April 10, 2016 – Nashville, Tenn. – After experiencing the highs of leading the first practice, sitting on the pole at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville with a new track record and the No. 22 leading 32 laps, Cunningham Motorsports saw the other side of the spectrum during the 200 lap Music City 200 yesterday.
Chase Briscoe started from the pole, grabbing a new track record late in the qualifying session. After starting the day off in the first practice being the fastest and third in the final session, Briscoe earned his first ARCA Series pole, with a ‘one and done’ strategy. He took the record from last year’s Cunningham Motorsports driver, Kyle Weatherman, who grabbed the qualifying pole that had stood since 1983.
After qualifying, the new track record holder said, “We had a great start to our race day. To earn my first pole at such an historic track was really special.”
As the green flag flew, Briscoe, who has made only a handful of pavement starts, fell back a couple of spots, settling in to conserve his tires. Chase fell to 12th before his lone trip to pit road for right side General Tires, an air pressure adjustment and fuel. With a quick stop from his pit crew, Briscoe restarted in 7th on lap 87.
In the next forty laps, Briscoe continued to work toward the front…making it to third just after the halfway point. From that point Briscoe had his hands full as he started losing grip, as well as positions. Crew chief Chad Bryant was not alone with pit strategy that didn’t work. With no late caution… the last one occurring on lap 114 of the 200 lap event… the No. 77 team had a full set of tires in the pits after the race. Only a few teams opted to take their set of four tires during the early caution on lap 77.
Briscoe was able to earn his second top-10 of the young 2016 season with a 9th place finish. The disappointed driver commented, “Once the race started, I realized that we weren’t where we needed to be with long run speed and I place that issue fully on my shoulders. My biggest obstacle transferring over to stock cars is my communication with what I need on the setup. I feel like I let all of my amazing guys down. I hope I can make it back to them and co-owners Briggs (Cunningham) and Kerry (Scherer) at Salem in a couple of weeks. They are letting me fulfill my dream!”
Teammate Kevin Thomas, Jr. (KTJ) also enjoyed the highs and the lows of race day. In both practice sessions, he had the No. 22 fifth on the speed chart and qualified with a 7th starting spot. KTJ picked off one spot after another and quickly had wheeled the Ford into the lead in his third ARCA Series start. He held the point for 32 laps before the old, weathered, abrasive surface of the Fairgrounds Speedway track started taking its toll on his tires.
Crew chief Paul Andrews was on the same pit strategy as the No. 77 and called his rookie driver into the pits during the caution on lap 77 for right side tires and fuel. After restarting fifth, Thomas maintained a top-8 position…hoping for another yellow to take advantage of the fresh rubber awaiting him in the pits. But, the caution didn’t come.
While running in 7th, with five laps to go, KTJ said that the car, “just shut off.” Thinking that it could be out of fuel, Andrews directed Thomas into the pits for a splash of fuel. After receiving the fuel, Thomas pulled the car out of the pits to take the white flag lap, but couldn’t keep it running around the .596-mile track….relegating him to a disappointing 17th place finish.
During their ‘off week’, both teams will be testing on Thursday at Salem Speedway…the sight of the next ARCA Series presented by Menards race on Sunday, April 24. The Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 will mark the 99th ARCA Series race at the historic .555 high-banked track near Salem, IN. Two 45-minute practices will be followed on Saturday with Menards Pole Qualifying at 3:30 EST. The green flag will fly on 200 laps of racing Sunday at 2:15.
Follow Cunningham Motorsports on twitter @cunningham_race.