Ford Performance NASCAR: Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric Playoff Media Day Transcripts

NASCAR XFINITY SERIES

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2020

PLAYOFF MEDIA DAY


American Muscle

CHASE BRISCOE, No. 98 Highpoint.com Ford Mustang — DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE FAVORITE TO MAKE THE CHAMPIONSHIP 4 AND COMPETE FOR THE TITLE? “I would love to say yes, but I don’t know if you can really pick a favorite right now. I think this year has been so, everybody hits their moment and at different times. It’s been really streaky. You look at us, we won five out of the first 12 and then Cindric won five out of six. Allgaier wins three, so I feel confident that we can make it to the final four, but I don’t know if there’s really one guy that sticks out over any of the others. I feel like anybody on any given day can be the guy to beat and this series has really been competitive all year long, so I would love to say, ‘Yeah, you’ve got to beat us to win the championship,’ but truthfully there are a lot of really good race car drivers, a lot of really good race teams in this series and it’s gonna be hard to beat any of them on any given day, so you just have to hit it right that day and hopefully we can be that guy to beat, but, yeah, I feel confident we can make it to the final four, but once you get to Phoenix you’re gonna have to be on top of your game because those other three guys are gonna be on top of their game. Whoever wins is obviously the guy that did the best and the team that hit it the best.”

HAS IT BEEN A CHALLENGE WITH YOU AND CINDRIC BEING THE ONLY FORDS IN THE FIELD? “No, not truthfully. I feel like the only place that really affects it is when we go superspeedway racing. I hate that Talladega is in the playoffs now. I understand with COVID it’s all different, but it does affect us there quite a bit. Nobody wants to work with us. It’s so manufacturer driven anymore on the speedway stuff and it’s just me and him, and it’s hard to get anything going when there are only two guys, especially at a place like that, so I think it definitely affects us there, but, other than that, I don’t have a problem with it. I think we do a really good job of trying to help each other out when we can. We still race really, really hard against each other, so, yeah, I think Talladega and Daytona it makes a difference, but outside of that I don’t think it’s been an issue having only two Fords in the field.”

IS IT ANY EASIER TO HANDLE NOT KNOWING WHAT NEXT YEAR LOOKS LIKE FOR THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW? “Yeah, I think so. It’s a little bit easier just because the situation I’m in this year is totally different than the situation I was in last year. Last year, I’d only won one race, so I’m not that pretty girl at the dance that everybody wants. Now that I’ve won seven races, I’m a lot more wanted in the sport, so it’s totally different. I think you can take some things and still apply it this year compared to last, but it’s such a different circumstance it’s just really hard to compare. I think it’s a lot different, but having that experience still helps. You still have that pressure of having to go perform and I think that will help for sure in the playoffs.”

DO YOU THINK YOU’LL BE BACK IN XFINITY NEXT YEAR OR MOVE UP TO CUP? “Truthfully, I don’t know right now. The main focus for me is just trying to win races, as many as I can, these last seven races trying to win the championship and just let the cards fall where they fall. If I can go win four or five out of these last seven, then obviously it makes the transition, if I do move up or to want to move up, makes me a lot more wanted by the bigger teams. The biggest thing for me is whatever I’m in, whether it’s Cup Series, XFINITY Series, Truck Series, whatever it is, I want to do it in something competitive. I would rather win XFINITY races than go run a 25th-30th place car in the Cup Series. I just want to do whatever I’m doing in something competitive that can go battle for championships and try to win races, and right now I’m in a great opportunity to do that. I’m trying to just win as many of these races as I can and try winning this championship because then it just makes me a lot more wanted in this sport.”

YOU WERE VOCAL ABOUT HAVING TO WIN EIGHT RACES FOR CUP TEAMS TO VALUE YOU. WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS THE PERCEPTION OF YOUR ABILITY NOW COMPARED TO THIS TIME LAST YEAR? “I think they’re way different. Personally, I felt like I could win races and I think a lot of it was learning. Last year, there were still a lot of tracks I had never been to before and didn’t even have 100 pavement starts in my entire career, and now I have that experience. I have the confidence to go with it and all of those things are totally different, and when I said what I said at the beginning of the year I felt like I was capable of doing that. If I could back it up, it would look even better. I felt like last year I didn’t necessarily run that great, but we also didn’t really find the balance that I was looking for in the race car, and it took us until really the latter half of last year to find that, and this year we’ve just been able to kind of run with it all year long and be able to have success. This year if we get to eight, then that would be great. I don’t think that necessarily defines how our year was. I think the races that we’ve won, I feel like, are kind of driver racetracks between Darlington, Bristol, Homestead, places like that, I think I’ve proven my worth in this sport. I feel like if I do get the opportunity to move up, I feel like I’m ready, but I also feel like I could get a lot of benefit out of coming back to the XFINITY Series and running again, so I don’t know what’s gonna happen next year. I’ve just got to try to win as many races as I can. If I could somehow get to 10 wins this year and win the championship, then that would just make it, I feel like, a lot easier for the decision-makers. I’m just trying to do the best that I can right now and that’s all I can do.”

DO YOU FEEL LIKE IT’S CHAMPIONSHIP OR BUST, OR IS WINNING RACES JUST AS IMPORTANT? “Yeah, to a certain extent it’s championship or bust, but, at the same time, say we do win two or three more of these races in the playoffs and don’t win Phoenix, we had a great year winning nine or 10 races. You can’t ask for much more, so I think in today’s playoff format that we have, you could technically win in the Cup Series the first 35 races and have an issue at the last race and you wouldn’t be the champion. So, you can’t let the championship define you and define your season. Yes, we want to win the championship, but, at the same time, winning races is a big deal. That’s what you get paid to do is go win races and obviously win championships as well, but today’s format anything can happen in that final race. You never know what can happen. If you can win as many races as you can throughout the year, it just helps solidify that you had a good year. Yeah, it’s championship or bust for sure, but, at the end of the day, we still had a really good season regardless and we won a lot of races, but we’re gonna definitely try to win that championship as well.”

HOW MUCH DID LAST SEASON HELP PREPARE YOU FOR NOW? “It’s been a big help. Anytime you can race against guys of that caliber, even this year like getting to race against Kyle Busch and those guys when they come down you just learn so much. Christopher, Cole, Tyler, they’re all great talents. They’re all guys I’ve raced against my entire career and they’re guys that you’re always trying to chase after and learn from, and they’ve obviously proven that in the Cup Series. They run up front in the Cup Series and, for me, that’s encouraging to see whenever you just raced against that guy last year and you know you can run with them, and they’re running with the Cup guys. I think it definitely was a learning experience last year for me to be at a lesser experience-wise than them and still be able to run with them. It’s a huge deal and you get to learn from them and kind of see how they ran in the playoffs and the kind of mentality that they took. Last year, I was trying to dig out of a hole in the playoffs and this year I’m in their position where they had a lot of points, so just seeing how they use that to their advantage, how they put themselves in certain situations late in the race to make sure they don’t get taken out, stuff like that, it was a huge learning experience for me.”

HOW MUCH CONFIDENCE TO YOU HAVE THAT YOU CAN TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS IN THE FIRST ROUND? “Truthfully, I think the first round is harder than the second round just from the standpoint of the second round, for the most part outside of Martinsville, you kind of control your own destiny, where at a place like Talladega and the Roval anything can happen. Obviously, anything can happen at the mile-and-a-halves as well, but you’re just in more control of what happens. Vegas is probably the second-most important race of the year, in my opinion, outside of Phoenix, just trying to get through Vegas. If you can win that race, go to Talladega and go to the Roval with no stress knowing that if you wreck out, you wreck out. You don’t want to go to Talladega and have a bad race and only have a couple points cushion going into the Roval because anything can happen there as well. Truthfully, I feel like if you win Vegas, it opens up where you can go try to win some more stages at the Roval for example. All of those guys are probably gonna not short pit and try to get the points and you can leapfrog the field. You can short pit the thing and come out in the lead, so it just opens up so many more opportunities if you win that race at Vegas and that’s what we’re gonna go try to do.”

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY HAS MADE THE DIFFERENCE FOR YOU THIS YEAR SINCE THERE HASN’T BEEN PRACTICE OR QUALIFYING? “I think just having the experience of last year and then added on the confidence this year. Those are two things that go hand-in-hand. On top of that, just having a notebook, being able to go to the racetrack knowing what I look for in the race car and the team being able to build a setup towards what I like. It’s just been huge, especially with the no practice. If the rules were reversed and last year we had the COVID thing with no practice, it would have been really hard for our team to build that notebook and just be to where we’re at right now because we would be trying to learn so much throughout the race. So I think just confidence, experience and then having that notebook has been the big three things that have really been the biggest change for us.”

HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU WITH THE NOTES YOU HAVE AT PHOENIX AND WHAT WILL BE THE GREATEST CHALLENGE THERE? “For me, Phoenix has never been a great racetrack by any means, but I do feel like this first race, yeah, we ran sixth, but we were a second or third-place car and we missed the tire strategy and had to go to the back and was able to drive back to sixth. I feel like ever since they put the PJ1 down up top I’ve been a lot more comfortable and confident at Phoenix. We definitely still have some work to do setup-wise and, for sure me as a driver-wise going there. I still don’t do the little things right, but, truthfully, for me, no practice at Phoenix is probably a little bit better of a thing. I feel like I can really steer us in the wrong direction there and I’m confident in my team to know what to do, so I think Phoenix is a place I kind of struggle at, I wish we were going to Homestead for the final race. That’s probalby my best racetrack, but I’m still confident we can get it done at Phoenix, we just have to be one of those final four guys. That’s the first thing that we’ve got to do and once we get there, then we can focus on Phoenix, but it’s not a given that we’re gonna get there, so we’ve got to fight for it and work for it and hopefully we can get there and be one of those final four guys.”

AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 22 Menards Ford Mustang — WHAT KIND OF SELF-EVALUATION WOULD YOU GIVE YOURSELF ON YOUR DRIVING ABILITY? WHAT IS A STRENGTH AND WHAT IS A WEAKNESS? “I feel like, not to go too deep into strengths or weaknesses, I feel like the jump for a driver in my position into the Cup Series, and you can see it with guys like Bell and Reddick and Custer what they’ve had to go through and obviously they’ve been able to have strong runs later in the year and, for me, I feel like timing-wise a move to the Cup Series would probably be the best thing for my development as a driver, understanding what it takes to position yourself longer in these races. Obviously, those cars are a lot more sensitive aero-wise, damage-wise, so I feel like I’m at the right time in my career to learn those lessons and apply them. I feel like I know what it takes to be fast and to execute races. I feel like that’s something I’ve really worked on the last couple of years in the right racing environment, so, for me, that’s why I look at that as a potential option for me and probably the best-case scenario for me, but, otherwise, I’m really happy with the group of guys I’m working with right now. I think it’s a really great team that has a lot of confidence in me and my abilities and I’d love to be able to continue that moving forward.”

IS PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT YOU POSSIBLY GETTING A CUP RIDE A DISTRACTION FOR YOU GOING INTO THE PLAYOFFS OR IS IT A GOOD THING PEOPLE ARE LOOKING AT YOU IN THAT REGARD? “I think it’s a great thing to even be in that kind of conversation at this point in my career. You’ve got to remember that I’ve only been racing stock cars for a short amount of time, so to reach that level would be a huge accomplishment for me in itself, but, overall, I wouldn’t say it’s a distraction right now. I’ve come to peace with what my situation is and where things may or may not line up for me. I feel like I have an understanding it’s more of a waiting process as far as the right opportunities. A lot of people in the industry have a lot of question marks about where they need to be by the end of the year, so I feel like that’s why you see a lot of these silly season things happen really late in the game, but, for me, my biggest focus for the next seven weeks is trying to get the championship.”

DO YOU VIEW YOUR TEAM AS A FAVORITE OR IS IT TOO EARLY TO PICK SOMEONE? “I think it’s definitely too early. What you’ve got to realize is the XFINITY Series has been very peaky this year with a lot of guys with a lot of momentum at a lot of different times. You look at there’s six or seven guys that have been able to step up and win races this year and winning races gets you to the next round and winning races gets you to the Championship 4, so there could easily be either some surprises or some guys that haven’t been as prevalent in the last month or so to really step up and make a difference, so I would definitely agree with that and definitely see that as another reason to bring our A-game.”

HOW HAVE THE LAST THREE YEARS HELPED PREPARE YOU FOR THE POSITION YOU’RE IN RIGHT NOW? “I think that’s a great point, and a lot has changed in a short amount of time for me, but it’s really been the lore of my career, if you will — drown or swim — getting thrown into situations where if you don’t make it out, you’re probably gonna go find and do something else. But past that, trying to rise to the occasion and learn from whatever bad position I put myself in or bad position I get put in by anyone else. That’s been big for me and I feel like personally, mentally, physically, whatever it has taken to rise to the occasion I feel like I’ve been able to do in my career and I feel like this is another stepping stone for that. It’s a great opportunity that I have, that my team has to go contend for a championship, especially with the points bank that we’ve got right now and try to take advantage of it.”

HOW MUCH CONFIDENCE DO YOU HAVE IN THE FIRST ROUND OF RACES? “I think Vegas and Charlotte speak for themselves for our group. I think there’s probably more improvement that we need to have at the Roval than there is at Vegas, and that may come as a surprise to some people, but I definitely feel like the Roval has probably been one of our weaker road courses. Vegas, I come with a lot of confidence going into that round with the strength we had there in the spring race and races past. Talladega, yeah, I think I’ve been able to finish in the top five there the last couple times, but there’s nothing guaranteed about that place, so that’s definitely the biggest fear factor of the first round of the playoffs, and I would say Martinsville is the biggest fear factor of the Round of 8.”

IS IT CHAMPIONSHIP OR BUST FOR YOU OR IS WINNING RACES JUST AS IMPORTANT? “I’ve said it my whole year. If I just go through my goals list we sat down as a team and wrote down our top three goals — me, my crew chief, my engineer, my car chief, team manager, we all sat down and created individual goals one to three. My first goal was to win the regular season championship for one reason only and that’s because it pays the most playoff points. It’s 15 and that’s the equivalent of three wins, and from there it’s making it to Phoenix and below that it was kind of a fun goal to try and get 30 top 10s. We have already run out of races to do that, but I thought it would be a really cool stat if we could accomplish it, but from there it’s all about making it to Phoenix. You’ve got to have your best day. You’ve got to bring your A-game. For us, we’re in more of a position to have solid races instead of home runs, but winning makes things a lot easier.”

WHAT DID YOU LEARN LAST YEAR IN THE PLAYOFFS THAT WILL HELP YOU THIS TIME AROUND? “Third time is a charm for Kansas because that’s where it’s gone down the toilet for us the last two years. We got caught up in a big wreck there in 2018 and probably caused some of my own problems there last year, so definitely been a tricky place for us circumstantially. I feel like that’s the racetrack itself, but that first round of the Round of 8 has been really difficult for us and that’s kind of set the tone for the rest of the year. Mentally, I’d like to get past that, but, overall, I think we’re in a much better position points-wise than the last couple years, so there’s probably not as much of an emphasis as I’ve had the last two with very little playoff points to try and go out and hit some home runs, so I feel like, for us, that’s the biggest difference.”

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU DO MENTALLY TO PREPARE FOR THESE PLAYOFFS? “When I went to school, high school, elementary school, middle school and we were given a test I was rarely studying the night before a test because if you were studying the night before a test it’s because you don’t know what you’re about to go do, so if you’re choosing now to start working out, start preparing for races, in my opinion it’s too late. We’ve been doing a great job of that all year and I’ve got a lot of confidence in my team and our preparation and, for me, I’m approaching it just like any other weekend. I’m gonna drive as hard as I can and within limits and try to execute a good race.”

HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU ABOUT PHOENIX AND WHAT WILL BE YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGE IF YOU MAKE THE CHAMPIONSHIP 4? “I think Phoenix, honestly, wasn’t as great as we would have hoped for at the beginning of the year. We qualified well and ran well in the first stage, but once the track moved up you would imagine they’re going to use the same track prep that they did. Once the track moved up we definitely seemed to struggle and found some weak points in our car, it really highlighted some of our weak points and took away our strengths, so I feel like as a team we’re gonna need to be aggressive to be in championship form there, but my team has been able to do that this year, rising to the occasion with different things within our race cars, so I’m looking forward to that challenge. I think it will be a challenge for us just judging based off how we ran in the spring race, so it’s all about getting there and then from there putting our best foot forward and trying to knock it out of the park.”

IS THERE ANY TRACK YOU’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO IN THE PLAYOFFS? “I’d say probably top of the list would be Vegas and Texas. Texas is a place where I feel like I really understand what I need to do as a driver and what I need in my car. Vegas is kind of one of those places that I feel like got away from us earlier in the year, so I’d like to be able to rectify that with a very important race starting the playoffs, so those two races I definitely have highlighted. I’d say Martinsville is probably the third one just because it’s such a wildcard. I think it’s an underestimated wildcard for the XFINITY Series because the penultimate race has been critically important for the Championship 4 the last two seasons. You look at Justin Allgaier winning his way in last year at Phoenix as well as Christopher Bell in 2018 winning his way in at Phoenix and now this year that’s Martinsville — to a place with no practice, somewhere the XFINITY cars haven’t raced in a really long time and that can be a place for someone to have a really bad day or a really good day.”

YOU ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO THE 1.5-MILE TRACKS AND MARTINSVILLE THIS YEAR, WHEREAS A COUPLE YEARS AGO YOU’D PROBABLY HAVE SAID THE ROVAL. WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT YOUR MATURATION PROCESS AS A DRIVER? “I think from an outside standpoint, yeah, it’s probably a surprise. I’ve said it before today and gotten some funny looks, but I think the Roval is somewhere we can obviously go there and expect to have a solid day, but I’d say that’s probably one of our weaker road courses. You’ve got guys like Chase Brisoce and AJ Allmendinger and they’re gonna be in the race and I feel like they’ve been able to do a little better there than we have. I’m looking forward to that race because I think we’ve learned some things this year to get a little better and I’m looking forward to applying those, but as far as me personally, I’ve done enough of these races that I feel like to consider myself even a championship contender you’ve got to be good at all types of racetracks and I feel like that’s been a strength of our team really the last year-and-a-half.”


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