College basketball’s March Madness isn’t the only event likely to produce a Cinderella story or two this weekend. Based on how the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season has played out so far, few folks will be surprised if a first-time winner ends up in Victory Lane at Atlanta. Four races this season have yielded two first-time winners (Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe), and following Briscoe to the checkered flag last Sunday in Phoenix were two others in hot pursuit of their maiden victory — Ross Chastain and Tyler Reddick.
Will this Sunday be Chastain or Reddick’s time? Both have been fast all season. Ditto for Briscoe. “That’s so cool to race with Tyler and Chase (Briscoe),” Chastain said. “I mean, that’s like everything I’ve ever wanted.” Briscoe, who prior to Sunday had never finished better than third at the Cup level, led 101 of 312 laps en route to his victory. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver could be a factor again at Atlanta considering it seems like the Next Generation race car that made its official debut at Daytona in February has seemingly leveled the competition significantly between the power teams and those who typically struggle to contend for wins.
“I think this car, being new, not a lot of practice, the dirt guys (drivers with a dirt-track background) have always had to figure that out quickly,” said Briscoe, who cut his proverbial teeth racing sprint cars on dirt. “The guys that grew up Late Model or pavement racing, they don’t necessarily have that. They go and test and run hours of practice. The dirt guys, you’ve got to figure it out quickly and adapt. I think that’s why you’ve seen dirt guys run earlier in this Next Gen car. It’s an equalizer to a certain extent.”