“Kyle Busch will go down in history as one of the best drivers ever.” – Dale Jarrett
“All of this is fair game. If you’re going to bang doors, be ready.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the dramatic finish between Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson
“A thumbs up from the guy that didn’t go to victory lane.” – Steve Letarte on Kyle Larson
JOLIET, Ill. – July 1, 2018 – NBC Sports Group surrounded the launch of the 2018 NASCAR on NBC season this week with more than 18 hours of trackside coverage from Chicagoland Speedway. Coverage was highlighted by this afternoon’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on NBCSN, which saw Kyle Busch and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota narrowly beat Kyle Larson in the final lap to take the checkered flag.
Today’s race coverage also featured the debut of NBC Sports’ newest on-air contributor Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the broadcast booth alongside NBC Sports Group’s lead race announcer Rick Allen, 21-time Cup Series winner Jeff Burton and Daytona 500-winning crew chief Steve Letarte. Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast and Dave Burns reported from pit road alongside features reporter Rutledge Wood.
Coverage began on NBCSN at noon ET with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at 2 p.m. ET. Krista Voda anchored pre-race coverage from NASCAR on NBC’s new state of the art “Peacock Pit Box” alongside analysts Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett.
|4||Martin Truex Jr.||78|
2018 NASCAR CUP SERIES STANDINGS
|4||Martin Truex Jr.||594|
|16||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||367|
The following are highlights from this afternoon’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race coverage on NBCSN.
Earnhardt on his first race telecast with NBC Sports: “This was a great race from start to finish. I have to applaud the drivers. They had really hot and really miserable conditions, but we had a battle for the lead pretty much all day long. A lot of story lines, and an awesome finish. Also we talked about the ‘Big Three’ and we wondered who was going to come up there and challenge those guys. Kyle Larson showed himself today. I don’t know if it is like this every weekend, but this has been a lot of fun. I knew it would be. It checks all the boxes. I get to stay at the track. I love racing, I love being around racing. It felt so good to be here and have a purpose while I’m here. To be able to be an asset to the sport in any way, shape, or form makes me happy.”
Jarrett: “Kyle Busch will go down in history as one of the best drivers ever. What he did today shows that he is one of the greatest.”
Burton on the down to the wire finish: “That is what I like to see. I like to see two guys going at it that care and want it really bad. That is what we got today. Both of these guys understood what happened, and are still talking.”
Earnhardt on the dramatic finish: “I think Larson could have been a lot more aggressive right there. He could have run into Kyle Busch and made that situation a lot worse. He tried to give him enough room. But all of this is fair game. If you’re going to bang doors, be ready.”
Burton on Larson’s response to Kyle Busch’s hard racing: “Look at the thumbs up, look at the thumbs up! That is good racing.”
Letarte added: “That is hard racing. I love to see that hard racing, and a thumbs up from the guy that didn’t go to victory lane.”
Allen as Kyle Busch spun Larson to take the win in the final lap: “That is what it means to win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series…The crowd went wild.”
Burton added: “We went wild!”
Earnhardt on Kyle Busch hearing Larson brushed the wall: “As a crew chief and a spotter, I want to hear that. If I’m Kyle Busch I want to hear that the No. 42 just brushed the wall so that it can calm me down a little bit and I don’t make a mistake.”
Burton on Larson running second with 10 laps to go: “With 10 laps to go it is hard to get in your mind and realize that you don’t have to do it all in one lap. You can’t push too hard.”
Burton in reaction to Kurt Busch’s frustration over the radio: “You are racing! It is a stage race man. You are racing.”
Earnhardt on the battle between Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch in the final lap of Stage 2: “Man I love stage racing. That was awesome! I’m sorry, I just can’t control myself!”
Burton on Harvick stealing the Stage win from fellow teammate Kurt Busch: “Harvick jumped up on the outside, gave Kurt no room, and pulled all the air off of the side of him. With the Stage win in hand he didn’t run up there on the wall, he put the left side in Busch’s right side and stole that win!”
Earnhardt on race leader Almirola coming down pit road due to a loose wheel: “That is one of the toughest calls that a driver will make during the race. Do I come down pit road? Is this really a loose wheel? A driver doesn’t want to come down pit road, especially when he is leading a race.”
Letarte added: “I like the call. That is a moment of time when you build trust between driver and crew chief. And even though I have the data, I’m not going to argue with (the driver). If you feel it, I’m going to commit to you.”
Earnhardt on Larson losing electrical power on pit road: “The cars have changed so much over the years. The protocol of what to do when that happens is often unknown by the drivers. The driver has to relay what happened and then get some information from the crew chief. And hopefully the crew chief knows what to do.”
Letarte added from a crew chief’s perspective: “I was going to tell you, after you talk to me, I look at the motor guy. I know I’m supposed to remember all of those codes, but there are so many different functions within that dash.”
Earnhardt as Almirola led the field at the beginning of Stage 2: “We have been waiting on this performance from Almirola all year long. He has been sitting there being consistent but not running in the top three. Not getting the same type of dominance that we have seen out of his teammates. This is what we want to see from Aric, and this is what Aric wants to see. This is a career day for him.”
Letarte to Earnhardt, on the 150 degree temperatures inside the race cars: “I told you the booth is a good place to be! It’s a lot cooler up here (laughing).”
Earnhardt on the heat: “I’m glad I’m not out there. I don’t miss that at all. This is probably the worst I’ve ever seen it here.”
Letarte to Earnhardt with 11 laps to go in Stage 1: “My new booth mate here. During that green flag cycle it was dramatic. He didn’t know if he should be watching pit in or pit out. So what do you think, the view from the booth is crazy isn’t it?”
Earnhardt in response: “That has been the toughest part of the job, going through that pit cycle, because I have lived it from inside the car. I come down pit road and I come back out and I don’t know why guys are further ahead or further behind, I just go with it. But that right there was impressive. To watch you guys dissect everything that everyone was doing. There are so many different strategies. I have got a lot to learn.”
Petty on Kurt Busch: “I look at Kurt and sometimes think he is the forgotten child over at Stewart-Haas Racing. We talked about the dominance of Kevin Harvick, the resurgence of Clint Bowyer, the career year that Aric Almirola is having, and then it is like, ‘What about Kurt Busch?’ The last seven races his average finish has been 7.3, he has three top-fives, six top-tens. He is on a roll right now, he is coming into his own in the heat of the year. This is when you can catch people on their heels a little bit, put up some big numbers and find your way into the Playoffs.”
Voda to Petty on the ‘Big Three’ leading the Cup field: “I don’t know if we have seen a triple headed monster like this, Harvick, Kyle Busch and Truex, since the day your dad was racing?”
Petty added: “I think we go back to Pearson and Petty pushing each other, to Earnhardt and Gordon pushing each other. We are in a unique place in this sport right now.”
Pre-race coverage included a feature on the city of Chicago and its legendary sports history, voiced by former Chicago Bears head coach and Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Ditka. The full piece is available here.
–NBC SPORTS GROUP–