Championship 4

What Cup Championship 4 drivers said at Media Day

3 Comments

The drivers who will compete for the Cup title this weekend convened in Miami Beach today for the Championship 4 Media Day.

Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick addressed many topics ahead of Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

Here are highlights from each driver’s availability.

 

Martin Truex Jr.

On being less successful on 1.5-mile tracks than last year: “If I compare this year to last year, I would say this year ‑‑ you know, like last year, we were lights out.  The 4 car (Kevin Harvick), if they could hit it, they could beat us.  This year the 4 car has been lights out, and if we hit it, we can beat them.  I know, if we hit it, we can beat any of them, and we showed that.

“It’s been harder to consistently hit that target this year.  It’s been more difficult.  With that said, though, I felt like both Kansas and Texas, we weren’t bad.  Man, we had everything go against us.  Like everything that could possibly happen wrong went wrong, so we really had to battle and fight.  You know, pit stop issues and cautions falling at the wrong time and all that stuff, and we didn’t have any of that last year.

“All that being said, I feel good about this weekend.  But it’s going to be tough.  It’s not going to be easy.  There’s no question.”

 

On what he’ll miss about working with Furniture Row Racing: “I’ve never been on a team that I feel like makes me a better driver every single weekend.  Always finds a way to make me better.  I don’t know if we’ll be able to continue that.  I don’t know if we’ll be able to put together a group that can keep that going.  I know (crew chief) Cole (Pearn) is a really, really big part of that, so obviously, staying together with him is important.

“But there’s so many things that go into building a championship caliber team and so many decisions throughout the week.  You know, I don’t know how the dynamic will change, but just feeling the way I feel every weekend that I go to the racetrack, and I feel like we can win.”

MORE: Martin Truex Jr.: ‘I won’t just wreck a guy … unless it’s the 22’

Joey Logano

On being with his Championship 4 rivals during a long week of promotion: “You don’t know what you’re getting into until you get there sometimes, how everyone is going to handle the situation.  There’s been times I’ve been part of this, the head games start when we go to New York.  Everyone starts throwing little jabs here and there.  You’re like, ‘Wow, okay.’

“Then the last couple times really for me … we’ve all tried to find ways to enjoy it.  The situation is we’re all going to be stuck on an airplane together, we’re going to be stuck in a car together, we’re going to do all these things in New York together.  There’s no one else with us.  We didn’t bring our assistants with us or anything like that.  We were on our own.

“Actually we talked a lot, talked a lot about racing, talked a lot about not racing.  We have so much in common, race car drivers do, right?  No one else knows our lifestyle but other race car drivers.  I think you have a lot in common to talk about things like that.

“I think everyone understands that when we get to the racetrack, you put the helmet on, you’re there to win.  You’re still a competitor, there to beat them.  You got to be able to find the light switch in there at some point.  I feel like I found that quite a few years ago to where you can flip a light switch, be competitive, be a hard racer, but flip it off and be human.”

 

On making Championship 4 after missing playoffs in 2017: “I think you finish second in the points (in 2016), you think making the playoffs is a given.  That’s going to be easy.  We quickly found out that is not a given.  It’s a little harder than you think.  We learned a lot last year as a race team.  We dug hard.  We’ve slowly scratched and clawed our way back to where we are.  Didn’t come till about 10 weeks ago.

“We scratched and clawed throughout a lot of this season to find a little bit more speed, a little bit more, a little bit more.  We kept ourselves up there in points all season, but we weren’t in contention to win, like I said, last 15 weeks or so.”

Kevin Harvick

On how having children keeps him from losing his temper: “Look, if I was jumping over the hood of a car right now, went into my house, had a 6‑year‑old (who) saw me trampling, do you know how embarrassed I would be to walk in the front door and answer that question?  ‘Hey, dad, why did you jump over that guy’s car, grab him by the throat?’ Well, probably wasn’t the right thing to do. Then it would get more embarrassing as you take him to school, drive through the carpool lines to see his teachers that are all watching as well. Don’t say all the right things, do the right things.  As you go through life, I would hope we all mature from a life standpoint to be able to be a better person. I still screw up a lot.”

On his strengths and weaknesses at Miami: “A lot of that depends on what your car is doing on a particular weekend.  I don’t think any year is going to be the same as to what you fight. They changed the tire this year.  That’s obviously a little bit different than what we’ve had in the past. It’s definitely a situation to where tomorrow is really not going to tell us anything as far as that goes, as well, because you’re going to run three laps in practice, hopefully run three laps in qualifying, then you’re going to put it into what matters, and that’s race trim. You want to qualify on the pole if you can because the pit box is an advantage, so close to the timing line.  It’s a unique racetrack. You know running right against the fence is probably the fastest way around after lap 25. What happens if there’s only 20 laps left? Where do you run then? Do you run the bottom, the middle? You just have to have options here from what your car will do, what you do as a driver because it’s such a unique track.”

 

Kyle Busch

On the finale being disappointing if Joey Logano wins the title:  “I would agree with that statement.  He’s been there.  He’s been consistent.  He’s been good.  He hasn’t necessarily performed to the level of the Big 3 and that’s no shake on them at all.  It’s just the fact of the matter.  So if he wins the title over the rest of us, then that would certainly be a little bit more disappointing.”

 

On if he gets nervous in championship scenarios: “I think so. I think last year in the situation between myself and Truex, like, yeah, I wouldn’t say you’re nervous, but you’re just feeling everything and pushing everything.  So you’re tensed up a lot more than what you would probably normally be just trying to not mess up and hit every single mark exactly perfect.

“Sometimes that’s ‑‑ I go faster in those situations, and sometimes I go slower in those situations.  So you’ve always just got to try to keep a level head and a frame of mind of being able to go out there and just focus on the job and the task at hand.”

 and on Facebook

NASCAR America: Capitalizing on opportunities wins championships

Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

After 35 points-paying events, it all comes down to one final showdown in Miami (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC).

Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano will race to see who takes home the 2018 Monster Energy Cup trophy.

Harvick, Busch and Truex have a chance to become only the 16th driver in NASCAR history to win multiple championships. Logano is vying for his first.

Harvick knows winning the championship is about capitalizing on every opportunity that comes around. He offered his 2014 championship and Jimmie Johnson‘s 2016 Cup as twice in the past four years that the winning car was not necessarily the best car.

“Being there and doing that in 2014 with a similar situation to what Martin has – I didn’t feel like we had the best particular car on that particular night, but we had the circumstances and things kind of fall our way and we were able to capitalize on them,” Harvick said. “And you look back … at Jimmie Johnson, the other cars all wrecked (in 2016). He was the worst car on that particular night. … You just gotta keep yourself in the game.”

Earlier in Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, Truex admitted Busch had a stronger car for most of last year’s championship race.

“That’s the goal when we get to Daytona (in February), is to win the championship,” Logano said. “And there are only four of us that still have the opportunity to make that happen and you try to put that in the back side of your mind, but it’s there. You can’t hide from it.”

Truex has an opportunity to win back-to-back championships for the first time since NASCAR implemented the knockout style format.

“To be in this position again, I feel so lucky,” Truex said. “I feel like it’s a bonus to be here. Last year I went in there thinking … we may be the favorite, but this is still going to be difficult. And it was. It was a challenge. It was really hard to get it done. I look at this year the same way.”

For more, watch the videos above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

NASCAR America: Championship 4 assess their odds of winning

Leave a comment

When Dale Jarrett sat down with the Championship 4 in NBC’s New Your City studios for NASCAR America’s Tuesday show, Las Vegas’ oddsmakers had Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch designated as co-favorites to win the championship at 2/1. Martin Truex Jr. was only slightly lower at 11/4 while last week’s self-proclaimed favorite Joey Logano was at 9/2.

Jarrett asked each of the playoff contenders to assess their chances of winning that bet.

“You can look at odds all day long and look at how many times you’re favorited or not favorited and the races you have or haven’t won in those scenarios,” Busch told Jarrett. “It just comes down to the whole aspect of the race day and what happens in that day and in that race.”

For Harvick, overcoming the obstacles that rise up in a driver’s way during the 26 regularseason races and the nine playoff races means they have already defied the odds.

“Just to get to this point is not that easy,” Harvick said. “You have to survive a lot of things throughout the year and put yourself in position. We’ve all raced against each other at some point for the exact same thing in the national championship.

“The hardest part is over, in my opinion. Getting here is the hardest part. Obviously you want to cap it off and win a championship.”

Handicapping NASCAR races is tricky. So many things have to go right in order to win a race while so many more things can go wrong. Last year, when Busch got caught in traffic in the season finale, it allowed Truex to scoot out to an insurmountable lead.

“We dominated the mile-and-a-halfs last year and honestly (Busch) had the better car (at Miami),” Truex said. “And the race played out played into our strengths. That could happen at any point in time this weekend for any of us four.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

Championship 4 is set for Miami with Big 3, Joey Logano

Leave a comment

After 35 races and three rounds of playoff action, the Cup Series’ Championship 4 is set.

When the series heads to Miami this weekend the drivers competing for the title will be Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick.

Only Logano has not already won a title. Truex, Harvick and Busch – the Big 3 – were all in the title race last year.

Points won’t matter on Sunday (3 p.m. ET on NBC) when it comes to determining the champion.

Whoever places the highest gets the glory.

Here’s a look at each driver’s record heading to Miami.

Kyle Busch

Wins: Eight (Texas I, Bristol I, Richmond I, Coke 600, Chicago, Pocono II, Richmond II, Phoenix II)

Career Playoff wins: Seven

Homestead record: Three top fives in 13 starts. His only win scored him the title in 2015. Six top 10s in last seven starts.

Outlook: Kyle Busch has reached the Championship 4 for the fourth straight season. In the first three, he’s finished outside the top three just once (sixth in 2016).

 

Kevin Harvick

Wins: Eight (Atlanta, Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Dover I, Kansas I, New Hampshire, Michigan II and Texas II. Lost benefits of Texas win due to L1 penalty.)

Career Playoff wins: 13

Homestead record: Nine top fives in 17 starts. Finished in the top five in last four starts, which includes winning title in 2014.

Outlook: Has reached Championship 4 in all but one season since the inception of elimination format in 2014. Harvick will try to claim his second title without suspended crew chief Rodney Childers. If Harvick wins the race it would be his first at Stewart-Haas Racing without Childers as crew chief. They have 22 wins together.

Martin Truex Jr.

Wins: Four (Auto Club Speedway, Pocono I, Sonoma and Kentucky)

Career Playoff wins: Six

Homestead record: Four top fives in 13 starts, but just one in the last four races, his championship win last year.

Outlook: Truex has reached the Championship 4 in three of the last four years, claiming the title in 2017. He hasn’t won since July but has been one turn away from wins twice in the playoffs (Charlotte Roval, Martinsville). The race and the chance at a title are the last for Furniture Row Racing, which is shutting down after the season.

 

Joey Logano

Wins: Two (Talladega I and Martinsville I)

Career Playoff wins: Seven

Homestead record: Two top fives and four top 10s in nine starts. One finish outside top 10 in last five starts.

Outlook: Reached Championship 4 for third time in five years. Best result was in 2016 when he placed second to Jimmie Johnson (finished fourth in race). His DNF at Phoenix ended a five-race stretch of top-10 finishes.

Recapping 2017 with 12 playoff drivers that fell short of final round (videos)

Leave a comment

Thursday night’s NASCAR Cup Awards show put the finishing touch on the 2017 Cup season.

The four Championship 4 drivers – 2017 NASCAR Cup champ Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski – all took to the stage for comments during the show.

But before their comments, NBCSN also interviewed the other 12 drivers that made this year’s playoffs to get their take on how this season played out for them, and also how they see 2018 shaping up.

In the video above, Marty Snider and Kelli Stavast spoke with Austin Dillon, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne.

In the video below, Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., talked about their seasons – and for Kenseth, more on his future plans heading into 2018.

Lastly, in the video below, young guns Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott talked about the progress they made in 2017, while series veterans Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin talked about both having strong seasons that – unfortunately for them both – came up short.