NBC Sports NASCAR analysts Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, Dale Jarrett, Kyle Petty and Steve Letarte, as well as NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood, previewed the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship on a media conference call on Tuesday afternoon.
Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. will race for the 2019 championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla., this Sunday, November 17, at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.
Following are highlights of Tuesday’s call. Click here to read a full transcript of the call.
Burton on unpredictability of Sunday’s race: “I would encourage the fans and media, everybody involved – ignore the stats. This is like going to a football game and it’s going to snow. I don’t care that Kevin Harvick did something on mile-and-a-halves this year. This isn’t a normal mile-and-a-half racetrack. I don’t care that Denny Hamlin sat on the pole three races. I don’t care. Completely different package.”
Earnhardt Jr. on Playoff format and pressure on championship race: “It seems like you have to win the race to win the championship. You have to go in there with a car capable of winning, a winning strategy, and execute to be the champion. That's been really profound. I think when we started this system, I don't know that anybody expected the champion to have to win the race each season, but that's kind of been what it takes.”
Jarrett on competitive racing in 2019: “These are the four very best. This has been the best season of racing that we’ve seen in many, many years. The Playoffs have just been phenomenal. I expect nothing less on Sunday afternoon.”
Petty on Denny Hamlin: “It just seems like Denny Hamlin has the team of destiny. I compare it to Alan Kulwicki. I spent a lot of time with him the year he won the championship. For all the things that happened, all the things he went through that year, it’s just like you felt he was going to win a championship. I think it’s been that way for Denny since they dropped the green flag at Daytona. This will be the end of the story.”
Earnhardt Jr. on Hamlin: “Some drivers really don't waver a lot when they're confident or uncertain. I think Denny is a much, much better racecar driver when he's very confident. He seems to make different decisions, push himself into situations, succeed in that kind of environment. I think the confidence that he has this year could be the difference-maker for him to win the championship. I don't know that he had that in the past times when he was coming into this type of scenario.”
Burton on Kyle Busch’s winless drought: “I can't quite figure out where Kyle is. I know he was disappointed with second. You know what I mean? He was clearly in his post-race interview not happy with finishing second. I think that came from the fact that at one point his teammate was a half a lap in front of him under green. Kyle is not accustomed to that.”
Jarrett on Kyle Busch: “For the last few months, it’s something that has been a distraction to the driver and to the team. Can they rebound from that? Can they put everything aside here for one weekend and do everything right? I find it hard to believe, mainly because what Jeff has talked about there, is they haven’t had the speed, as much as even their teammates, much less throwing Kevin Harvick in the mix there.”
Letarte on Joe Gibbs Racing vs. Stewart-Haas Racing: “I think the three Joe Gibbs cars are going to separate themselves and run as three independents. I think it's more the week-long preparation. Even if the Joe Gibbs guys split up, it's still one organization that is supporting three cars, where Stewart-Haas only has one car. To be quite honest, the speed of the Joe Gibbs cars have been so high all year long, D.J. joked about it at NASCAR America, I would rather take a Joe Gibbs car with divided effort than perhaps a Stewart-Haas car.”
Petty on Kevin Harvick: “When he thinks it's everybody against him, he is a dangerous, dangerous man. He's the most dangerous team. He and Rodney are the most dangerous group going to Homestead because you can't measure that heart inside his body… it's important for Kevin Harvick. He's 44 years old. This is important for him. We're fast approaching a sport where you get a 13- or 14-year career, that's it. You don't get to drive for 25 years anymore.”
NBC Sports PR