Dale Earnhardt Jr.: “I’m looking forward to seeing what this new [aero] package is going to do. It’s going to be a handful, everyone is going to be real loose.”
Jeff Burton: “I talked to a lot of drivers today, and not a single one knows what’s going to happen when they head into turn one. They are all anxious and indeed nervous.”
Ray Evernham on Jeff Gordon: “I think this new aero package suits his driving style. The cars slide around a lot here, Jeff likes that.”
Richard Childress reflects on last week’s epic crash: “I’ll never get over losing Dale [Earnhardt]. Never. But we have to go on. I know that’s what Dale would have wanted us to do, and that is what Austin wants us to do.”
SPARTA, Ky. – July 11, 2015 – NBCSN presents its first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race tonight with live coverage of the Quaker State 400 from Kentucky Speedway. Festivities kicked off with the Countdown to Green, Served by Sonic pre-race show, hosted by Krista Voda, who worked alongside former driver Kyle Petty and championship crew chief Ray Evernham. Also contributing to pre-race coverage were NBCSN reporters Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Mike Massaro and Dave Burns. Inside the NBCSN broadcast booth, race announcer Rick Allen, 21-time Sprint Cup winning driver Jeff Burton and Daytona 500-winning crew chief Steve Letarte offered their perspectives prior to the green flag.
The following are highlights from tonight’s NASCAR Sprint Cup pre-race coverage on NBCSN.
Evernham on Jeff Gordon’s chances of reaching victory lane tonight: “I think this new aero package suits his driving style. The cars slide around a lot here, Jeff likes that. Most of all, he is a big game player. The more that everyone talks about him not winning, the more he wants to win.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. connected with reporter Mike Massaro before climbing into his car and offered the following preview of tonight’s race: “No one has had a lot of track time, but I’m looking forward to the race, looking forward to seeing what this new [aero] package is going to do. It’s going to be a handful, everyone is going to be real loose and it’s going to be real tough to drive… It’s hard to get a hold of this race track. Getting your car to ride over the bumps and getting a splitter over the bumps is a real pain in the butt. We worked on it though, every chance we had and I think we improved our car quite a bit there at the end of practice.”
After Earnhardt Jr.’s comments, Kyle Petty added the following back at the pre-race set: “If we look at all of Dale Jr’s 25 wins, ten of them have been on speedways. He is an incredible restrictor plate racer. But Steve Letarte said it the other day on NASCAR America, Dale has got to start winning on these mile-and-a-half race tracks. He has got to back up those speedway wins with wins on other race tracks if he is going to contend for the championship.”
In the wake of last week’s horrific crash at Daytona, NBC Sports NASCAR reporter Marty Snider sat down with driver Austin Dillon this week in Charlotte, as well as his grandfather and team owner Richard Childress, and Austin’s father Mike for an in-depth feature. Each gave Snider their perspective on a night that they’ll never forget, and discussed how the experience has affected them heading into tonight’s race in Kentucky. The following are excerpts from the segment.
Austin Dillon: “I remember coming to the line thinking, ‘Alright, we’re going to finish right here in sixth or seventh and we’ll have a good day.’ I was just holding the wheel straight, then the next thing I knew, I was launched.”
Childress: “I see the 3 number up in the air and going into the fence, and my heart stopped. I was praying the whole time and that’s all that you can do in those situations.”
Austin Dillon: “I was kind of talking to myself through the whole wreck, ‘It’s almost over. It’s almost over.’ And then when I landed, I was sliding, and I was like, ‘Alright, you’ve got it. You made it. You made it.’ But the [No. 2 car] that came in at the end was probably the roughest… I was noticing that there was oil running out of the car. So that’s the next thing. I think the worst fear for a driver is fire.”
Marty Snider to Childress: “You’ve lived through thousands of these instances. Was this the toughest one you’ve ever had to deal with?”
Childress: “The toughest, I thought, was and it still is the toughest now that Austin’s okay… I’ll never get over losing Dale [Earnhardt]. Never. But we have to go on. I know that’s what Dale would have wanted us to do, and that is what Austin wants us to do.”
Burton on what the drivers must be feeling heading into tonight’s race with so many unknowns surrounding the new aero package: “I talked to a lot of drivers today, and not a single one knows what’s going to happen when they head into turn one. They are all anxious and indeed nervous.”
Letarte adds: “These crew chiefs lie awake at night thinking about what they need to do to their race car. Today when they drop the green flag, their drivers are going to have to drive side-by-side down into turn one. I’m sure they are nervous for their drivers and nervous for their race cars. Did they make the right adjustments and guess correctly?”
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