“There was a time when he thought he would never be able to drive again, but now he is the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Champion.” – Rick Allen on Martin Truex Jr.
“It was the heavyweight fight that we all expected.” – Steve Letarte
“They have made everything happen at the right moments, and he did everything he needed to do here today at the end of the race.” – Dale Jarrett on Truex Jr.
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – November 19, 2017 – NBC Sports Group surrounded the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship with more than 22 hours of trackside coverage from Homestead Miami Speedway, in Homestead, Fla. Coverage was highlighted by this afternoon’s race for the title between Championship 4 contenders Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski. As part of NBC Sports’ coverage of the Championship, today’s broadcast celebrated Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s final race with exclusive interviews and spotlight views of NASCAR’s most iconic driver of his era.
After 267 laps of fierce competition, Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota held off Kyle Busch to secure the checkered flag and win the 2017 Championship. The victory marks Truex Jr.’s 8th Cup Series win of the season, and first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship.
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 Miami. Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Dave Burns and Parker Kligerman reported from pit road alongside features reporters Rutledge Wood and Ato Boldon.
Coverage began on NBC at 1:30 p.m. ET with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at 2 p.m. ET. 28-time Emmy Award winner Bob Costas and Krista Voda anchored pre-race coverage. Costas and Voda were joined by analysts Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett.
Prior to the race, Costas interviewed Dale Earnhardt Jr. before he climbed into the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the final Cup Series race of his career. Click here for a link to the full interview.
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2017 MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS
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The following are highlights from this afternoon’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship coverage on NBC.
Jarrett on race-winner Martin Truex Jr.: “Good things happen to good people. They have been the best car and the best team for the entire year. They have made everything happen at the right moments, and he did everything he needed to do here today at the end of the race.”
Petty added: “What you go through on the race track, makes you who you are as a race team. What you go through off the race track, makes you who you are personally. That just came together this year. With so many things off the race track, but so much success on the race track, it made them a team. It seems to be the glue that brought them all together and has held them together this year.”
Petty on Dale Earnhardt Jr.: “I don’t think there are many people happier than Earnhardt Jr. is right now for Martin.”
Rick Allen on race-winner Truex Jr.: “I think we heard it best from Martin. There was a time when he thought he would never be able to drive again, but now he is the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Champion.”
Burton added: “A great day for Furniture Row Racing, a single car team out of Colorado. No one gave them a shot when they started this. Here they are winning a Championship.”
Letarte added: “I think it comes down to the best car at mile-and-a-half tracks all year long. That is really the story of the entire team. With all of the stories and heartache away from the race track, they continued to find a way to persevere all season long.”
Letarte on the closing laps: “It was the heavyweight fight that we all expected. The closing laps with the two heavyweights toe-to-toe.”
Burton on the battle between Kyle Busch and Truex Jr. with four laps to go: “He is throwing everything he has at Martin Truex Jr. right now. He is just going to have to do something different. The things that he wants to do are not working.”
Burton as Kyle Busch closed the gap on Truex Jr.: “Kyle has to put his race car where it is the fastest. He has to not worry about Kyle Larson behind him. And it sounds crazy, but he has to not worry about Martin Truex Jr. in front of him. He has to focus on lap time. What is the fastest way around this race track.”
Letarte with 18 laps to go: “I love the coaching by Kyle Busch’s crew chief Adam Stevens. It is so calm and so direct.”
Burton on the caution flag with 39 laps to go: “That is what Truex Jr. wanted. That is what he needed!”
Letarte added: “This was the strategy for the No. 78. All of that work was to gain three positions. He is now the leader, and Kyle Busch is in fourth.”
Letarte with just under 70 laps to go: “Brad Keselowski forced everyone’s hand. He said, ‘I’m not going to wait until my pit window. I’m going to pit, take fresh tires, and try to make a gain on the other three.’ Kyle Busch is going to stay on the race track. This call by the No. 18 crew chief Adam Stevens will be the most difficult call of his career. He needs to run about seven or eight more laps to get into his pit window. But every one of those laps he is losing two-to-three seconds to those cars that have fresher tires.”
Letarte at the conclusion of Stage 2: “This is the last guaranteed yellow. From here, with 106 laps to go, we could possibly go 106 green, we could possibly have 10 yellows. We have no idea how these 100 laps are going to run.”
Burton with four laps to go in Stage 2: “I think Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski thought they were going to battle it out amongst themselves. Now Martin Truex Jr. is coming up through the field saying, ‘Hey guys don’t forget about me.’ Now it is a different ballgame.”
Burton on Danica Patrick’s emotional post-crash interview: “When you put your life and soul into this sport, and it’s time to do something else, it is very difficult. You can see she has high expectations. You can see, hear, and feel the disappointment.”
Burton on the Championship 4 drivers with three laps to go in Stage 1: “Kyle Busch has been flying. He is the most improved so far today. How many times do you think Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick have driven away from Martin Truex Jr. on mile-and-a-half race tracks? Truex Jr. and his team are on their heels. They are going to have to make some really good changes to this race car.”
Letarte added: “They have to make changes, but remember, the sun is still high in the sky. It will set. Somewhere toward the end of Stage 2, this race track will be in the darkness and will go through another big shift.”
Jarrett in reaction to the Dale Earnhardt Jr. feature voiced by This is Us star Justin Hartley: “He has had an outstanding career, but better than that, he is a great person.”
The full piece is available here.
Bob Costas with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Costas: “In your mind’s eye, how do you see this playing out? How do you want today to go?”
Earnhardt Jr.: “As a driver, you just want to be able to run all the laps. A lot of people came out here to watch our final race. You want to give them everything you can. Make it exciting. I’ve gotten a lot of advice from friends, family and my peers. They say, ‘Just enjoy it, soak it all in. It will be gone, and tomorrow will be another day.’”
Costas: “In a career that includes 26 victories, including two Daytona 500s, what stands out the most?”
Earnhardt Jr.: “What stands out the most to me are the relationships and friendships that I have made in this sport. Those are the things that I value the most and that I hope continue to carry on beyond my time at the track. Everything that ever happened to me in racing happened because of that fan base, and that support. The sponsorship and partners that we have, want to connect to that fan base. That is why they partnered with me. I understand that the driving force behind my success and opportunity in this sport, inside or outside the car, is all because of Jr. Nation. This year we have tried to do our best to show appreciation to them.”
Costas: “We know that many all-time greats, no matter the sport, never won a Super Bowl, World Series or NBA title. You never won the Cup Series. Is that a void of some kind?”
Earnhardt Jr.: “No, not really. As a competitor, you do hate that you did not win. But there are bigger things in life than what you do for a career. I hope being a race car driver doesn’t define me, when it is all said and done. I want to have other things in my life that I’m proud off, and that people recognize and remember me for. I go into the booth next year with NBC. I’m going to attack that, and prepare for that, and take that as seriously as I did driving race cars. I would love to have the same pride in that career as I do in the one as a race car driver. Also my wife and I are getting ready to have a child in May. Those are the things that trump about everything in life. Your family and relationships you have with your friends, and the people you work with, those are the things that I’m so proud of. I feel fortunate to have won races and done well, but that was the icing on the cake. I really just wanted to be able to make a living doing this, so I surpassed my own expectations.”
Costas: “You have been very candid about wanting to walk away with your health, and the rest of your life to enjoy fully in front of you. Since your dad’s tragic death at Daytona in 2001, at the highest levels of the sport, the sport has become safer. A lot of people credit you with changing the culture regarding safety around the sport. Do you see that as part of your legacy?”
Earnhardt Jr.: “Having gone through what I went through, with my concussions. I now understand how important it is to get in front of the right people when you have a problem. I didn’t appreciate, understand, or take that as seriously as I should. But being educated and going through that process, I would love to have the opportunity to help someone make the right choice for themselves. Whether it adds to the legacy or not, it is not really that important. It is just about making sure that people are healthy and doing the right things for themselves, long term.
Costas: “Dale thanks for the time. I hope this is a completely satisfying finale for you today.”
Earnhardt Jr.: “It will be. It already has been. Thank you for being here. It is a real honor for me.”
Earnhardt Jr.’s complete interview is available here.
–NBC SPORTS GROUP–