Indianapolis, IN – December 11, 2016 – Not only did Cunningham Motorsports and Chase Briscoe earn their first ARCA Racing Series championship, both driver and car owner, in dominating fashion, but they earned 83% of the other special awards…many of them also in commanding style. The organization had a lot to celebrate at the season-ending banquet Saturday night, as the 2016 ARCA Racing Series season came to a close. Rookie Chase Briscoe and his No. 77 Big Tine team grabbed the driver’s and the owner’s championship…the first for the organization in their 21 years in the ARCA Racing Series.
Before Chase began speaking, ARCA president, Ron Drager, presented Briscoe with a letter from Vice President Elect, Mike Pence, who stated, “As a rising Hoosier star, your career continues to make an impact on auto racing and the state of Indiana.” To be recognized by someone of this stature is the ultimate honor….regardless of your political views.
As Briscoe presented his speech, he meticulously spoke to each of his team members about how they had impacted his life and his racing career. And in true, Briscoe fashion, giving ultimate glory and honor to God for placing him within the organization that he referred to as his “second family. I am truly blessed. If you take the success we had on the racetrack out of the equation, the relationships I’ve made will be something I carry with me the rest of my life.”
He spoke to co-owners, Briggs and Beth Cunningham and Kerry Scherer about the special bond that he has developed with them…one that he will continue to treasure. Briscoe continued by thanking the guys in the shop who put in tireless, seemingly unappreciated hours working on his racecars by saying, “you are only as good as the race car you’re in and you guys put me in the best car each and every race.” He continued, personally naming team members and thanking them for their specific efforts, including Crew Chief Chad Bryant, his pit crew and his sponsors.
In addition to the top two awards of the night, the team earned many other prestigious awards…locking many of them up before the season was complete.
Chad Bryant earned his third consecutive Cometic Crew Chief award in a decisive battle with his buddy, Billy Venturini.
The Short Track Challenge by Protect Plus award was sewed up before the final short track race of the season, at Salem Speedway, took the green flag. Briscoe gave the Cunningham organization their second Short Track Challenge award in a row, after Kyle Weatherman earned the inaugural award during the 2015 season.
The Bill France Four Crown award is one of the most prestigious awards in ARCA. It symbolizes the diversity of the Series as it considers results from Winchester Speedway-short track (1st), New Jersey Motorsports Park-road course (4th), Du Quoin State Fair-dirt (4th), Chicagoland Speedway (1st). A 2.5 average finish, with two victories was tough to beat.
Briscoe led 35% of the 2711 laps during the season to earn the Valvoline Lap Leader award. His 949 laps led was 4 times the laps lead by any other driver this year. In addition, he completed the most laps to be awarded the S & S Volvo Laps Completed award. By earning six poles throughout the season (and getting the nickname of “Pole Boy” from Matt Kurzejewski), Briscoe handily took the Menards Pole by Ansell award, while his closest competitor had two poles. Additionally, the Fast Track Award and the R. E. Lightning Challenge award were also given to Cunningham Motorsports.
The Cunningham organization earned the Manufacturer’s Title for Ford on the strength of 8 wins, six from Briscoe and the No. 77 team, 1 win from Myatt Snider (the No. 22 team) and 1 win from Austin Cindric (the No. 99 team).
With 6 wins, 6 poles, 14 top-5 finishes and 18 top-10 finishes in 20 races, it certainly was a season to remember…one that may never happen again! An average finish of 5.15 and an average starting position of 3.75 showed incredible strength from a team that never quit….especially after a Tuesday wreck during the Kentucky test that forced them to return to their Mooresville shop to completely rebuild the No. 77 before returning for the first practice session in Sparta KY, early Friday morning.
The team let their hair down and relaxed their high pressure racing game faces …as soon as all of their banquet duties were complete… with a celebration at Cadillac Ranch in downtown Indy. Plenty of good times were had by all, including many current (Chad Bryant and pit crew), future (Dalton Sargeant) and past (Tom Hessert) team members taking a shot at the mechanical bull!
As I sit here writing my final press release, after 28 years as a public relations representative, I would be remiss if I didn’t pause and remember all of the wonderful experiences that I have been a part of, places I have been and the people I have met. It has been an incredible experience to be a small part of these young drivers career, so many that I know I would miss many names if I tried to list them. But, a few that remain a very important part of my life, Parker Kligerman, Alex Bowman, Kyle and Clayton Weatherman, Blake Jones, Tom Hessert, Austin Cindric and of course, Chase Briscoe. You, gentleman, and all of the other amazing young men that I had the honor to work with, have truly enriched my life and given me a purpose above and beyond my amazing family.
Finally, all attention turns to the 2017 ARCA Racing season, which will be here before the teams can hardly catch their breaths. As announced in a press conference, coinciding with the 2016 PRI show, Dalton Sargeant will be following in the big footsteps left by Chase Briscoe. He will drive the No. 77 Ford, beginning January 13, 2017, at Daytona International Speedway, when the new season begins with a two day open test. Sargeant will have no trouble taking over the championship car as the 2016 Rookie of the Year earned one victory and had 10 top-5 finishes and 12 top-10 finishes in 15 races.
Additionally, the Cunningham organization will have the support of the Ford Performance Technical Center in Concord, NC, as Cunningham Motorsports was named their driver development partner for 2017. This support should give Cunningham added opportunities to earn back to back championships in the upcoming season.