SALEM, Ind. – Chase Briscoe is giving the locals at Salem Speedway something to cheer for.
Briscoe set the tone early Saturday at Salem Speedway with the fastest speeds in both practice sessions. The Mitchell, Ind., hometown hero then turned around and won the Menards Pole presented by Ansell for Sunday’s Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA 200.
“I just can’t thank Cunningham Motorsports enough…Briggs Cunningham and Kerry Scherer…giving this local sprint car racer a shot in the best equipment I’ve ever been in,” Briscoe said. “This is just unbelievable.”
Mitchell, Ind., is about 20 minutes from the track. Briscoe expects as many as 500 hundred fans, friends, and family to be here Sunday for the race – according to tickets sales – maybe more.
Briscoe got a big cheer from the crowd when, in the final moments of qualifying, he knocked Christopher Bell off the pole with a time of 17.090 (116.910 mph).
“Christopher and I have been talkin’ smack for a month about this race. There were bragging rights on the line for this one. I gave it my all…I was way sideways on that lap in three and four, but it was good enough to get the pole,” said Briscoe.
This is Briscoe’s second consecutive pole in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, as Briscoe won the pole at Nashville last time out with a new track record, yet finished ninth in the race.
“That’s where my biggest struggle is. We definitely have more work to do to keep this car good over the long haul. A lot of that’s on me. We need to get the car to roll through the corners better. We were tight early today, but freed it up for qualifying…it worked,” Briscoe said.
As far as race strategy goes, Briscoe, a newcomer to pavement, says he’ll just go with the flow.
“I just don’t really have enough pavement experience to go at this with any specific strategy. I don’t really know what to do other than go with the flow…whatever happens, happens.”
Briscoe also brought up the subject of pit stops, something else new to the ARCA SCOTT Rookie of the Year contender.
“Pit stops are one of my biggest challenges. I’ve just never done them before. Everything here is new for me. I don’t get to practice them except when we race, and that’s usually just two stops per race. And I suck on the clutch…I stalled it three times today in practice…it’s just something I need more practice at,” Briscoe said.
“Cunningham brings such great race cars…it’s unbelievable. They make it easy. I’ve never been in top-notch equipment like this, and when you have the best stuff, it makes all the difference.”
Briscoe is off to a great start in 2016, finishing fourth at Daytona and ninth at Nashville. He’s currently second in championship standings behind point leader John Wes Townley. Sunday’s race here at Salem marks just his fifth pavement start ever.
“I’m going to try and lead the first lap for the bonus points…maybe I can sweet-talk (Christopher) Bell into letting me in. Either way, it doesn’t pay much to lead the first lap, or the 50th. It’s the last one that counts,” Briscoe said.
“I just want to do well for all the people that are coming out to support me. I want to win so bad, but I always want to win. With all the people coming out tomorrow, there is some extra motivation to not lose…that’s for sure.”
Bell, in his first ARCA Racing Series start, qualified second at 17.111 (116.767 mph) in the No. 66 JBL-Venturini Motorsports Toyota. Bell’s Venturini teammate Dalton Sargeant, also making his first ARCA start, qualified third at 17.210 (116.095 mph) in the No. 55 Toyota Racing Development Toyota. Point leader Townley, in the No. 05 Varigon Solutions Chevrolet, was fourth at 17.301 (115.485 mph). Kyle Plott, in the No. 1 Goodson Racing Ford, was impressive in his first Salem start, qualifying fifth with the same time and speed as Townley.