NASCAR Cup points leader Martin Truex Jr. is riding high. He’s coming off his sixth win of the season at Charlotte, which earned him a berth in the Round of 8, and comes into Talladega this weekend truly in the driver’s seat.
This year’s race at NASCAR’s longest track is unique. In the last few playoffs, Talladega has been a cut-off race in the second round. This year, it’s not — it’s the middle race of the Round of 12.
In addition, stage racing is going to once again be important for drivers who need to prop up their chances of advancing to Round 3 of the playoffs. Truex leads all drivers with a massive 19 stage wins. Can he make it 20 or 21?
Our NASCAR America analysts — Brian Vickers, Kyle Petty and Nate Ryan — talked about that on Thursday’s show.
Heading into this weekend’s race, Truex holds a rather unique record of sorts: he’s 0-50 in restrictor plate race starts at Talladega and Daytona. Because he’s already locked into the Round of 8 with his win Sunday at Charlotte, Truex could coast at ‘Dega. But don’t expect him to do so. He wants that elusive plate race win and the bonus points that go with both winning the race as well as either (or both) of the two stages.
So, given that Truex said Wednesday that he needs to be more of a “jerk” — otherwise known as being more aggressive — at ‘Dega, will he actually do so? And if he does, could he make enemies that might make his road to Homestead-Miami tougher?
Kyle, Nate and Brian discussed that, as well in the video below:
Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Carolyn Manno anchors from Stamford, Connecticut along with Brian Vickers. Steve Letarte and guest driver Scott Speed join us from NBC Charlotte.
Among topics on today’s show:
- The NASCAR playoffs roll into New Hampshire for the final time this weekend (the track goes from two annual races to just one in 2018). We’ll preview the second race in the Round of 16, including a look at which playoff drivers are already in trouble and the return of PJ1 traction compound to spice up the action at the Magic Mile.
- Rivalries have sustained NASCAR through the years, but lately, they’ve been tough to find outside of the continuing saga between Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. What can NASCAR do to create more rivalries – and can the pressure-packed Playoffs play a role? Sirius XM NASCAR Radio’s Pete Pistone will share his thoughts when he joins today’s show.
- We’ll also see how things are in Global Rallycross & the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. GRC points leader Scott Speed joins the show to talk about his pursuit of a third straight title. Plus, we’ll see if Todd Gilliland or Harrison Burton got the edge in their race for the K&N East championship, as we look back on last week’s race at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.
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Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.
Kyle Larson‘s third-place finish in Sunday’s Southern 500 marked his fourth top-10 finish in the last six races, building momentum for the Chase.
NASCAR America analysts Brian Vickers and Parker Kligerman discuss Larson’s recent run and how he could do in the playoffs.
“One thing I have noticed, I’ve seen this in Kyle, he has that aggressive confidence,” Vickers said. “That moment where who is going to lift first? It’s not him anymore. For a while it kind of was.
“Once you get that first win under your belt, you’re like ‘I belong here, I deserve to be here, there’s no way I’m lifting for this guy, I don’t care who it is.’ I see that out of Kyle Larson right now. He’s driving smart, good races, he’s got good cars, they’re getting faster.”
After issues on pit road cost Kevin Harvick a chance to win Sunday’s Southern 500, Harvick said his pit crew was doing a “terrible job.” Harvick also said that “I’m over being a cheerleader. Those guys get paid a lot of money to perform on pit road, and cheerleading hasn’t really been working. You’ve got to get after it on pit road and do your job.”
NASCAR America analysts Brian Vickers and Parker Kligerman discussed if Harvick took the right approach with his crew after the race.
“Don’t misunderstand me, Harvick has a right to be furious, and I think he should be mad,” Vickers said. “I’m not even saying that someone shouldn’t be fired over some of the issues that they’ve had, but there’s just a time and place. For me personally, I don’t like to handle those things in the public view. I don’t like to push the button on the radio. I don’t like to talk about it on TV or put it in the public. We go to the trailer, we go to the shop and we hash things out.”
Kligerman said: “There’s no doubt this is not the correct way to handle anything, is to put it out there in the media.”
Kligerman also discussed the matter from Harvick’s perspective.
“There’s no way that we’re going to condone this, but I want to step into Kevin’s shoes a little bit and just explain how do you get so frustrated as a driver,” Kligerman said. “It comes down to a lot of what Kevin does in the background, what he does to prepare for these races, how much effort he puts into these races to become a championship-caliber at this level. It’s a huge amount of effort. When (crew chief) Rodney Childers is putting out great race cars … that are leading the most laps in a race, when it comes down to one link that continually loses them the race, there’s going to be a point which it breaks and that’s where they’re at now.”
The NASCAR America crew of Jeff Burton, Dale Jarrett and Brian Vickers discuss the pit road penalty Martin Truex Jr. received at Kentucky Speedway.
The crew shows that this wasn’t the only example of a car passing another one on pit road this season.
“There are examples where we’ve seen this and that’s what makes this complicated,” Burton said. “In Martin Truex’s defense, he can truly say ‘I’ve done nothing different than what I’ve seen other people do without penalty and you guys decided to penalize me.’
“I do believe NASCAR did it because it was more blatant, it was more clear and they felt like some drivers had started to complain about it a little bit, but I wish what they would have done was at the drivers meeting play a video and said, ‘OK guys here’s what we’re seeing, we’re not going to let this go on.’ They’ve opened Pandora’s box now. Now, if you get passed by a car length or two inches it’s not going to matter which difference it is, that’s the problem I have. I just wish NASCAR would have addressed it before the race or when they started to feel like this was a problem, not when the problem happened on a particular night.”