Burton: “Everyone is afraid to make mistakes, but at the same time, they know that they have to do great things over the next 10 races if they want to win it all.”
Letarte: ““I don’t think it’s any shocker that when we arrived here at the first playoff race, Jimmie Johnson and that Lowe’s Chevrolet was fast again. There’s a reason that he’s a six-time champion.”
Joliet, Ill. — September 20, 2015 — NBCSN presents Sprint Cup Series racing from Chicagoland Speedway this afternoon, marking the first event of the NASCAR’s 2015 Playoffs. Sixteen drivers enter today’s event outside of “The City of Big Shoulders” with an opportunity to capture the Championship on November 22 in Miami on NBC.
Today’s coverage began with the Countdown to Green pre-race show, hosted by Krista Voda alongside analysts Kyle Petty and Hall of Fame driver Dale Jarrett. Green-flag racing from Chicagoland was handled by NBC Sports’ lead race announcer Rick Allen, 21-time winning Sprint Cup driver Jeff Burton, and Daytona 500-winning crew chief Steve Letarte. Reporters Rutledge Wood, Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Mike Massaro and Dave Burns contributed throughout the broadcast.
The following are highlights from this afternoon’s Sprint Cup pre-race coverage on NBCSN.
Burton from behind the wheel of NBC Sports’ Toyota Camry On Track Car: “There’s a lot going on here at this difficult race track, a lot of pressure, and a lot of things that are going to determine who is going to can win this race, and who can advance into the next round. It all starts right here today.”
Denny Hamlin to Burns on his difficulty during qualifying: “Whatever was in the car, it just did not work on Friday. But it obviously has been good ever since then (in practice). We’re pretty optimistic that we can get up to the front, and that’s the plan.”
From the pre-race set, Voda added: “It can happen. Kevin Harvick won this race in 2002 starting 32nd.”
Letarte: “The pressure here today extends past the drivers to the crew chiefs and the teams. When I walked through the garage here at Chicagoland, I saw a lot of serious looks and not too many lighthearted conversations. Every decision that these crew chiefs make… When to pit? Which spring to put in the car? How are you going to approach the race? And for the crews, it’s every stop, every lug nut. The stakes are multiplied, and the teams are feeling the mounting pressure.”
Prior to the Green flag, Burton from the broadcast booth: “These Chase drivers have worked all year long to put themselves in this position, but think about it this way, they’ve also worked a lifetime to put themselves in this position. It’s not often that you have a chance to win a Championship. They’re all afraid to make mistakes, but at the same time, they know that they have to do great things over the next 10 races if they want to win it all.”
Letarte: “I don’t think it’s any shocker that when we arrived here at the first playoff race, Jimmie Johnson and that Lowe’s Chevrolet was fast again in qualifying and practice. There is a reason that he’s a six-time champion. He has found a way to approach these last 10 races with success, and we’ll see if he can turn his season around and find some speed in that car here today.”
Allen after tenor Jim Cornelison delivered a passionate rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” reminiscent of his regular performances prior to Chicago Blackhawks home games: “Now THAT is how is how you start the first race of the playoffs here at Chicagoland!”
–NBC SPORTS GROUP–