“I think that win right there made the whole company feel like they could move on and that things were going to be alright.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr. on winning the Pepsi 400 at Daytona in 2001 after the tragic death of his father
“This is the first track you’ve seen for a second time, and when you do that, panic starts to set in.” – Steve Letarte on the pressure to qualify for The Chase
“There is a sense of urgency for some of these guys to just get that win.” – Kyle Petty
“This is a big event every single weekend, but when you come to Daytona, it just has something special in the air.” – Krista Voda
DAYTONA, Fla. – July 5, 2015 – NBC Sports Group presented its first live NASCAR Sprint Cup Series coverage since 2006 tonight, with live coverage of the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola from Daytona International Speedway on NBC.
Krista Voda worked alongside Kyle Petty and Hall of Fame driver Dale Jarrett to set the stage on NBC Sports’ live pre-race show Countdown to Green, Served by Sonic.
Race announcer Rick Allen joins 21-time NASCAR Sprint Cup winning driver Jeff Burton and Daytona 500-winning crew chief Steve Letarte in the NBC Sports broadcast booth to call the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola now on NBC.
Following are notes and quotes from tonight’s Countdown to Green pre-race coverage:
Kyle Petty on the pressure of racing in Daytona: “There is a sense of urgency for some of these guys to just get that win, to knock that win off and secure their place in the Chase. For one guy [Jeff Gordon], it’s his last race here. There’s a sense of urgency to make something happen in that last race here. For other guys, it’s all about points.”
Krista Voda on Daytona: “This is not just a race, this is a way of life for NASCAR fans.”
Dale Jarrett: “What we know for a fact is that we’re going to see a great race. Now, is this race going to end up with someone that we haven’t seen go to victory lane before and be in the Chase? We see that happen here quite often.”
Petty on Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson: “I think Kevin [Harvick] has been the guy to beat in this sport for the last 20 months. When we got back, he never missed a beat. Won the championship, came back strong again this year. I think the 48 team, Jimmie Johnson, they’ve been up and down. But, they’ve got the most wins.”
Jarrett on Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson: “They do have the most wins, and I don’t think Jimmie Johnson likes it one bit. When you’re talking about a rivalry, I don’t think it has to be all about trash talking in there. I think you show it on the race track. They’ve gone back and forth, they [Jimmie Johnson] have the most wins. They know who the one to beat is, and they take advantage of those situations.”
Voda on Daytona: “This is a big event every single weekend, but when you come to Daytona, it just has something special in the air.”
Jarrett on the Chase for the Sprint Cup: “I think those 16th and 17th places are the most difficult ones to be in, because, you want to go for a win and you might want to take some chances. But, those chances could cost you a lot of points and might knock you out.”
Jarrett on Kyle Busch: “He’s got 10 weeks to do his job mistake-free. That means no speeding on pit road, you can’t speed, you can’t lose spots. Each one of those spots is a point, but on top of that, the pressure is on the crew too– they have to do their job…I believe they have a driver that learned a lot in the Chase last year, from what I saw, a driver that has a different mentality and can do this now. This is a more mature Kyle Busch.”
Jeff Burton on the track at Daytona: “Turn two is always an issue here. Cars are going to get tight, they’re going to get lose. We see a lot of wrecks off of turn two, simply because when you move three feet, and you’re three wide, you’re into the side of somebody.”
Steve Letarte on the pressure of racing at Daytona in July: “This is the first track you’ve seen for a second time, and when you do that, panic starts to set in. It’s real, the season is here, it’s halfway gone. If you’re having a season you need to improve on, you really have to start making improvements. If you’re having a great year, you might feel okay about it.”
STEVE LETARTE FEATURE WITH DALE EARNHARDT JR.
Steve Letarte visited Dale Earnhardt Jr. to watch his emotional Daytona win in July of 2001, which marked the first time that he returned to the track since his father’s tragic death five months prior.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. on returning to Daytona after the crash that killed his father: “I could tell my buddies were like, ‘man, what’s going on? How is it going to be? What’s the deal?’ So, as soon as we got there, we drove around to turns three and four, right where dad hit the wall and lost his life. And, we stopped, and everybody got out and I just walked around a little bit by myself. I just spent some time there seeing how I would feel. I didn’t want to fall apart in front of all of my guys and everybody in the race and the garage. It was good. I was like, ‘man, dad loved this place and I’m still at peace with this place. I still love being here and looking forward to racing here many more years.”
Steve Letarte: “Have you ever gone back and relived or re-watched that race in July [that you won]?”
Earnhardt Jr.: “Oh yeah, tons of times.”
Earnhardt Jr. on his Daytona win: “I was wide open the whole time. Panicking. How many laps are left? Are we going to have enough laps left? Just full-throttle panicking.”
Earnhardt Jr.: “I think that win right there made the whole company feel like they could move on and that things were going to be alright. We could be a strong team…you just don’t see victory celebrations like this every week. It was special.”
Earnhardt Jr. while watching his first interview after his win: “[Laughs] I sound like an idiot. Once you drive in there and you get out of the car, and you’re on victory lane, I think the emotion and everything sort of sucks me in.”
Earnhardt Jr.: “I know that a lot of people took pleasure in how that worked out. And if they couldn’t have won the race, I heard that 100 times in the garage the next day. ‘If I couldn’t have won that race, man, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”