FOX NASCAR QUOTES
Waltrip on the Title Favorite: ‘You’d have to make Ford the favorite.’
Monday evening on FS1’s NASCAR RACE HUB (Monday-Thursday at 6:00 PM ET), co-hosts Adam Alexander and Shannon Spake broke down Sunday’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and its championship implications with analysts Larry McReynolds and Michael Waltrip. Below are excerpts from the show:
Sunday’s race at Darlington was Team Penske’s first non-restrictor plate win since Joey Logano won at Richmond in April 2017. Darlington is unlike any other track remaining this season, so how far does the organization’s 1-2 finish go to set the organization up for the Playoffs?
“Speed is speed. Team Penske has been all over the place this year. They have shown signs of speed. Ryan Blaney has been fast all year and had no speed whatsoever at Darlington. If you link the 1-2 finish at Darlington with Keselowski’s second-place at Michigan and Joey finishing fourth at Bristol, they probably feel like they finally have found some consistent speed, like they’ve watched all year at Stewart-Haas Racing, particularly the No. 4 car.”
“In 2017, they limped into the Playoffs. There wasn’t a lot of optimism there. Brad Keselowski made the final 4, which was amazing because he did it without too many fast cars along the way, with the win at Talladega. But they’re going into the Playoffs this year with momentum. That team just keeps getting better and better and faster and faster. I think Blaney will be fast, too, as we race toward the Playoffs.”
When you look at the first 24 races or so, the conversation has been solely about the “Big 3.” But three of the last four races have been won by someone other than Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. Is the playing field leveling a bit?
“Pump the brakes just a bit. The gap is closing. It’s not like they had a terrible night at Darlington. Kevin Harvick finished fourth but never led a lap. Kyle Busch got tangled up early in the race and finished seventh. Martin Truex Jr. probably was the fastest but a lot of things plagued him.”
Past Brickyard 400 winners Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, Kasey Kahne and Jamie McMurray are in must-win situations next weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to make the Playoffs. What is that like for a driver, particularly since there are some uncertainties about 2019 for some of them?
“We keep trying to capture lightning in a bottle. I’ve been saying it for more than a month and I will say it all week. I feel strongly the 16 drivers currently in position for the Playoffs will be the 16 that qualify after Indy. There is a reason those other teams and drivers are outside the top 16. [But] something weird can happen, as it did with Kasey Kahne winning last year.”
“Look at Paul Menard a couple of years ago when he won Indy on fuel mileage. Anything can happen at Indianapolis, where strategy will be all over the place.”
Will 2018 be the first time since 2004 that Ford wins the Cup Series championship?
“Based solely on performance, you’d have to make Ford the favorite. They’ve had the speed all year long. But how do you bet against Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch? They both will be right there nipping at their heels.”
“I still think Kyle Larson will be a player in this championship run.”
Jamie McMurray started in the back of the field at Darlington, had a commitment cone violation and still finished in the top 10. What did you think of his performance?
“I am totally impressed with the job Jamie did at Darlington. If he and his teammate, Kyle Larson, can get those cars on the same page, Jamie is the kind of driver who can get the win at Indianapolis.”
Can Jamie McMurray win at Indianapolis next weekend to put himself in championship contention?
“Jamie McMurray is a primetime player. He has won the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and the All-Star Race. Certainly he can win under pressure at Indy. It’s great momentum for him to head to Indy off his strong run at Darlington. That team could be a big story next weekend.”