Tha Sports Junkies 101

Playoff Media Day from the Hall of Fame



On Wednesday, I was granted access to the 2017 NASCAR Playoff Media day. This event is held annually at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte. It is a chance for all 16 Playoff contending drivers to give the media their outlooks heading into race 1 of the Playoffs at Chicagoland. I was able to personally interview several of the drivers, so let’s look at the highlights arranged by the drivers.

Martin Truex Jr

The regular season champion and number 1 seed in the Playoffs was still questioning NASCAR’s decision on the late-race caution at Richmond. “For most of the season, they [NASCAR Officials] have been consistent and not jumping on every hot dog wrapper for a caution. I thought Saturday night at Richmond was a departure from the last 5 or 6 months.  It’s hard not to think about what would happen at Homestead in a similar situation. Dale Jr. tweeted this week how Carl Edward’s championship last year was lost due to a caution. They just need to make sure they are consistent and make the right calls when the pressure is on.”

Jimmie Johnson

The man looking to rewrite history with a record 8th championship addressed his team’s ‘summer slump’ and their outlook for the next 10 weeks. “I think our chances are really good, I think we should definitely be in the conversation. I know we need to go out and earn that right to be part of the conversation. But I don’t want to take away from the frustration and effort that’s gone into the summer. We didn’t enjoy summer last year, we’ve had other summers that weren’t any fun. We worked really hard to not let this slide happen in ’17 but it did. The one thing that’s always after the summer is the fall. We’re always hot in the fall and we’re certainly hoping for more of the same.”

Kyle Larson

Fresh off his win in Richmond, Larson is looking forward to Homestead, hopefully as a Final 4 contender. “Homestead to me is definitely my best racetrack. I have a lot of fun there and go really fast. Our team just has to do everything right those first 9 races to give ourselves a shot at Homestead. But I think if we get there we would definitely have a very good shot. As long as I stay cool, calm, and don’t get into the wall.”

Brad Keselowski

The 2012 series champion remains as dedicated as ever to win title number 2. “I think a second championship is critical in my own perspective for being a part of the sport. I’m a big believer that success isn’t measured by your ability to do something once, it’s measured by your ability to do something twice. We’ve had great opportunities to win a second championship but have kind of fallen a bit short for a number of reasons. We have that opportunity again this year. We’re looking at a great opportunity and want to make the most of it. I think it would mean a tremendous amount to me personally to validate the first championship.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr

The man with 2 straight superspeedway wins has his focus on advancing through the Playoffs. “We have a plan to advance through the first round, then after that, I think your plan might change race-to-race. Even in the first round, it could change race-to-race. I think it depends on what happens to the cars around you. If you can capitalize on some of those mistakes made by others, then that’s what you gotta do. You gotta have points to advance, so you absolutely have to race both segments and races.”

Kyle Busch

Some news from Joe Gibbs Racing earlier this week was that the 18 and 19 pit crews would switch places for the 2017 Playoffs. Kyle did briefly comment on this news. “We decided that it was a necessary change to give ourselves the best opportunity to go race for a championship. With all these teams as good as they are, you gotta come out here with all the bullets in the chamber. We felt like we were a little short there. We have pit crew metrics and things like that, and it showed they were a little bit off, not far, but just a little bit. When you need it most you’re gonna need to count on those guys. That key moment could be the last stop at Homestead. So the fastest pit crew wins, hopefully.”

Jamie McMurray

As previously mentioned in my silly season piece, Jamie McMurray’s contract status for 2018 was still in question. Unlike many other drivers, Jamie will not be moving anywhere over the off-season. He told me “I’m staying here, Chip [Ganassi] will have me back next year.” In early July Ganassi did announce that he will have the same driver lineup for 2018, however, the contractual agreement details with McMurray are still unknown.

Other News From Playoff Media Day

Some news did break at Playoff Media Day. As they were both interviewed by a variety of reporters in attendance yesterday, both Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne made comments on their future plans. They both stated that neither of them are in the running to take over the Stewart-Haas Racing 10 car. The day before, Kasey did send out an ominous tweet mentioning Smithfield Foods. This led to many rumors about him potentially going to SHR.

Round 1 of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs will begin this weekend. The Tales of the Turtles 400 will be live at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday, September 17. As an added bonus, the race winner will get Nickelodeon Slime dumped on them in victory lane. It will be aired on NBCSN, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio starting at 3 PM EST.