cup Series Overview
Event: South Point 400 (Round 30 of 36)
Time/Date: 7 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Sept. 26
Location: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Layout: 1.5-mile oval
Laps/Miles: 267 laps/400.5 miles
Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 80 laps / Stage 2: 80 laps / Final Stage: 107 laps
TV/Radio: NBCSN / PRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

NASCAR Xfinity Series Overview
Event: Alsco Uniforms 302 (Round 27 of 33)
● Date: Saturday, Sept. 25
● Location: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
● Layout: 1.5-mile oval
● Time/TV/Radio: 7:30 p.m. EDT on NBCSN/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

What Our Drivers are Saying:

Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Subway Delivery Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing

You were very consistent throughout the regular season and that has continued into the playoffs. How important is it to maintain that consistency?
“We’ve gone about this a number of different ways throughout the years. We’ve pointed our way through and we’ve won our way through when our backs were against the wall. You’ve got to take what each race will give you, and there’s no way you can force things. That’s where a lot of people get themselves in trouble – when they start trying to do things outside their comfort zone of where their car is that particular day. Some days you have what you have and you need to get that finish with your car, and if you do that, usually you finish better than probably you would have otherwise. Las Vegas is no different. We’ll just have to go out there and grind away and see where we end up.”

Aric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

How can you look back on this season and the playoff run?
“I mean, our season as a whole was not what we wanted with all of the bad luck and performance. We went to Loudon and pulled out a win, which was awesome, and then just kind of had a renewed sense of energy going into the playoffs and thought we were going to do everything we needed to do in the first round to transfer to the next round and, unfortunately, it didn’t pan out. I can’t blame it on Bristol. There were plenty of opportunities throughout the first two races where we gave up some points, as well, so I can find two points in a lot of different places. A badly timed caution at Darlington, a loose wheel at Richmond, and mechanical issues at Bristol put us right on the edge of advancing and we just didn’t have enough to get there, but I’m super proud of this team for never giving up on what has been one of the most challenging and character-building years of my career.”

Chase Briscoe, Driver of the No. 14 One Cure Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

You’ve only got a handful of races left in your rookie season. Are you looking forward to the offseason, or are you sad to see it end?
“It’s coming quickly. It’s crazy to think we’re almost done. It feels like the Daytona 500 was just last month. This season has been flying by and, in a way, it’s unfortunate but it’s exciting to see what the new car is going to bring. We’re getting back to what NASCAR used to be, in a way, with offseason testing and the preparation. It’ll be cool to experience that and start with a clean slate. This rookie year has been harder and harder to catch up to the veterans without practice. It’ll be kind of an even playing field and interesting to see who can figure out the new car the quickest. The people who do that will have a huge advantage at the start of the season.”

Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 Dixie Vodka Greyhound Cocktail Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing

Now that you’re down to the final seven races of the season, what kind of things are you looking to accomplish as you navigate the home stretch?
“The biggest thing is trying to end on a high note for all the guys who have worked so hard this year to get us going in the right direction. I think we’re doing that at Stewart-Haas Racing, it’s just a matter of doing it consistently and executing how we need to. You also want to help your teammates who are still in contention for the championship, but there’s only so much you can do, at times. You can do little things but, at the same time, it’s all about getting a championship for a Stewart-Haas car, so we’re going to do whatever we have to and help our teammates as they pursue that. The advantage of having a four-car team is being able to try different things and to share that information with whoever needs it.”

Riley Herbst, Driver of the No. 98 South Point Ford Mustang (Xfinity Series)

You’re coming off back-to-back top-five finishes for the first time this season and it comes at the right time with the playoffs starting this week at Las Vegas. Talk about the momentum your team now has coming into this first race of the Round of 12.
“We’re hitting our stride and it’s honestly a really good time for that. While we struggled somewhat during the season, we were still able to make the playoffs and I think we’ve finished in the top-10 in eight of the past 12 races. We’ve still got some work to do to get ourselves into the Round of 8, but I believe in this No. 98 team. We’ve got to take it week by week.”

SHR Stats

Since joining SHR in 2014, Kevin Harvick has finished among the top-10 in seven of the 11 NASCAR Cup Series races contested at Las Vegas. In that span, Harvick has led 621 laps and won twice – March 2015 and March 2018. Harvick’s win at Las Vegas in March 2018 was his 100th career victory across NASCAR’s top-three national touring series – Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck. He has since scored 19 more Cup wins to bring his tally to 119 total victories – 58 in Cup, 47 in Xfinity and 14 in Truck. Only three other drivers in NASCAR history have surpassed 100 wins across NASCAR’s top-three series: Kyle Busch (222 wins), Richard Petty (200 wins) and David Pearson (106 wins). Harvick has a total of 12 top-10s at Las Vegas, the most of any active NASCAR Cup Series driver. Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are next best with 11 top-10s apiece.

In 16 starts at Las Vegas, Aric Almirola has three top-10 finishes, which all came in his first three starts since joining SHR in 2018. Almirola locked himself into the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with his July 18 victory at New Hampshire. He led 46 laps around the flat, 1.058-mile oval en route to his third career NASCAR Cup Series win. After a year full of adversity and bad luck, the victory put the No. 10 team, which was 27th in the standings and facing a must-win situation if it was going to compete for this year’s championship, in prime position to earn one of the 16 coveted berths in the 10-race playoffs. Although Almirola did not advance to the Round of 12, this was his fifth playoff appearance and fourth consecutive playoff appearance since joining Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). While he can no longer compete for a championship, Almirola can compete for a top-10 points standing before the checkered flag drops at the season finale Nov. 7 at Phoenix Raceway.

Sunday’s 400-mile race at Las Vegas will be Cole Custer’s 69th Cup Series start and his fifth on the 1.5-mile oval. The reigning Cup Series Rookie of the Year’s 16th-place finish last September was the best of his first four Cup Series visits to Las Vegas. The desert oval is where Custer made his Cup Series debut in the March 2018 race, when he started 30th and finished 25th in the No. 54 Rick Ware Racing Ford. In five NASCAR Xfinity Series outings at Las Vegas from 2017 through 2019, all behind the wheel of the No. 00 SHR Ford, Custer started on the pole in each of the last three, and he posted top-10 finishes in each of the last four with a best of third in the September 2018 race. He also led a total of 54 laps in Xfinity Series competition at Las Vegas.

Despite finishing 21st at Las Vegas in March, it has been one of Chase Briscoe’s more successful tracks. He swept both NASCAR Xfinity Series races at the venue during the 2020 season and both wins aided in his pursuit of the championship. The first win on Feb. 23 secured Briscoe’s spot in the 12-driver playoff field, and the follow-up win in October locked him into the Round of 8. The No. 98 team went on to win once more at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City to advance to the Championship 4. Briscoe has five career Xfinity Series starts at Las Vegas with the two wins among three top-10s. He also made a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series appearance at the 1.5-mile oval in September 2017, starting third and leading the first 40 laps before finishing third in a Ford F-150.

The Alsco Uniforms 302 will mark Riley Herbst’s fifth career Xfinity Series start at Las Vegas. The 22-year-old driver is on the hunt for redemption at his home track after an accident ruined a top-10 run for him just 56 laps into the series’ prior race at the track in March. In his first two Xfinity Series starts at Las Vegas in September 2019 and February 2020, Herbst scored back-to-back ninth-place finishes. He finished 12th in his third career start at Las Vegas last September.

Of Special Interest

Be sure to check out our merch hauler at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend! If you can’t attend in person, you can shop anytime at store.stewarthaasracing.com

In the Know – Bristol

“In the Know”
Bristol Motor Speedway

This weekend’s race at the “World’s Fastest Half Mile,” takes us to the third race of the 10-race NASCAR playoffs. At the end of the Bass Pro Shops Night Race, four of the 16 drivers will be eliminated from championship contention. Currently, three drivers have locked themselves into the Round of 12, either by a win or points – Denny Hamlin (won at Darlington), Martin Truex Jr. (won at Richmond), and Kyle Larson (clinched on points). This leaves nine spots up for grabs

“While only a half-mile in length, Bristol is a different animal than the other short tracks we have on the NASCAR schedule,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “The amount of banking Bristol has creates very high speeds and high loads, which more closely aligns with some of the bigger tracks we race on. Then you have the concrete surface, which we only race on a handful of times throughout the season. Laying rubber on concrete is a special challenge and is one that we have worked hard on over the past many years to get the right balance.”

The Details

Event: Bass Pro Shops Night Race (Round 29 of 36)
Time/Date: 7:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday, Sept. 18
Location: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway
Layout: .533-mile oval
Laps/Miles: 500 laps/266.5 miles
Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 125 laps / Stage 2: 125 laps / Final Stage: 250 laps
TV/Radio: NBCSN / PRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

What Our Drivers are Saying:

Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Subway Delivery Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing

The Bristol Night Race always has an electric vibe to it, but is that vibe heightened with it being a cutoff race to make the Round of 12?
“The vibe at the Bristol Night Race is always over the top. It’s always a great event. You really never know what to expect at the Bristol Night Race. It can go completely smoothly or it can be complete chaos. Usually, it’s somewhere in between those two and you just have an exciting night. Bristol is intense every lap. There’s just a lot happening every single corner to make good lap times at Bristol. There’s always something happening in front of you, so you try and look as far ahead as you can to keep yourself out of trouble. But the best way to keep yourself out of trouble at Bristol is to be on offense and going forward, so hopefully we can do that.”

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

Is it a new mindset when you return to Bristol’s concrete surface after racing on the dirt?
“Bristol on dirt does not correlate at all to Bristol’s typical concrete self. One thing that I am interested in is the fact that they completely had to wash the racetrack and I believe, or I’ve heard, they had to spray a solution on there to get all of the clay and stuff off and pressure wash the racetrack, so it’ll be interesting to see how different the track is just without the rubber that’s laid down in the pores of the concrete and if that changes anything – then how they apply the PJ1 to the bottom groove. That’s always a moving target for us on whether they apply it in a small strip or if they widen it out and make it to where it’s a whole car width wide. It’s always changing the dynamic of how the cars run around the racetrack.”

Chase Briscoe, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

For someone who didn’t grow up short-track racing, you found success quickly at Bristol in the Xfinity Series. How were you able to figure out such a tricky track in a short amount of time?
“Bristol is a track I’ve always enjoyed because it reminds me a lot of racing at Salem (Speedway) and Winchester (Speedway) in Indiana. Those high-banked, fast tracks are always ones I’ve enjoyed. I don’t do well on the flat tracks like Loudon or Richmond, but the higher banks seem to help me. I had high hopes for the dirt race and may have gotten a little ahead of myself, but I’ve got a lot of confidence in our Rush Truck Centers/Cummins team this weekend and I’m really looking forward to this race.”

Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 Autodesk Fusion 360/HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing

You excelled at Bristol when you were in the Xfinity Series. Why do you think that was the case, or what about the track suits your driving style?
“Bristol was a good track for me in the Xfinity Series, for sure. It’s a track that has always come a little natural to me, I feel like. I like the feel of it and being able to move around in the lanes. It’s a lot about keeping momentum. The bottom is about hooking the line. Hopefully we’ll be able to make those things happen in our Cup car with the 750 (horsepower) package, managing our race from beginning to end and getting through traffic without getting caught up in someone else’s mess. It can get pretty chaotic.”

SHR Stats

Kevin Harvick is the defending winner of the Bass Pro Shops Night Race. The driver of the No. 4 Subway Delivery Ford Mustang won last year’s race in dominating fashion by leading four times for a race-high 226 laps, including the final 32 tours around the .533-mile oval. Harvick beat Kyle Busch by .310 of a second to take his 58th career NASCAR Cup Series victory, his third at Bristol and his 35th since joining SHR in 2014. Harvick’s first NASCAR Cup Series win at Bristol came in April 2005. In his ninth start at the high-banked, half-mile, Harvick beat Elliott Sadler by an impressive 4.652 seconds for his fifth career Cup Series victory. It would be another 23 races before Harvick scored his second Bristol win. In the 2016 Bass Pro Shops Night Race, Harvick beat Ricky Stenhouse Jr., by 1.933 seconds to take his 33rd career Cup Series victory.

Aric Almirola’s most recent visit to Bristol resulted in a fifth-place finish. In 20 starts at Bristol since 2007, Almirola has two top-fives and four top-10s. His best finish there was third in the Food City 500 on March 16, 2004. In addition to his Cup Series experience at Bristol, Almirola has seven NASCAR Xfinity Series starts with four resulting in top-10 finishes.

Saturday night’s 500-lap race on the half-mile Bristol oval will be Cole Custer’s 68th Cup Series start and his third on the high-banked, .533-mile concrete oval. The reigning Cup Series Rookie of the Year’s 23rd-place finish in last year’s Bristol night race was the best of his first two Cup Series visits to Thunder Valley. In six career NASCAR Xfinity Series appearances at Bristol from 2017 through 2019, all in SHR Fords, Custer has a best finish of third from his pole starting position in the spring 2019 race. That came on the heels of his fourth-place finish in the fall 2018 race, and his pole position in the spring 2018 race that resulted in an eighth-place finish. He led 31 laps in those six Xfinity Series starts at Bristol.

In six NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Bristol, Chase Briscoe earned four top-five finishes, including a win last September. He also had one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start resulting in a 12th-place finish. This will be Briscoe’s first start on the concrete of the famed .533-mile oval with the Cup Series. Earlier this season, the Cup Series drivers competed on the dirt-covered short-track with Briscoe bringing home a 20th-place result.

Of Special Interest

Be sure to check out our merch hauler at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend! If you can’t attend in person, you can shop anytime at store.stewarthaasracing.com

In the Know – Richmond

“In the Know”
Richmond International Raceway

NASCAR and Richmond Raceway will pay tribute to victims and first responders on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 as part of the Salute to American Heroes presented by Toyota featuring the Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race and Go Bowling 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday, Sept. 11. Many race teams will also honor and remember the victims and heroes of 9/11 with tribute or patriotic paint schemes, including our No. 10 Smithfield/Tuesday’s Children Ford Mustang.

“With the Salute to American Heroes presented by Toyota, we will honor and remember the first responders and victims of 9/11 throughout our NASCAR Playoff Weekend at Richmond Raceway,” said Richmond President Dennis Bickmeier.

The first NASCAR sanctioned event at Richmond was held in 1953, when the track was officially known as the Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds. Richard Petty holds the crown for all Cup Series racing at the track (13 wins), but Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick dominate the modern racing era at the venue. Harvick has a total of seven Xfinity Series wins and three Cup Series wins.

“Richmond has traditionally been known for putting on some great racing, and one of the reasons for that is that it has become what we consider a high tire wear track,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “As tires wear at Richmond, lap times fall off. Drivers that manage their tires early in a run will have them fall off less and gain from that later in the run. Also, as the track takes rubber, drivers will be able to search around a little or move up the track, creating multiple lanes and more side-by-side racing.”

The Details

Event: Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders (Round 28 of 36)
Time/Date: 7:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday, Sept. 11
Location: Richmond (Va.) Raceway
Layout: .75-mile oval
Laps/Miles: 400 laps/300 miles
Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 80 laps / Stage 2: 155 laps / Final Stage: 165 laps
TV/Radio: NBCSN / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

What Our Drivers are Saying:

Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

You’ve had a lot of success at Richmond and you’re a fan of short-track racing in general. What is it about Richmond that makes it a good track for you?
“Through the years we’ve figured out how to get some solid finishes. We had a really good Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang there earlier this year and wound up blowing a tire and not getting a very good finish. I’m looking forward to going back just because of the fact that we ran so well there at the beginning of the year. Richmond is a little bit like Darlington just in the tire fall-off and the way the cars slow down. The line doesn’t move around very much at Richmond anymore, for whatever reason, so you have to grind away at one particular spot on the racetrack and make your car work as well as possible. It’s definitely a unique short track. It’s got enough speed to where you have to be good under braking and have a good-handling car in order to make it through the long runs that you know you’re going to get throughout the night. Hopefully, we can have a good night. Based upon the first race, we should run well.”

Aric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield/Tuesday’s Children Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

How much has changed since the first Richmond race this year?
“It’s hard to say because I feel like Richmond doesn’t change, but everybody always seems to find a way to get better, so you can’t rest on your laurels. If you were good at Richmond last time, you can’t automatically assume that you’re going to beat the competition. Everybody is always looking to find ways to make their cars better from the last race. And you just look at Darlington – I know the patch (of new pavement in turn two) was an added difference and something new about Darlington, but you go back and look at the spring race and look at the cars that ran well, and then you look at this race and there were some different cars running up front. I think the race teams, the organizations, everybody works hard to find more speed in our cars, more downforce, all those things, so that usually equates to stiffer competition in the playoffs, so everybody brings their A-game. I have no doubt that even though we’ve run well at Richmond and we ran well there in the spring, we’re still fine-tuning and tweaking on what we had there in the past to try and make it a race-winning car instead of a top-five car.”

Chase Briscoe, Driver of the No. 14 Cummins/Rush Truck Centers Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

Do you feel more confident heading into Richmond this time around?
“I think so. I’m a different driver. I’ve learned a lot since April and I feel like as a team we’ve come a long way. We saw in the first race that overcoming a starting position in the back is a really tough thing to do at a place like Richmond and I think, after how things went at Darlington, we’re going to be in just about the same position. Hopefully, we’ve got something that we won’t have to adjust on too much and we can get ahead of that early on. I think we’ll for sure see some differences between racing at night versus the day, but I know Johnny (Klausmeier, crew chief) will have a good plan for how we attack that. I’m just focused on using this as a chance to learn that track more for when we go back next year and see if I can finally figure something out.”

Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Demo Day Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing

You’re coming off a near-top-10 finish on a tough racetrack at Darlington last weekend and are headed to another tricky track at Richmond this weekend. Do you feel you and the team might be mounting some momentum for the home stretch of the season?
“It felt like one of our better efforts of the season in most every respect, so that’s definitely a good thing. It was one of those typical up-and-down days, but Mike (Shiplett, crew chief) made a great strategy call that moved us up near the top-10 late in the race. Hoping what we learned at Richmond in the spring race will benefit us this weekend, although the conditions will be pretty drastically different, being that the race is under the lights. We did pretty well in the night race there last fall, and it seemed all of our SHR cars were pretty solid with this 750 (horsepower) package last weekend at Darlington, so I hope all of that bodes well for us and our HaasTooling.com/Demo Day Ford team.”

SHR Stats

In 18 starts, Aric Almirola has earned seven top-10 finishes, two top-fives, and has led one lap on the .75-mile Richmond oval. In his most recent start there, Almirola finished sixth, which was his third-best finish of the year behind Nashville Superspeedway, where he finished fourth, and his win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. His sixth-place finish in April earned him back-to-back top-10 finishes at Richmond. Almirola and the No. 10 Ford team are bringing the same car to Richmond that piloted the team to a victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on July 18. That win locked Almirola into the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

In Chase Briscoe’s first Cup Series start at the .75-mile oval at Richmond in April, he started 26th and finished 22nd. In five NASCAR Xfinity Series starts there, he has one top-five finish and two top-10s. His best result was a fifth-place finish in September 2019. Briscoe made 15 short-track starts in the Xfinity Series, scoring two wins – last September at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and July 2019 at Iowa Speedway in Newton – among his 10 top-10s.

Kevin Harvick has made 745 career NASCAR Cup Series starts, with 120 of those starts coming on short tracks. And of his 58 Cup Series wins, seven have been at short tracks, with Richmond accounting for three of those victories. Harvick scored his first Richmond win in September 2006, his second in September 2011 and his third in April 2013. Harvick joined SHR in 2014 and has since recorded 35 of his 58 career NASCAR Cup Series wins. However, none of them have been at Richmond. But Harvick has remained stout at the .75-mile oval. In his last 14 starts at Richmond as a member of SHR, Harvick has two runner-up finishes, eight top-fives and 10 top-10s. He has only one finish outside of the top-15. Harvick has led 15,694 total laps in his NASCAR Cup Series career, with 1,180 of those laps coming at Richmond. Harvick is the winningest NASCAR Xfinity Series driver at Richmond with seven victories. (Kyle Busch is next best with six wins.) Harvick finished among the top-10 in all but six of his 21 career Xfinity Series starts at Richmond.

Saturday night’s 400-lap race at Richmond oval will be Cole Custer’s 67th Cup Series start and his fourth on the .75-mile oval. The reigning Cup Series Rookie of the Year’s 14th-place finish there last September, the best of his previous three outings. He started 21st and finished 23rd at Richmond in April. In NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, Custer’s seven career starts at Richmond is more than he’s had at any other track. Best among those starts was the April 2019 race, when he qualified fourth in the No. 00 SHR Ford, led a race-high 122 of 250 laps and took the checkered flag 2.639 seconds ahead of runner-up and fellow Ford driver Austin Cindric. He followed that up with a third-place finish in that year’s September race for his fourth Xfinity Series top-six in seven Richmond starts.

Of Special Interest

Be sure to check out our merch hauler at Richmond Raceway this weekend! If you can’t attend in person, you can shop anytime at store.stewarthaasracing.com

In the Know – Darlington

“In the Know”
Darlington Raceway

The Cook Out Southern 500 is a NASCAR Crown Jewel. Darlington Raceway is a family tradition and a premier Labor Day weekend destination spot. The 2021 season marks the track’s 71st anniversary, and has hosted 120 NASCAR Cup Series races. The first was on September 4, 1950. It was the first 500-mile race in NASCAR history and the first on asphalt.

“The sport is ready for a return visit to Darlington this weekend, and there is a lot to be excited about,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “Darlington has so much history and is so important to our sport. It has been a staple on the Cup schedule since the 1950s, and has provided a serious challenge to drivers over the generations. The abrasive track surface puts the onus on drivers to manage their tires and team members to keep up with the track and perform fast and consistent pit stops throughout a long race.”

Our drivers will try to tame the Lady in Black, while we kick off the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. For the 15th time in his career, Harvick is a part of it. Harvick qualified for the playoffs by virtue of his ninth-place finish in the regular-season standings. This is his 12th consecutive playoff appearance. Harvick won the championship in 2014.

This is the fourth consecutive playoff appearance in Aric Almirola’s four years at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) and fifth playoff appearance of his 12-year career. Almirola locked himself into the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with his victory July 18 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.

The Details

Event: Cookout Southern 500 (Round 27 of 36)
Time/Date: 6 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Sept. 5
Location: Darlington (S.C.) Raceway
Layout: 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval
Laps/Miles: 367 laps/501.3 miles
Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 115 laps / Stage 2: 115 laps / Final Stage: 137 laps
TV/Radio: NBCSN / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

What Our Drivers are Saying:

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

You say you’re not going to change your approach, despite not scoring a win yet this season. Is it hard to stick with what got you to the playoffs, or is this where your experience comes into play?
“You can pull something apart a whole lot faster than you can build it. As you look through the years, it’s very easy to sit back and just chime in and jump all over people. That’s really easy. Obviously, there are still times that you need to do that, but the thing I’ve learned is the fact that you’ve got a group of people around that you know can win and do the things that you need to do, but sometimes you’re just off. The problem solving in our world is difficult, and sometimes it’s a whole bunch of small things, and trying to push something – and I’ve done it a couple of times this year on the racetrack – you try to push something a little bit further than it can go and you wind up with the fenders torn off and you make bad worse. There’s no reason to make the problem worse than it needs to be. You have to be part of the process and the solution in order to solve the equation. Obviously, we all want to win and run better and do the things that we need to do, but Saturday night (at Daytona) kind of sums up the way it’s gone this year. You think you’re in a good position and don’t make it through the last corner. That’s just kind of the way that it’s gone. You ride the wave down just like you ride the wave up. You just hope that your wave down is shorter than most people’s and you can ride that wave back up when it’s right.”

Aric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

Looking through the playoffs what will it take to be successful and where do you think you team stacks up?
“As we eye the playoffs, it’s really just about doing everything perfect and maximizing the day that you have. All of those things add up to results and that’s what we really focus on as we dive into the playoffs – not making mistakes and not taking yourself out of contention, making sure we maximize every single race weekend and every single lap. I feel like we stack up nicely with the competition despite what the results of the year may show. The rules package in some of the first few races is the rules package that we’ve had the most success with and won with at New Hampshire. There are certainly going to be some challenges at a few of the tracks in the playoffs, and there will be some where our competition is better. I’m looking forward to the challenge and I think there are some really good tracks in the playoffs for us.”

Chase Briscoe, Driver of the No. 14 HighPoint.com/Founders Federal Credit Union Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

We know you’re capable of winning at Darlington, and the May race result showed that your comfort with the track has transferred to the Cup Series. Can you improve on that finish this weekend?
“I really think this will be a good racetrack for us. It’s too bad we’re not in the playoffs, but we ran really well there in the spring and nearly had a top-10. We’ve got a good baseline to work off of and hopefully we can keep chipping away at it this weekend and show the progress we’ve made.”

Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Demo Day Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing

Is there a race you’re looking forward to more than any of the others over these last 10 events of the season?
“I would say Darlington is one I’m looking forward to. It’s one of those races that every driver looks forward to because of the challenge behind it and how much you can do as a driver. There are so many different lanes you can work and you’re running right up against the wall. It’s just a driver’s racetrack and I feel there’s not one guy who doesn’t feel excited when they hear Darlington is coming up.”

SHR Stats

Kevin Harvick is the defending winner of the Southern 500. In last year’s race, the driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang led three times for 32 laps, including the final 13, to beat second-place Austin Dillon by .343 of a second. It was Harvick’s eighth win of 2020. He would go on to win one more race – the Sept. 19 Bass Pro Shops/NRA Night Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. His nine wins in a single season were a series-best and career-best, all in Harvick’s 20th year of NASCAR Cup Series racing.

Darlington is known as “The Track Too Tough To Tame” but Harvick has tamed the venerable 1.366-mile oval three times. The 45-year-old racer from Bakersfield, California, owns two Southern 500 victories (2014 and 2020) and one win in the track’s 400-mile race. In fact, Harvick enters Darlington with an impressive record – he hasn’t finished outside the top-10 since 2012.

In 12 starts at the 1.33-mile egg-shaped oval, Aric Almirola has earned two top-10 finishes, which came in back-to-back starts last year in May and September. In his most recent start, the Smithfield Ford team was forced to start at the rear of the field and, after proving to have speed by gaining 10 positions in only six laps, Almirola’s day was cut short when the No. 47 contacted his rear bumper and spun him into the inside wall.

Saturday’s 500-mile race will be Cole Custer’s 66th Cup Series start and his and his fifth on the 1.366-mile, egg-shaped oval. The reigning Cup Series Rookie of the Year’s 12th-place finish in the Southern 500 last September was the best of his three Darlington outings in 2020. In this year’s Southern 500 at Darlington in May, an accident during Stage 2 of the race ended his day prematurely.

When the Cup Series visited Darlington on May 9, Chase Briscoe started 22nd and worked his way into the top-10 over the course of the 293-lap race. With two laps to go, while battling for a 10th-place finish, he made contact with the outside wall and ultimately crossed the line 11th. In the Xfinity Series, Briscoe claimed the victory in the series’ first trip to The Lady in Black, outdueling the winningest driver in Xfinity Series history, Kyle Busch. In his three career Xfinity Series starts at Darlington, Briscoe has finished no worse than 11th. As the final 10-race stretch of the season begins for Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, so does the final push in the pursuit of the NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year title. Though Briscoe is not part of the playoff field, he does have a chance to become just the third driver to earn Rookie of the Year honors in NASCAR’s top three national series. He would also be the first former ARCA Racing Series Rookie of the Year titleholder to accomplish the feat.

Of Special Interest

Be sure to check out our merch hauler at Darlington Raceway this weekend! If you can’t attend in person, you can shop anytime at store.stewarthaasracing.com