“You are telling me this guy doesn’t have a ride for next year? It is ridiculous.” – Jeff Burton on Matt Kenseth
“He did what he had to do to get the position.” – Burton on Chase Elliott’s collision with Denny Hamlin
“Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team’s chance to win an eighth NASCAR Cup Series Championship has expired here in 2017.” – Steve Letarte
AVONDALE, Ariz. – November 12, 2017 – NBC Sports Group surrounded the penultimate race of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, with more than 15 hours of trackside coverage from Phoenix International Raceway, in Avondale, Arizona. Coverage was highlighted by this afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 elimination race on NBC.
Matt Kenseth and the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota won the race, passing Chase Elliott in the final laps to secure the checkered flag. Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 Team Penske Ford finished in 16th place, and clinched the final spot in the Cup Series Championship, based on points.
With the 16th place finish, Keselowski joins Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. as the fourth and final driver to make the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4. Keselowski, Busch, Harvick and Truex will compete for the NASCAR Cup Series Championship next Sunday, November 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Live race coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.
NBC Sports Group’s lead race announcer Rick Allen, 21-time Cup Series winner Jeff Burton, and Daytona 500-winning crew chief Steve Letarte called today’s race in Phoenix. Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Dave Burns and Parker Kligerman reported from pit road alongside features reporter Rutledge Wood.
Coverage began on NBC at 1:30 p.m. ET with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at 2 ET on NBC. Krista Voda anchored pre-race coverage alongside analysts Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett.
|3||Martin Truex Jr.||78|
MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP FOUR DRIVERS
|1||Martin Truex Jr.||4168|
The following are highlights from this afternoon’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series coverage on NBC.
Petty on Keselowski clinching a spot in the Championship Four: “That was an ugly race for a lot of people. There was one seat at the table and it was Brad’s place to lose. He didn’t fight for it today, they really struggled all day long. It is not the way you want to get there, but he is there.”
Jarrett added: “He has had a nice body of work this season, which allowed him to have an off day. That is not what you want heading into the Championship, but these guys are so good at putting that behind them.”
Jarrett on the collision between Elliott and Denny Hamlin: “If the incident in Martinsville hadn’t happened, I think Chase Elliott would have raced just as hard here today. It just happened to be the No. 11 car that was in his way. That is just how you race when you are in a must-win situation.”
Petty added: “That is the racing gods balancing things back out.”
Burton on Elliott’s post-race comments about Hamlin: “He followed the old school rule. Don’t go looking for a fight, but if a fight comes to you, fight back. Race drivers as they race you.”
Burton on race-winner Kenseth: “You are telling me this guy doesn’t have a ride for next year? It is ridiculous… You don’t see that much emotion from Matt Kenseth normally. It is clear how much this meant to him. This sport doesn’t give you anything. Matt Kenseth took this win today.”
Letarte on the battle between Kenseth and Elliott with 10 laps to go: “This isn’t about the Playoffs, this isn’t about teammates. This is about Matt Kenseth and his career. He doesn’t know if it will continue.”
Burton on Hamlin’s 2017 Championship hopes ending: “He had a great car all day. You know he is angry and disappointed…This is about Martinsville. We don’t see Chase race like this very often. This is Chase Elliott saying, ‘Denny you took away an opportunity for me to get into the Championship. I have an opportunity right now and you are in my way. If I have to use you to get there, I am going to use you.’ That is the decision that Chase made. I don’t think he meant to crash Denny. He did what he had to do to get the position.”
Letarte on Jimmie Johnson’s blown tire on lap 149: “At this point, Johnson and the No. 48 team’s day here in Phoenix is done. The chance to win an eighth NASCAR Cup Series Championship has expired here in 2017.”
Letarte on Kevin Harvick: “The win by Kevin Harvick last weekend at Texas was a major victory for the team and guaranteed them a spot in Miami, but it was more than just a win. They ran Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 78 down, and passed him during the closing laps. We have yet to see anyone do that this season on a mile-and-a-half track. That made it an even bigger win for Harvick, with a little boost of momentum. Harvick and the No. 4 team now believe they can beat the No. 78.”
Allen on Kyle Larson’s engine trouble: “What an incredible end of the season. Kyle Larson simply cannot wait for the final lap of next week’s race in Miami.”
Burton added: “These last four races for Larson have been catastrophic.”
Burton on the Round of 8 drivers: “As this race rolls on, things will start to get more aggressive and the pace will change. Everybody was trying to figure out what they had during that first stage. You have a lot of people who can’t afford to get in to a wreck. They still have time and are not in desperation mode yet. It’s coming quickly though.”
Letarte added: “I think even the other cars understand that. They are a little cautious and they don’t want to be part of the story if someone has a bad day. They are giving each other a little extra space, but that will go away quickly.”
Petty on the Round of 8 drivers: “It’s time to take. All take and no give. It is time for these guys to grab every point they can. Right now, this is the biggest race of their season.”
Jarrett on Jimmie Johnson: “You can never count out a seven-time Cup Series Champion. All of the drivers out there know it, and have thought about it going in to today’s race.”
–NBC SPORTS GROUP–