“It was 65,000 – 1 that he could win three races in a row, and Brad Keselowski did it.” – Rick Allen
“If this race was another 100 miles, I’m not sure we would have had any Playoff cars left.” – Steve Letarte
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – September 16, 2018 – NBC Sports surrounded the first race of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, with more than 16 hours of trackside coverage from Las Vegas Motor Speedway, in Las Vegas, Nev. Coverage was highlighted by this afternoon’s Cup Series race on NBCSN, which saw Brad Keselowski and Team Penske’s No. 2 Ford take the checkered flag for a third consecutive week. Keselowski’s victory marked Team Penske’s 500th win.
NASCAR on NBC’s lead race announcer Rick Allen called the action alongside 21-time Cup Series race winner Jeff Burton, from NBC Sports’ booth above the start/finish line. Motorsports icon and NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Daytona 500 winning crew chief Steve Letarte, provided additional insight from NBCSN’s second broadcast booth. Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Dave Burns and Parker Kligerman reported from pit road, alongside features reporter Rutledge Wood.
Coverage began on NBCSN at 1:30 p.m. ET with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at 2:30 p.m. ET. Krista Voda hosted pre- and post-race coverage alongside Hall of Fame driver Dale Jarrett and NASCAR on NBC reporter Nate Ryan.
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The following are highlights from this afternoon’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race coverage on NBCSN.
Allen on race winner Brad Keselowski: “It was 65,000 – 1 that he could win three races in a row, and Brad Keselowski did it.”
Burton on the multiple Playoff drivers who suffered race-ending collisions: “This could be the most important race in the Playoffs. We have a three-quarter mile track in Richmond next week, the road course in Charlotte coming up… that everyone has said will be chaos, and here we are with so many incidents in Round 1. This is not what these guys wanted. It’s amazing how many of the Playoff drivers that have had issues.”
Letarte added: “It’s the Playoffs. The drivers don’t take these risks in the regular season. I’m not even sure they are doing this consciously. It’s a subconscious reaction. These drivers are aggressive when the Playoffs start.”
Letarte: “It’s a good thing this was a 400 mile race. If this race was another 100 miles, I’m not sure we would have had any Playoff cars left.”
Burton on the collision between Kevin Harvick and Erik Jones with 10 laps to go: “This is the first race of the Playoffs, and Erik Jones does not have a lot of Playoff points, but Kevin Harvick does. Now, before the end of the second stage of the first race, both of these guys have a lot of ground to make up.”
Letarte added: “The system rewards the first 26 races. It’s not just about entering the Playoffs, it’s about entering the Playoffs with an extra bucket of points for just such an issue like this.”
Burton on Harvick with 21 laps to go: “You see how easy it is for him. That’s just what we see him do on these hot and slick racetracks. Harvick does such a good job of grabbing the line and rolling all the way around the racetrack.”
Earnhardt on Kurt Busch and the battle for second place: “Kurt Busch has been fast all weekend. He’s got a real opportunity to have an awesome day today.”
Letarte on Kurt Busch: “This is what we have been waiting for. Who is going to emerge in the middle of this Playoff pack? We talk about the ‘Big Three’, but Kurt Busch has raised his hand and said I want to be a contender as well.”
Jarrett on pressure for the Playoff drivers: “We’ve talked about pressure. They’ve had pressure for 26 weeks. Some drivers got to the Playoffs easily by winning a race early on. Others have had to fight for those 26 weeks. Now that pressure is literally double.”
Jarrett on Playoff mistakes: “What you have to do when you get in these playoffs is minimize mistakes. You just can’t overcome that. Every point is going to matter.”
Ryan on Kyle Larson as a favorite to race for the championship: “I think he can win the championship, because the team is getting Larson faster cars. We saw that at Darlington. They’re shoring up his pit crew. I think the real key is the development of Kyle Larson into a leader. We’re seeing a maturation in him….and that gives him a chance to run for a title.”
Jarrett on Martin Truex Jr.: “He probably has next year already planned out, but it’s still a distraction for everything going on around him. It’s not his abilities I’m concerned about. It’s not his crew chief that I’m concerned about. It’s having everyone else pulling in the same direction. To beat these drivers, it takes every bit of focus, and energy, and effort you can put there.”
Kligerman from behind the wheel of the NBC Sports Toyota on-track car: “We’ve been talking about how hot and slick this racetrack is. It’s been the talk of the entire garage.”
Jarrett on Denny Hamlin’s chances: “I’m not saying Denny Hamlin has to win here for me to become a believer. At the first race of the year, I really thought he would be one of the Championship Four, but I haven’t seen that in the last couple of months. Can they turn this around and make themselves the championship caliber driver and team that we expect from Denny Hamlin?”
–NBC SPORTS GROUP–