Ford Performance NASCAR: Briscoe, Rushbrook, Stewart Transcript

NASCAR CUP SERIES
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2020

CHASE BRISCOE, MARK RUSHBROOK, TONY STEWART MEDIA AVAILABILITY

Stewart-Haas Racing announced this morning that Ford Performance development driver Chase Briscoe will replace Clint Bowyer as driver of the No. 14 HighPoint.com Ford Mustang in the NASCAR Cup Series for the 2021 season. Briscoe, who leads the NASCAR XFINITY Series with nine wins, clinched a spot in the Championship 4 last Saturday with his victory at Kansas Speedway. He, along with Ford Performance Global Director Mark Rushbrook, and Stewart-Haas Racing Co-Owner Tony Stewart, took part in a Zoom call to discuss Briscoe’s promotion.


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CHASE BRISCOE, No. 14 HighPoint.com Ford Mustang — WHAT ARE SOME GOALS FOR YOU THAT WOULD MAKE NEXT YEAR SUCCESSFUL FOR YOU? “I think just first off it will be just trying to learn as much as I can. Those guys are so good at what they do and it will be a huge jump. Just trying to become a better race car driver, doing all the little things right like pit road and restarts. All those things will be so different and trying to improve on those things. Obviously if we could make the playoffs I feel like that would be a really successful year. We are going to try to go and win races, try to win every race, but realistically it is going to be hard to go do your first year but we are going to try to learn. Obviously that new car is coming out the following year, so I think trying to learn as much experience of racing against those Cup guys and trying to become a better race car driver for when we are on the same playing field as far as the car goes. I think with the road courses and the dirt race and even some of the ovals, I feel like we can go run up front. The 14 car is going to have speed, so it is a matter of trying to put it all together.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AS YOU THINK ABOUT MOVING UP TO THE CUP SERIES AT THIS STAGE IN YOUR LIFE? “It is unbelievable. It still doesn’t really feel real. When I first signed with Ford, obviously the goal was to go Cup racing and for me, I would always tell them that Stewart-Haas was my dream situation because I was a die hard Tony (Stewart) fan. The goal and dream was always the 14 car but I don’t think it was always necessarily believable that it was going to happen the way it all worked out. For me to be as big of a Tony fan as I was and to have so much respect for the number 14. To me it is more than just a number. I truly care about that number and the history of that number going from AJ Foyt to Tony and even Clint. There is a lot of pride in that number being a dirt guy and drive that car and drive for Stewart-Haas. It is still unbelievable. I have been texting with my mom and dad and wife about how it all just doesn’t seem real. I am ready to get to Daytona though, that is for sure.”

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED DURING THIS LAST SEASON IN XFINITY THAT YOU THINK YOU CAN BRING INTO NEXT SEASON? “I am super excited about next year but truthfully I am not even thinking about next year until we get this year done. There is still a championship to win and three more races to try to win. That is the main focus. We will focus on the Cup stuff after this year is over. I think I have learned quite a bit this year but there are going to be so many things that are so different. Every little detail you have to do 100 percent right on the Cup days. You can’t get away with a mistake here or there like you can on the Xfinity deal. I feel like I have learned a lot and my confidence has been raised a ton this year but obviously that will probably get humbled quite a bit next year moving up. I am just trying to take as much as we can and really trying to focus on these playoffs and even learning from the pressure of how these playoffs work being in that Championship 4 I think will be a great teaching tool for the future for how to respond to that pressure of being in a championship race and closing out these playoffs.”

MANY ARE DRAWING THE COMPARISON TO YOU AND TONY AND YOUR DIRT BACKGROUND AND HOW YOU CAME UP THE RANKS. HOW HAS THAT HELPED YOU AS FAR AS ADAPTING TO THIS POINT AND WHAT DO YOU THINK FROM YOUR DIRT BACKGROUND WILL HELP YOU AS YOU MOVE TO THE CUP SERIES? “It is pretty cool how me and Tony both grew up sprint car racing. Both from southern Indiana, 45 minutes apart. There are a lot of similarities in that sense. As for the dirt background, I feel like it has helped me throughout my entire career. The Xfinity cars have a lot less downforce than the Cup cars. When you have that high downforce, typically the looser you can drive the car the faster it is going to go. I think just having that dirt background will certainly help. With more and more road races I feel like my dirt background helps and that one dirt race at Bristol now it will help. I think just growing up and running on dirt makes you be versatile. You have to constantly react and move around and search around the race track. These Cup races with those being longer races the track will constantly change and you have to be on top of that, so I think it will definitely help.”

WHAT DOES IT MEAN LOGISTICALLY FOR YOU TO BE ABLE TO FOCUS ON KNOWING THAT YOU ARE IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP RACE ALREADY FOR XFINITY? “I think it changes a lot, truthfully. I was listening to SIRIUS XM this morning and Todd Gordon talking about the preparation and the confidence standpoint of thinking you are going to Phoenix and for sure going to Phoenix are two different mindsets. It allows us to for sure focus on that car solely, knowing we will for sure be there. From a preparation standpoint, I was just at the Ford Performance Tech Center yesterday running laps in the simulator at Phoenix already trying to get prepared where normally we wouldn’t be doing that three weeks out. Even reaching out to Harvick yesterday about coming to the simulator to help me get around there a little bit better. All those things allows us to focus on that now that we are locked in. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be as focused on that kind of stuff right now and we would still be worried about Texas and Martinsville. It opens up a lot more doors for us it feels like.”

SINCE YOU HAVE BEEN WORKING FOR TONY STEWART, HAVE YOU BEEN EITHER INTIMIDATED BY HIM OR HAD FAN-BOY MOMENTS? HAVE THOSE FEELINGS CHANGED AT ALL? “When I was younger I for sure did. The first time I met him I was four or five years old and then I saw him again when I was around 10. As soon as I started driving for him, I was always at the race track when I saw him and all that changed, I was there for a job and he is my boss and I have to go run good. If not, he isn’t going to keep me in the seat. I don’t feel like I have really looked at him any differently now than anybody else. You want to make him proud and all those things but it is just super surreal to be able to drive that 14 car and for him to tell me that I was going to get to drive that car and all those things. I wish I could go tell seven-year-old Chase who was wearing his Tony Stewart stuff and playing sprint car video games and NASCAR video games that he was eventually going to get to drive his car. It definitely is crazy to look back on and think about all those things. I don’t look at Tony any differently now. He is my boss and that is all there is to say.”

WHAT DID AJ FOYT MEAN TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY? “My grandpa has been owning sprint cars since 1976 and AJ Foyt was one of the best. There is no other way to put it. That number and AJ in general, I think a lot of people looked up to him with the race car driver he was. He was so versatile, running IndyCar and USSAC and all those things. A lot of people loved AJ Foyt. I know my dad and my grandpa were two of his biggest fans. It is super cool. For me, the 14 is Tony’s number but to my family it is AJ Foyt’s number. That is a generational number that has a lot of significance in all of motorsports. Hopefully I can add to that. It is super humbling to think that the 14 car is going to be driven by me next year. To me there are only a few numbers in NASCAR that have a lot of significance and the 14 is certainly up there.”

DOES COMING FROM THAT SPRINT CAR FAMILY BACKGROUND AND THE WORK ETHIC IT TAKES TO SHOW UP EVERY WEEK, IS THAT ONE OF THE REASONS YOU HAVE BEEN ABLE TO MAINTAIN YOUR HUMILITY THROUGH ALL OF THIS? “I think not even so much the sprint car thing but just going back to five years ago when I was literally volunteering at race shops and sleeping on couches and going to the race track every single weekend working on an ARCA car. I was the guy getting there at seven in the morning and changing stuff throughout practice and sweating your tail off. It makes you appreciate those guys. I remember when I had been there all day long and the race starts at nine at night and the driver is complaining about this or that, it is just degrading. You don’t want to hear that when you have been working and sweating all day on the thing. I think that is a lot of the reason I have been that way throughout my entire career. I get where those guys are coming from. Truthfully, I know that I am getting to drive a race car for a living and it is an amazing thing to be able to do. I don’t want to be doing anything else. At the end of the day, yeah I don’t want to run 15th or 20th on a bad day but that is still better than going to another job. I think that has always kept me grounded and coming from that side of things where a lot of guys driving didn’t work on their stuff like I did coming up and volunteering and doing a lot of those things, it just makes you appreciate it that much more.”

THIS YEAR HAS BEEN DIFFICULT FOR YOU OFF THE TRACK. HOW HAS RACING BEEN YOUR SANCTUARY WITH NINE WINS AND NOW PROMOTED TO THE TRUCK SERIES? “It has been huge to be able to just get in the car and forget about a lot of things. Obviously the miscarriage deal, I couldn’t imagine not going to the race track and not getitng in the car just because it allowed me to kind of get away from everything for a couple hours. Whether it is going through something like that or contract situations, you just want to get in the car and do your thing. You want to forget about all the stuff that is going on in the world. You are almost in your own bubble when you are in the race car. You are not focused on the outside world or whatever you are dealing with at home. I think that has been huge and honestly the success has been great this year but just being able to have that getaway has been great.”

YOUR JOURNEY THROUGH NASCAR HAS NOT BEEN EASY BY ANY MEANS AND YOU HAVE TALKED MANY TIMES ABOUT TIMES YOU THOUGHT IT MIGHT COME TO AN END. YET HERE YOU ARE TODAY PROMOTED TO THE CUP SERIES. PERSONALLY, WHAT ARE THE THINGS THAT HAVE GOTTEN YOU THROUGH TO BRING YOU HERE TODAY WHEN THERE WERE TIMES WHEN MAYBE YOU WANTED TO QUIT? “Yeah, I think my faith is something I am proud about. I feel like my faith has gotten me through a lot of that, through my entire career. Going back to sprint cars when my family wouldn’t have the money to race, we would talk about selling out and just getting out of racing in general and we would just pray that if it was meant to be, if you want to the doors to be open, open them and if you want them closed to close them. We prayed to show us what path to take and it seemed like every time that following week we would get a sponsor. It might be $500 or $700, but enough to allow us to go racing. It has been the same way on the NASCAR deal. There have been so many times that I felt like I was going to be done and a sponsor came up or I win a race and it kind of restarts everything. I feel like my faith has been able to get me through it. It has kept me grounded and focused on having that confidence that whatever happens I am just going to have to deal with it. That is how it is meant to be and I am going to use that as my platform.

TALK ABOUT THE TIMING OF WHEN YOU KNEW YOU WERE BEING CONSIDERED FOR THE CUP RIDE AND THE OFFICIAL PHONE CALL SAYING THAT YOU WERE IT FOR NEXT YEAR. HOW DID THAT FEEL? “Yeah, the timing of everything in my entire career and how it has all worked out has been meant to be I feel like as far as the doors that have been opened and even getting to the Cup Series. FIve years from now it will be hard to say what Cup rides will even be available with the ages of guys and how it all works. I am not saying that just because I won eight races meant I was going to the Cup Series, I just felt like that was my best opportunity to go there. To be able to win our seventh and eighth race and that was about the time negotiations were going to start happening. The playoffs started right when we hit our stride. It just so happened that Clint was around the end of his career in general. If he is 10 years younger he is probably not getting out of the car. All those things timing wise have to line up perfectly and they obviously have worked out great. Hopefully they can continue to.”

WHAT HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP BEEN LIKE WITH CLINT AND WHAT IS THE BIGGEST LESSON YOU CAN TAKE FROM HIM GOING INTO THAT CAR? “I think for me, obviously I talked about AJ and Tony but Clint, the legacy he has left on the sport as a 10-time winner in the Cup Series and a personality larger than life but also a dirt guy. Us dirt guys I feel like really stick together on the NASCAR side. Clint was one of my favorites growing up too. I used to always love watching Clint race because he was one of the few dirt guys in the Cup Series. I haven’t talked to Clint with everything going on but I think he will be phenomenal for TV. I think that is the best thing that could ever happen to FOX. We need Clint Bowyer in NASCAR, whether it is in the seat or the booth. Hopefully I can do Clint, Tony and AJ proud because they all had an outstanding part of that 14’s history and hopefully I can add to that.”

WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW THAT THIS COULD BE POSSIBLE? “I don’t know that there is ever a point that I felt like it was possible. I knew that Clint was in a contract year and that it would be his decision to come back or not. I want to say it was probably two or three months ago, I don’t even remember when. Tony called me one night at like 10:30 at night and told me that the 14 car was mine but that it might not be next year but for sure in 2022 or when Clint decided to leave it would be mine. I was confident but I didn’t think it was going to happen this coming year. I figured it would be when the new car came out. That gave me a little bit of ease knowing that if I went back and ran Xfinity again that I would have something in the Cup Series. I am one of the older guys. I am going to be 26 next year. You want to get up to the Cup Series. That is something you work for your whole life. I would say three months ago it kind of blindsided me when Tony called me but that is the first time I knew it was going to be a possibility to move up.”

HOW DO YOU VIEW 2020 TO THIS POINT WITH ALL YOU HAVE GONE THROUGH? “A lot of ups and a lot of down, obviously. I think in general everyone in 2020 has been thrown a curveball. Nobody knows what the future holds. This year has been very odd for everybody, including myself. It has been nice to have the success on the race track but truthfully it has been really weird to win these races and not get to celebrate with fans. I was on the Dale Jr. download earlier today and we were talking about how it is just different when you win without fans. YOu don’t feel like you really won because you don’t celebrate like you would another win. You just get out of the car and go get on the plane. You just don’t celebrate a win like you normally would. For me it only really feels like we have won one race because Bristol is the only place I got to feel that fan reaction and really react off of them. The highs have been good off the race track and the lows have been really low. Me and my wife continue to struggle and it has been really hard for her lately. It has been tough. Just being able to get in the race car and not forget about all that stuff but just put it in the back of your mind for two or three hours has been really nice.”

HOW MUCH OF A DISTRACTION WAS BEING ASKED ABOUT YOUR FUTURE THIS YEAR WHILE CHASING THE XFINITY CHAMPIONSHIP? “I wouldn’t say it was a distraction. It wasn’t even tiring. I knew it was coming almost every single week. When I won this past weekend I knew what questions I would get asked after the race. I was confident that I was going to have something. I knew Ford was going to believe in me still. I knew that they had my back the whole time. I wasn’t necessarily concerned. I was going to be happy and content if I had to go back to the Xfinity Series. I feel like I have a lot to learn even there. I was confident I was going to be in something after the year we have had. It wasn’t necessarily a distraction. It was the same thing over and over obviously but that is part of it. Whenever you have success you will have that question. Especially when you are in one of the lower series. I am glad how it worked out but it was definitely tiring at times.”

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MARK RUSHBROOK, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports — WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AS WE ANNOUNCE THIS PROMOTION TODAY? “We are very excited for this day. We have a lot of confidence in Chase and have been excited for his future ever since we first met him back in 2016 and we were able to sign him as we were restarting our driver development program. A year in trucks and three years in Xfinity with 2018 only being a part-time season for him but he has shown tremendous development through all those different series, handles himself the right way on the track and as importantly off the track. It is so great to see his growth over these last four years and he is ready for Cup and excited to see how he does in the 14.”

DID YOU FEEL IT WAS NECESSARY TO INVEST IN A KID THAT WANTED THIS AS BADLY AS CHASE DID AND HOW HARD HE WORKED TO DESERVE IT? “Absolutely. We got very serious about our racing programs in 2015 and went to work on fixing all elements of the program. To win races or championships every part of a racing team needs to be right, including the car and driver and team supporting it on pit road. When we got serious about starting the driver development program we knew we wanted the best talent we could find and to support them to help them grow up through all the different series. We went to work looking for that talent in 2016 and had some help from Doug Yates and Jeff Clark. They highlighted Chase Briscoe to us and we went and watched him as he was racing in ARCA and knew he was a special talent. Off the track, he had everything off the track that he was showing on the track. It is important for our teams for our teams to have those good drivers to put into their cars. Just like we invest in the engine program and aero program and everything else, we wanted to invest in the driver development program and knew that Chase was the right one to pick and are happy with how he progressed and is ready for Cup.”

WHEN YOU LOOK AT YOUR DRIVER DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM WITH CHASE AND HAILIE DEEGAN, WHERE ARE YOU AT IN YOUR DRIVER DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM AND WHERE DO YOU SEE THAT IN 2021? “We are definitely more quality over quantity. Finding the right people and finding them at the right time and bringing them through the right team. Now that Chase has gone from start to finish into Cup, and I will say he is not necessarily finished because he has to succeed in Cup. That is when we will know the program is really successful, to have those race wins at the Cup level. We see the same things in Hailie with what we saw before she signed with us and definitely what we saw with her in ARCA and how she performed in her first truck race this past weekend. We are excited to get her into Trucks. Bringing David Gilliland Racing as a team into the Ford camp to help with the development drivers in that key transition from ARCA into Trucks is really important to have that as part of our program. So, to be able to have Tanner Gray and Taylor Gray in that program and seeing what they are doing with a lot of promise and potential there, we can hopefully see that continue up through the ranks as well.”

DO YOU SEE ANY NEW GUYS COMING ON BOARD IN 2021? “Not for 2021 but we are definitely looking at a lot of people but nobody that we are ready to sign today.”

IS THERE A CERTAIN NUMBER OF DRIVERS YOU WANT TO HAVE IN YOUR DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM? “We don’t have a target number. It is more quality over quantity. When we see the right person, and as we have said it has to be the right person in terms of what they can do on the track and how they handle themselves off the track, when we see the right people we are going to sign them and help them get up through the ranks. There are only a certain number of Cup seats so if we have too many people going through there you run into the problem of where you put them all. We want to have that right rate and flow. I think what we have now is about right. If we see that next star coming through, we will get them signed.”

AS FAR AS DEEGAN’S DEVELOPMENT, DO YOU SEE THAT AS TWO-YEARS IN TRUCKS AND TWO IN XFINITY? IS THAT THE PLAN FOR HER? “It is too early to tell. It is definitely depending on the performance and the growth that we see. When we signed Hailie a year ago and put her into the ARCA program for the first year we didn’t know if it would be one year or two years. Honestly we probably thought it would be two years but based on everything we saw this year we felt she was very ready for trucks and that would be the best place for her to continue more growth and development in the Truck Series in 2021. We will keep watching her. It could be one year or two years or three years. We will watch and see.”

IF CLINT HAD DECIDED NOT TO MOVE INTO THE ROLE WITH FOX, WOULD THIS OPPORTUNITY HAD BEEN THERE FOR CHASE THIS SEASON? “It is tough. As I said, there are only so many Cup seats and so many top rank Cup seats so timing is everything and I think we would have if the 14 was not available, it probably would have been one more year in Xfinity to continue learning and growth there. Maybe a handful of Cup races or something would have been the good route to take, similar to what we are seeing with Austin (Cindric) with Penske and Wood Brothers.”

WOULD YOU HAVE TOLD CLINT THAT IT WAS TIME TO MAKE THE MOVE OR LET HIM DECIDE WHAT HE WANTED TO DO? “The situation had to be right for everybody. Timing is everything.”

WHAT DID YOU GUYS SEE IN CHASE THAT MADE YOU KNOW HE WAS THE GUY YOU WANTED TO SIGN BACK THEN? “There are so many racers out there that it is hard to know who to look at closely. Definitely I do want to thank Doug Yates and Jeff Clark for bringing Chase onto our radar. First we looked at his results and what he was doing and talked with his ARCA team and understood what he was like in the car. Then we talked to him off the track. That is where you can tell a person’s real character. They have to have that drive and passion to want to win, especially the way Chase came up through the ranks working his way up through the ranks with his family helping him and we think doing it the right way to really have it through them to their core. He has the right humility and right approach to it. He definitely doesn’t come in beating his chest and thinking that he is the greatest driver in the world but inside he knows that he is capable of being one of the greatest drivers in the sport. That is the kind of balance that we are looking for. Somebody that can deliver on the track and have the right approach off the track. After we signed him the thing that really impressed me was how he internalized all the learning and knowing that when he made mistakes, and there were a lot of races where he said he was sorry and shouldn’t have made the mistake. I told him, ‘As long as you walk away from this learning, then that was a valuable mistake.’ He has done that. That is what has helped us continue to support him as he has gone up through these different levels and up to Cup today.”

THE ELEMENTS YOU EVALUATE WHEN YOU LOOK AT A POTENTIAL DRIVER, THERE ARE NO BOTTOMLESS PITS WHEN IT COMES TO MONEY. WHEN CHASE HAD A SPONSOR LINE UP WITH HIM, HOW MUCH DID THAT PLAY INTO YOUR DECISION TO TAKE HIM TO CUP, OR ANY DRIVER THAT COMES WITH A FULL SPONSORSHIP? “We look at the talent first before the sponsorship honestly. We don’t want to put the wrong driver in with the right sponsorship, we would much rather have the right sponsor and then work really hard on the sponsorship. That is something that Stewart-Haas is really good at with Mike Verlander and Brett Frood and their teams, they do a lot of work and effort into making it work financially around the right driver, not going for where the money is with maybe the wrong driver. It is great to have partners like Stewart-Haas. What they want to do is win and they will put all the pieces together to win. That is why we are here as well, to win. To win races and championships and we think Chase is the right long term play to advance in Cup and win races and championships.”

HOW EXCITED ARE YOU FOR THE FUTURE OF THE FORD PROGRAM? “We are excited. We have great teams with the Wood Brothers, Penske, Stewart-Haas and Roush Fenway and great drivers in all those cars. We pay attention to every element of the program to help our teams. With engines from Roush Yates and the aero program and simulation and simulator analytics. Everything that we can do. And to have the right drivers piloting those cars with the right support from the crew chiefs and teams to prepare the cars and make the right calls. We have seen a lot of success with the improvements that we have made in these last five years and we know we need to keep working just as hard, if not harder, to keep making advancements because the competition is so fierce among the three OEM’s in the sport and the teams on the track. We need to keep working on all elements and the drivers are ultimately the ones that get it done on the track. To have Chase in there now in one of our top cars gives us a lot of confidence as we continue to improve our program.”

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TONY STEWART, Co-Owner, Stewart-Haas Racing — YOU SAID YOU SEE A LOT OF CHASE BRISCOE IN YOURSELF. WHAT ARE THOSE QUALITIES? “I think Mark Rushbrook just mentioned it, actually. When he makes a mistake he will spend more time reflecting on that mistake, unfortunately, than he does the rest of the good things that he does all day, but that’s kind of the way I was in my career, too. I felt minimizing mistakes was the key to winning races and championships and that’s also the same mindset that Chase has as well. He’s very, very diligent about making sure he learns from everything that happens on the racetrack and he’s got a pretty good memory bank to hold all of that knowledge in, so he’s great about realizing when he makes a mistake and then analyzing what happened, why did he make the mistake and what can he do to correct it for the next time. That’s something that I had to try to do through my career as well.”

WHEN DID IT FIRST STRIKE YOU THAT HE WAS THE REAL DEAL? “I honestly think the last two to three races of the season last year I saw him take a huge step. I sat there through the off-season and thought it was gonna be really interesting to see how he came out of the box this year. I felt like there was a step made and he picked right up where he left off, which was exactly what I was hoping for, but since then he’s just continued to push and progress and make himself better as a driver, so that’s where I think, to answer your question, I guess last fall at the end of the year was when I saw that and felt like that was gonna continue and if he got through the off-season with the time off and didn’t kind of go backwards a little bit to get back to that point, I felt we were gonna be in a really good spot and, like I said, he started off the year right where he left off, so I knew we were in a good position with him.”

DID CHASE’S PERFORMANCE EARLY IN THE YEAR IMPACT YOUR THOUGHTS OF GOING AFTER KYLE LARSON OR ARE THOSE TWO SEPARATE THINGS? “They were two separate things, actually. I think Ford has done an awesome job with their driver development program. There aren’t a lot of drivers in it, but there’s a reason there’s not a lot of drivers in it because they put that focus on that small group of race car drivers versus one of the other OEMs out there that is, in my opinion, ruining other drivers’ careers on a daily basis by just signing mass numbers of drivers and then at the end of it they don’t have anywhere to go with them or they decide they don’t like them and then those drivers, and most of them are young drivers, lose opportunities that they could have had along the way to go somewhere else. That’s what I’m really proud of Ford about is that they’re very selective, they’re very mindful of realizing when these drivers make that commitment to be a part of that driver development program that they work with them and really push to get them where they need to be and make sure that they really are the right drivers before they actually get signed up in the system. So, it’s not throwing darts at a dart board. I feel like Ford has done an awesome job and Chase is a perfect example of that. They were the first ones to really recognize his talent before anybody else got him in the system, so we obviously with our Xfinity program that is the whole point of having an Xfinity program is to try to cultivate talent, whether it be from the driver’s side, crew chief’s side, crew member’s side, pit crew guys’ side. That’s what the Xfinity program is for us and to be able to run Chase through that system with us it was a natural transition to eventually get him from the Xfinity car to a Cup car. The Larson piece was a whole separate side.”

WITH ONLY ABOUT 120 STARTS ON PAVEMENT WHAT HAS ALLOWED CHASE TO MAKE THIS TRANSITION SO WELL, SO FAST? “Don’t forget, I didn’t have that many starts myself by the time I got a Cup ride, so it’s not necessarily everything that you just see in an Xfinity car or an ARCA car or anything like that. What Chase has done on the road racing side, the dirt track side, all of those variables add up to why Chase was put in the Ford position in the Ford camp and then ultimately into our system and running through our ring to get up to the Cup level. So, there were a lot of variables and watching how he transitioned through multiple types of cars are what really attracted him to us obviously and Ford as well.”

WHAT DID YOU SEE FROM CHASE’S DIRT BACKGROUND THAT YOU FEEL WILL HELP HIM ON THE CUP LEVEL? “I think the biggest thing that’s gonna be a big benefit down the road for him, obviously drivers that drive on dirt are used to the back of the car being free and swinging around and wheel spin and everything else, but as NASCAR keeps taking horsepower away from these cars, having the cars freed up is a very big piece of the equation now to make sure that you’re keeping speed and drivers that can handle a loose race car and are comfortable with that feel, I think ultimately, are gonna have an advantage at the end of the day for new guys coming up. So, I think that dirt track background and having that confidence knowing how to control a car that to some people looks out of control, but when it’s sliding and you have control of where it’s going still, to have that confidence in it, I think that’s gonna be key in a Cup car down the road. That’s the skill set that you have to learn. I think 20-30 years ago you had to have a stock car background to really be good in a stock car, and I think nowadays with rules packages changing like they are, a dirt track background — people are starting to realize there’s a lot of value in drivers that have a dirt track background and can control a loose race car. I think just the car control in general that you learn running dirt tracks is a valuable learning experience no matter what type of car you get in. Having that base is definitely valuable for any driver.”

CAN YOU TOUCH ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH KEVIN BRISCOE AND KNOWING THE CHARACTER OF THAT FAMILY DID IT SEAL THE DEAL AS FAR AS EMBRACING CHASE EARLY ON? “The great thing was Chase was already in the Ford system by the time we started getting our eye on Chase, but, obviously, the tie with Kevin, his dad, Kevin and I didn’t race a lot with each other in USAC. I didn’t run non-wing sprint cars a lot, unfortunately, but I did meet Kevin years ago, long before Chase was thought about, and to have that opportunity to have that friendship with Kevin, and we’ve maintained it through the years and now to see his son have an opportunity to not only be in our system but to now get him to the Cup level and in the 14 car is something that I think really is a neat story of how guys, I mean, Kevin and I literally live just under an hour apart away from each other, and to think that we raced together and now his son is gonna be driving the 14 car in the Cup Series is something that I think is a really cool piece, but that kid has deserved it. It’s not been handed to him. He didn’t come from a wealthy family. They were racers and they put everything they had into racing and they did that with Chase as well and that investment has obviously paid off.”

DID STEWART-HAAS RACING IMPROVE TODAY WITH THE HIRING OF CHASE BRISCOE? “I feel like obviously that’s part of why we made the decision. I love Clint. You’re not gonna have more fun with anybody than Clint Bowyer and you’re not gonna have anybody that’s got any more passion, drive and desire than Clint Bowyer, so losing him is a detriment, obviously. But looking down the road in the future of Stewart-Haas Racing, knowing that Clint was going to the booth in another year, we had an opportunity to get Chase I think now at the right time to get him in a car and work on the future. We could have ran Clint another year in the 14 car, but I don’t know that it really was gonna progress the program any further than where we’re at with him right now, so giving Chase an opportunity to get a year under his belt and, ultimately, at the end of the year it may not be a step forward in one year, but long-term and down the road we feel like Chase has a lot of potential. You obviously have seen what he’s done in Xfinity this year and the competition level goes up when you go to the Cup Series, but we feel and have a lot of confidence that he has what it takes to be a great Cup driver. So in year one, at the end of the year will we say it was a great decision? Maybe or maybe not. I hope he goes out and rattled off three wins and wins rookie of the year next year and ties our record for most wins as a rookie, but the big picture is what we’re looking at and I feel like even if the first year is a struggle for him, we’re committed to him and we’re gonna make sure we get him where he needs to be, and I think we will have a lot of success with him down the road.”

HOW WILL THE CHANGEOVER BE FOR THE DRIVERS AND TEAMS FINANCIALLY WITH THE MOVE TO THE NEXT GEN CAR? “Financially, it shows on paper that it’s gonna be a huge improvement for all the teams, especially the bottom third of the field. It’s a great opportunity for them to be able to be more competitive with the top third tier teams, so I think all in all that’s gonna be a great thing. Getting Chase in a car this year. Getting him used to his team. Getting him used to the drivers, the tracks in a Cup car, I think, is a valuable learning year even though you’re gonna be switching to a different car the next year. I think having him get that experience this year with that group will even make year two and getting into that new car put him on a more level playing field with everybody once he’s got that first year under his belt. Everybody is gonna have to start kind of from scratch when the new car comes out, but financially it’s good for the sport and good for the teams and for Chase I think getting this year is a gonna be valuable for him before he gets in that car.”

IF KEVIN HARVICK GETS ONE MORE WIN THAT WOULD BE 10 AND HE WOULD BE ONE OF ONLY THREE DRIVERS TO DO THAT IN THE LAST 25 YEARS, AND HE WOULD BE AT AN AGE WHEN MOST DRIVERS ARE LOOKING AT RETIRING. IS THIS A PROGRESSION OF DRIVERS CAN HAVE GREATER SUCCESS AT OLDER AGES AND WE SHOULDN’T BE JUDGING THEM WHEN THEY REACH AGE 40? “I think you’re definitely right on that. You look in different forms of motorsports there are drivers that are over the age of 40 that still win a lot of races, win a lot of championships as well. I feel like, and I can’t remember how many years ago this wave of starting to try to find these 14, 15, 16-year-old drivers that was a huge push for everybody and I feel like they’ve really put an emphasis in an area that they’ve overlooked some really good talent, and I think Kevin is a perfect example of that. But I’m also gonna go back to years ago. I’ve said it then and all the way to the present and I’ll still continue to say it — Kevin Harvick is the complete package. He’s a great race car driver. He was a great owner. He’s great at building teams. He’s great at managing teams. He understands how partnerships and sponsorships work in this sport and he also has a great management company, so Kevin Harvick single-handedly is the most well-rounded driver in NASCAR right now — has been for years and that’s why someone like him is able to do what he’s done this year. He has the ability every week to go out and if we can give him a car that’s close and in the ballpark, he can do the rest of the work and get it the rest of the way. On days that the car is perfect and he’s perfect, you’ve seen what happens. It’s proof that you don’t have to be a 14, 15, or 16-year-old driver to be great and all this emphasis on finding the next young guy, there are other guys in the sport. Look at Martin Truex Jr. Martin has been around this sport for a long time. One variable changed in the equation and all of a sudden Martin is a championship-caliber driver, so I laugh and I make fun of all the organizations that are looking for these super young kids that are kids. Some of them don’t even have their driver’s licenses and their parents are having to drive them to the race shop and I’m like, ‘You have to let these kids grow up.’ They aren’t mature yet. They’re great race car drivers, but at the same time I’ve also told people to tell my how good their 14 or 15 or 16-year-old kid is I said, ‘Well, has he crashed hard yet? Or her?’ And when they say no, I said, ‘Well, don’t tell me how good he is until he comes back from a hard crash and then let’s see how good he is because then you’re gonna find out what you’ve got.’ So a lot of these young guys, the cars are so safe that they feel like they’re invincible in them and they all run fast, but they don’t have the savvy and the background of someone like a Kevin Harvick has and a Martin Truex has to sit there and go out and understand why they’re doing everything the way they’re doing and that’s why you see a guy like Kevin Harvick have the success that he has.”

WAS THERE ANY CONSIDERATION TO WAIT FOR THE NEXT GEN CAR IN 2022 BEFORE BRINGING CHASE TO CUP? “One hundred percent I feel like it’s better to have him on board now like I said, just to build a relationship with the team and learn the different drivers that he’s racing with at the Cup level and the competition going up. I felt like that was very valuable before we introduce him into a new car, so at least where they’re at now the Xfinity cars and Cup cars are a lot more alike than you think, so it’s a smaller transition carwise, but the competition level is gonna be different and he’s working with a different team, different crew, and I feel like that experience you can’t put a price tag on that, so to be able to get him in a car early before the Next Gen car comes out, I think, is an advantage for us for sure.”

HOW EXCITED ARE YOU TO HAVE CHASE COMING ON BOARD WITH AN EXPERIENCED TEAMMATE LIKE KEVIN ALONGSIDE? “We’re super excited about it. Like we said, Ford saw his potential early and then when we got him into our system we could tell there was a lot of potential there. There were a lot of bent parts and tore up race cars early on, but that’s part of the learning process and, like we mentioned, at the end of last year to see his progression and the step that he made with two or three races to go and to see that continue into this season, we definitely feel excited about knowing what his potential is and knowing from what we’ve seen in drivers in the past the potential he has in the Cup Series going down the road. It’s definitely exciting for us. You just take those variables alone and that’s exciting enough and then you throw in the family side of racing against his father and me actually getting to see him run dirt races growing up, it’s been a neat road to watch him get to where he’s at now and I’m excited that we’re a huge part of it with him.”

DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU’LL HAVE A COMPLETED DRIVER LINEUP FOR NEXT YEAR? “It’s probably gonna be complete at that point.”

WHAT IS THE TEAM STATUS ON THE XFINITY SIDE FOR NEXT YEAR? “We’re still working on it, but we have been working on it for a couple months now. We’ve got a couple prospects that nothing is done yet to announce, but we’ll keep working on our end. We definitely plan to continue the Xfinity program. We obviously see the value in it as you see with the announcement today, so we plan to continue down that path.”

DO YOU THINK WITH THE NEXT GEN CAR THAT THE FINANCIAL MODEL WILL EVOLVE AND BE DIFFERENT? “I don’t think the whole model is necessarily gonna change, but there are definitely areas with the Next Gen car that NASCAR was very diligent about trying to control and help the teams control the costs on to help these bottom tier teams be more competitive and be able to business-wise be more sustainable and maintain their participation in the sport. I feel like it’s a good step in the right direction. I think NASCAR has been very diligent about trying to figure these variables out and making sure that they don’t take the competition out of our hands, but at the same time controlling enough with variables to help financially have it be feasible to participate in this sport. It is a tough time right now, especially with Covid. Next year, even if the Daytona 500 on everything looks great it’s gonna be very different. It’s gonna be like looking at an iceberg — the little bit you see above the water will be great, but everything below the water there is a lot of stuff that’s still in a state of repair that it could take a year to two years for these teams to recover from that and to figure out what the new model is and how to make it financially feasible to stay in the sport.”

WOULD YOU CONSIDER TWO XFINITY CARS TO INCREASE THE NUMBER OF FORDS ON THE TRACK? “I think this year is proof that it’s not about how many of them are out there, it’s about making sure that the one that you have is doing the right things and putting themselves in the right positions. Obviously, places like Daytona and Talladega it becomes a factor, but, all in all and in the big picture, I don’t think it’s about shear numbers as much as it’s the quality of the teams that you’re putting out there. So whether it’s one or whether it’s two really isn’t as big a drama as shear numbers per OEM out there. I would love to have two teams. I feel like the more drivers that we have in the system coming up through there, there are some guys that are gonna run Xfinity and you’re gonna realize that’s as far as they’re probably gonna get to, but then there are drivers like Chase that you’re gonna see in Xfinity and Cole Custer that have come through that you realize, ‘Hey, these guys have the ability to be a Cup driver and deserve that opportunity.’ So, like I mentioned, it’s not just about drivers in the Xfinity Series for us. It’s crew chiefs, crew members, pit crew guys — that’s what that whole program is about, so don’t get too caught up and too consumed in the driver side of it. There are a lot of people that we have in that system that there’s reasons we have them there because we want to see how they progress and see if we can bring them up to the Cup level at some point.”

WHEN DID YOU KNOW CHASE GOING TO THE 14 WOULD BE A POSSIBILITY? “If you want to be totally realistic about it, when he signed up with Stewart-Haas Racing I knew eventually it could be a possibility or we wouldn’t have signed him on board. I think that timeframe that you just mentioned was the realistic timeframe on trying to figure out what’s the right move for him and the way his season was progressing and going, I mean, there was a lot of outside interest knocking on his door and we obviously didn’t want to let that happen and let him get away because we felt like we put him in a good position at Stewart-Haas Racing. We felt like Ford had given him a great opportunity and we wanted to maintain that, so the timeframe of the last three months obviously made sense and he’s continued to keep doing what he’s doing. All of that is a huge distraction for a driver and to go out and still win races like he is shows how strong he really is as a driver, so I feel like the timing of it is good. I feel like it’s the right decision. It’s an emotional tug-of-war because I’m super excited about Chase being on board. I hate I’m gonna lose a good friend in Clint Bowyer, but I think the whole sport is gaining a huge asset in having Clint going to the booth. He’s a guy that will make a great race super exciting and not every race is a great race and on those days that it’s not a great race, he’s still gonna make it exciting. So I think the sport is gaining a lot by having Clint in the booth and everybody is gonna hate losing him on the racetrack because he’s a great competitor and a great driver, but I’m proud of him and happy for him as a friend that he’s going to the booth. When I got out of that car there wasn’t anybody I wanted in there more than Clint, so I’m proud and happy and very appreciative of everything he’s done for us.”


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