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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Sam Flood

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Jarrett

Jeff Burton

Steve Letarte

Kyle Petty

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you for taking the time to join us on our 2019 NBC Sports NASCAR Championship media conference call. We’re going to be joined by two-time Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt Jr., 21-time Cup Series winner Jeff Burton, 1999 NASCAR Cup Series champion Dale Jarrett, auto racing icon Kyle Petty, and Daytona 500 winning crew chief Steve Letarte.

We’ll hand it over to Sam Flood, executive producer and president of NBC and NBCSN, for some opening remarks.

SAM FLOOD: Thank you all for joining us. We’re excited to get to Miami for the championship race. We’ve seen some incredible drama at that track over the last few years. We’re cautiously optimistic that will continue.

We look forward to a great day of racing, hopefully the weather holds the way it’s looking now, so I just jinxed it. It’s a great way to end the season down in Miami. We’re happy the season ratings were up. Our viewership was up over the course of the season, which is a really positive sign. We saw a sellout crowd in Arizona last weekend, which is nice to see those grandstands full of people. All the effort that NASCAR has put into rebuilding these tracks, good to see the fans are coming out and supporting what is a great series of racing, a fun season.

One added toy we’re going to have in Miami is the Hot Pass where we’ll have a second channel experience focusing on the four championship drivers with Leigh Diffey and Dale Jarrett calling the action on that. It gives us a little bit more of a dimension to the telecast.

We also have a toy that will be on the racetrack, which is a camera that Charlie Dammeyer, our director, will have that will be in the front of the field as it comes to the green flag and during all the pace laps. Should be a dramatic, up-close look to take the green flag. I know Charlie is excited to show that off.

We’re also excited to show off our guys up in the booth, pit road, on the pit box. Oftentimes in life and in sports there’s a sophomore slump. We are very fortunate that there was no sophomore slump for Dale, Jr. He also has taken the Dale Jr. Download to the next level this year. It’s must-view TV every Tuesday at 5 p.m., which I know where I’ll be at 5:00 today. Dale promises the first 10 minutes will be must-see TV.

I’ll hand it off to Dale Jr.

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Thank you, Sam.

Real proud of the podcast and the download. I’m real excited about the four drivers that we have in the championship race here at Homestead this weekend. I don’t know that you could have picked four stronger teams and drivers. These are the four guys that have really had the most success this year. They all seem to be carrying a lot of momentum. There’s not one team struggling at this particular point, as they’ve all had a lot of success here, even recently.

I think all four will be in the top five the entire night. It’s a situation where it seems like you have to win the race to win the championship. You have to go in there with a car capable of winning, a winning strategy, and execute to be the champion.

That’s been really profound. I think when we started this system, I don’t know that anybody expected the champion to have to win the race each season, but that’s been what it takes. Boy, that’s a lot of pressure not only to go in there and outrun three other cars, that seems relatively simple, compared to the entire season of racing against everybody.

It’s actually a race you have to win to be the champion. I expect that to be the same thing this weekend. Homestead has been an amazing place for us to crown our champion. The schedule change next year is going to move the championship race away from Homestead. It’s a little bittersweet. Exciting to have some change, difference in the schedule that people are excited about.

Homestead has been an amazing racetrack, a lot of fun as a driver because of its multiple grooves. You can run on the bottom, middle and top. I think the drivers love how flexible that racetrack is for them. It’s one of the few tracks on the circuit where actually running the fence is almost like an art. It’s so impressive to watch the Xfinity drivers, the Cup drivers all night long almost have to run that fence to find speed and do it so well, just inches away from the wall the entire night.

You’re going to see them hitting the wall. They prefer to run the entire night without hitting it. When it comes down to it at the end of that race they’re going to have to be perfect. Every corner, every use of the throttle or brake, every turn of the wheel is going to have to be calculated and perfect. It’s just really an impressive thing to see.

Yeah, I think the weather is going to be great. Love it down here in Florida. Can’t wait to get practice started and see where everybody is at with speed.

I’ll bring in my best friend, the best broadcaster in the booth that we have this year, I’m not saying that just because we’re in there together this week, incredibly nice guy, Jeff Burton.

JEFF BURTON: We have fun, a great time. It’s a blast calling these races because of the people I’m fortunate enough to work with. What’s been going on on the racetrack, especially mile-and-a-half’s, has just been remarkable this year. Been so much fun, that energy, enthusiasm in the booth is honest and real because we all just love what we’re seeing.

I am fascinated this weekend because what Junior said, we have in my opinion the four best drivers this year, the four best teams this year. But they’re going to be challenged this weekend like no other weekend.

If you think about Homestead-Miami, it is completely different than every other racetrack they’ve been to all year long. No one has tested here. This package has not raced here. The teams and drivers are going to have to guess and assume what’s going to happen. When they unload on Friday, it’s going to be really fascinating to see who unloads well, who unloads struggling, and how they adapt.

What’s worked in the past may not work this time. That’s when the best shine. When you have to adapt, you have to change your strategy, that’s when the best become champions. It’s going to be great for us to watch. We have a tremendous amount of talent on the racetrack. I think we have the best four to be able to do those things.

I would encourage the fans and media, everybody involved - ignore the stats. This is like going to a football game and it’s going to snow. I don’t care that Kevin Harvick did something on mile-and-a-half’s this year. This isn’t a normal mile-and-a-half racetrack. I don’t care that Denny Hamlin sat on the pole three races. I don’t care. Completely different package.

I’m excited to get down there and watch this race and see who can step up, who can adjust, who can adapt because that’s what it’s going to take. Also on Saturday, the Xfinity race, that is going to be a knockdown, dragout. Have you three young drivers taking on an experienced driver.

I’m excited to get down there and see some racing, practice, qualifying. I am going to throw it over to our Hall of Famer and former champion, Dale Jarrett.

DALE JARRETT: You’ve covered most everything, talking about the great season that it has been to this point.

Jeff, I’ll throw in one more thing there, they have to deal with a different tire than what they’ve run at Homestead. They ran the tire at Chicago and Darlington. How does it react, what can they do and expect from everything at Homestead. Fascinating track. So much fun as a driver to race on.

Once again, I fully believe that you’re going to have to win the race to win the championship. These are the four very best. In my opinion, this has been the best season of racing that we’ve seen in many, many years. The Playoffs have just been phenomenal. I expect nothing less on Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening as we get ready to crown a champion.

I’ll echo what Jeff said about Saturday. That’s going to be fun to watch, these young drivers. I think Tyler Reddick last year put everyone on notice as to how you go about winning a champion. He came from nowhere and won that Xfinity championship last year.

But all of these drivers are going to be vying for that. They’re going to hit the wall, be exciting to watch. Who comes out first on Saturday is going to be fun.

The trucks are there. Even though we’re not covering it, we’re going to be watching on Friday evening. A fun weekend to be a part of.

I will now throw it over to Kyle Petty.

KYLE PETTY: Thank you. Along with everybody else, I’m looking forward to the Xfinity and the Cup and the group of drivers that we have because we followed these guys for 20 weekends, the second half of the year. It’s like having the college playoffs and major league playoffs in pro sports, championship is on the line.

Sam likes to tell us that we talk racing, it’s going to be exciting. Listen, when the caution came out at Phoenix, when the last caution came out, four of the top five drivers were the guys headed to Miami. I think Blaney was the only guy mixing it up with them that wasn’t at that point in time headed to Miami.

It’s going to come down to those guys, come down to the win. I go back to Ryan Newman’s year when he didn’t run at all all year, but got to Miami and upped his game.

The story for me, Sam says we’re a network of storytellers, tell stories, and for me it is the end of the Jimmie Johnson effect, or could be the end. I call it the Jimmie Johnson effect because the drivers that we have now that are competing, all of them have won championships, sans Denny Hamlin. The guys on the Cup level have one championship except for Jimmie. The reason they all have one championship is because of Jimmie.

I grew up with my dad, Pearson, Earnhardt, some other guys that came through that had multiple championships. You were always out there racing with guys that had multiple championships. It’s not been that way for these guys.

For me it’s those three guys going for number two, three guys who can separate themselves from the rest of the pack that’s out there right now. That’s huge.

I go to Denny, and for me it just seems like Denny Hamlin has the team of destiny. I compare it to Alan Kulwicki. I spent a lot of time with him the year he won the championship. For all the things that happened, all the things he went through that year, it’s just like you felt he was going to win a championship. I think it’s been that way for Denny since they dropped the green flag at Daytona. This will be the end of the story.

If he comes away with that championship, I think we’re going to look back on the race last week and him having to win that race as a huge moment in this sport. Richard Petty never had that pressure, Dale Sr., never had to operate under that pressure. So many drivers never operated under the elimination pressure. It was just go get it done. There was a ton of pressure.

For me there’s a lot of those stories that we’re finally going to tell the last chapter and close the book on the 2019 season.

For me to get down there, the racing, it’s going to be spectacular. No doubt in my mind. No matter where we go, run all year long, it comes down to a caution, a pit stop, a mistake. But the best wins. That’s the way it is.

I’m just looking forward to going down and talking to everybody. I hope they have a Merry Christmas and somebody walks away with a championship.

I’ll turn it over to my man Steve Letarte, who I constantly get confused with, but you may think I’m still talking. When Steve says stuff, I get in trouble. When I say stuff, Steve never gets in trouble.

STEVE LETARTE: That’s how we work it out (laughter). All the people have covered the drivers, set the stage well.

We’re going to what I consider the best mile-and-a-half track. You add those two together, I wish I could tell you the type of race you’re going to see. I know it’s going to be great racing, but it’s hard to define.

These guys covered the drivers. I think the crew chiefs are fascinating. Three crew chiefs that have been here and done it successfully. They all have a championship trophy, all have a championship on their resume. One crew chief is in his first year, yet you will never know it.

The job that Denny Hamlin’s crew chief did at Phoenix was questioned by all, me included. In the end he provided his superstar the best car on the racetrack with a great strategy in a must-win situation, and went and won. I’m just amazed that someone in their first year can be that mature in the most pressure. He pulled it off. That’s a storyline.

I’m going to be watching the pit crews. They mentioned late cautions. As much as the drivers should be celebrated, it is a team sport. What teams can support their drivers, what team perhaps will let their driver down.

When I look at Saturday, I keep the same trend going. While the drivers, three of them are very young, the crew chiefs are really not. The crew chiefs have a lot of experience. Jason Ratcliff, Shiplett is over on the 00, Jason. There’s so much experience on top of the pit box, it’s going to be interesting to see how that race plays out.

It was tough to predict last year, even tougher to predict this year.

Steve, among the four crew chiefs, is there a best strategist among them?

STEVE LETARTE: Well, that’s a great question. I think that there are some that have perhaps the reputation of calling great strategy. Cole Pearn comes to mind as the guy that at times has been the most aggressive and have it work out.

The real struggle, to be quite honest, when you look at the strategists on top of the pit box, normally the cars are so fast, I’m not sure they get a lot of practice with strategy. Their strategy is make the right adjustments, put four tires on it. It’s hard to measure that way.

When I raced them all, Cole Pearn is the one that’s most creative on the pit box. As I said just last week, the crew chief of the 11, I’m not sure we have seen enough of him to know what the strengths are. I’m kind of still searching for the weaknesses after having such a successful first year.

Sam, what went into the decisions to enhance the Hot Pass and give fans different looks, in the booth with Dale and Jeff?

SAM FLOOD: The concept of the Hot Pass, we’ve done it the last few years. Actually every year since we came back in. Just a way to focus on the four championship drivers. It’s just have a different look, a different screen experience, a good way to give unique access to the four drivers that are fighting for the championship.

We found that it’s been a good secondary experience. Obviously the primary experience watching the race, alongside Steve and Dale and Jeff and Rick, is preferable. But every once in a while a change of pace is a nice way to go. I think people that want to dive a little deeper on different drivers, there’s some advantage to it.

What does Denny Hamlin’s win in the must-win situation in Phoenix last week mean for Homestead? Can that momentum carry over?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I don’t know if it’s momentum because the tracks are so different. Phoenix is comparable maybe to Richmond. If they were going to Richmond or New Hampshire, then I would say yeah, I think that they can carry some of that knowledge and confidence, momentum into that type of a racetrack.

Going to Homestead, it’s so different. The four teams are so comparable, so similar in speed and performance week in, week out, I don’t know. I will say, though, Denny, when he’s confident, he’s better. Some drivers really don’t waver a lot when they’re confident or uncertain. Denny I think is a much, much better racecar driver when he’s very confident. He seems to make different decisions, push himself into situations, succeed in that kind of environment.

I think his confidence that he has this year could be the difference maker for him to win the championship. I don’t know that he had that in the past times when he was coming into this type of scenario.

DALE JARRETT: I agree with the last part there, I think what Sunday showed is not so much momentum. I saw a Denny Hamlin that I haven’t seen before. He’s been able to handle big moments, winning two Daytona 500s. This is a whole ‘nother level. Points weren’t going to get him in, even with Joey Logano’s problems. He had to win the race.

Yeah, he probably had the best car. You have to go out and perform, then you put yourself -- get put in a high-pressure situation even more so with a restart at the end of the race where anything can happen on that racetrack.

I think that’s the bigger thing, is that we’re seeing a different Denny Hamlin than we’ve ever seen before. We’ve always thought that he had the talent and could handle a lot of situations, but he has now proven that.

Obviously this is going to an even more high-pressure situation, but I think he’s ready for this, for the biggest moment that you can have. That’s going to happen Sunday afternoon and evening. I think that’s bigger than the momentum.

JEFF BURTON: Denny this weekend is going into Homestead racing against three people that have done that. They’ve won this championship in this format, where you had to go down there and win that race. Denny had not been there. Now he can, to himself, say, I can, I just did it. I think that’s huge. I think that confidence that D.J. and Junior talked about, that’s real because he’s done it.

I know he hasn’t done it in the championship format, but he just did it to get to it. I just think that puts him where he walks into Miami where he doesn’t feel like he’s the fourth guy. He feels like he’s one of those guys. As a matter of fact, I just beat all you guys to put myself here. I just think that’s great from an experience standpoint, been there, done that, and also from a confidence standpoint.

The end of the Jimmie Johnson era presents an opportunity here for all four of these guys becoming a multi-time champion. In the case of Denny Hamlin we all know what’s at stake. For the guys who have one championship already, what would that championship mean reputationally to each of them and which driver has the most at stake at getting a second championship? Who would it mean the most to, I suppose?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I think it might mean the most to Kyle Busch because all the success he had before he won his first championship. He’s often considered maybe one of the best racecar drivers that’s ever came into the sport. Since 2007, 2008, he has been one of the best if not the best oftentimes. He only has that one title.

I think for him, he probably feels like he’s should have had five by now with all the success he’s had winning races, whether it’s in the trucks, Xfinity or Cup. He’s just been this dominant figure in our sport.

I think he really wants that second title, if not more titles, to sort of back up the idea that he might be the greatest or the GOAT. I’m sure it means a lot to all those guys, but I think it stands out for Kyle a little bit.

JEFF BURTON: I’m going with Denny. I heard Denny say this morning he doesn’t like being considered the next best, right? The good, but not quite good enough. This will be validation. The other three, to Junior’s point, you want to be a multi-time champion, but that first one puts you with a group of people that very few people ever get there. You need to get that first one.

Denny, at his age, that first one, when is the second chance going to come. I think that it will be huge for each and every one of them. As a guy that never won the championship, that’s something I think about all the time. I mean, I will tell you that’s something that pops in my head all the time. It makes me sad that I never won a championship.

I’ve been there, done that, know what that feels like. Denny Hamlin doesn’t want to feel like that. He’s won enough races, won big races, done a lot of stuff, but he hasn’t won the championship. I think it’s just huge for him.

DALE JARRETT: I will add that, the moment is biggest for Denny, just as Jeff is pointing out there. For the other three that have won the Championships, I’m going to agree with Junior, I think Kyle Busch, maybe because of the circumstances that surrounded that year when he won the championship. I think another would mean a lot to him in a lot of ways, for different reasons there than what the others would.

I’ll say this, even for winning one championship, separating yourself with that second championship puts you above so many other people in that category. But all four of them, in my opinion, are going to be voted into the Hall of Fame whenever that time comes that they get to that level, when they’ve retired and are on the ballot.

They all four have already had Hall of Fame careers to this point. Having that second championship puts you at another level as a driver and competitor.

Steve, you’ve been with teams that have had multiple cars in the championship race. How awkward is it in the sense of do you know what you can ask the other crew chiefs? Do you know what you shouldn’t ask? Have you ever gone to other crew chiefs and asked it and got an answer that that one was across the line?

STEVE LETARTE: In ’07, Chad and I went down with the 24 and 48. In ’09 we had one, two, three. The most important thing we did is have a serious discussion during the week with our owner to decide when we were teammates and when that went away.

In the end we all worked for one guy. I expect the same conversation to happen at Joe Gibbs. I don’t think you can change the way you physically do business or store information. I’m sure that can be seen by everyone.

But there’s a point in time where I’m confident that Coach Gibbs and the organization are going to require the drivers and crew chiefs to go race on their own. I think he owes it to the fans, to the sponsors, to his own drivers.

I think as a competitor, he was already leaning that way from what I heard in the media center. The drivers were still kind of giving a company response about how they would work together. Coach basically said he expected some separation.

The fact that that was asked and answered tells me they will discuss it. The most important thing is that everyone knows what the line is. You do not want the awkward moment you brought up of one driver or crew chief expecting different than the other drivers and crew chiefs. In my mind that can happen when they load up and go to Miami, on Sunday morning. There will be a separation. I don’t believe that you’re going to be sharing pit strategies, air pressure, chassis adjustments like you would on a standard race.

That is as important to define as anything. While it won’t affect the weekend, if that’s not defined correctly, there will be hurt feelings afterwards. Take an organization that’s been so successful, it could splinter it from within.

There’s a reason Coach is in two Hall of Fames. I can’t think of anyone who could probably define that and be a leader in this situation than Coach Gibbs. I imagine he’ll set that expectation clearly for his teams. But it does need to be defined, for sure.

For anybody, on the must-win situation. Kyle Busch, been a long time since he’s won a race. Do you think his effort at Phoenix last week gets him where he needs to be heading into the championship race?

JEFF BURTON: I can’t quite figure out where Kyle is. I know he was disappointed with second. You know what I mean? He was clearly in his post race interview not happy with finishing second. I think that came from the fact that at one point his teammate was a half a lap in front of him under green. Kyle is not accustomed to that.

His frustrations this summer, this fall, I think it’s been from the fact they have not had the speed that their teammates have had.

I don’t think he goes down there questioning himself, he questions can we go as fast as our teammates, Kevin Harvick. That’s his biggest concern.

If they unload and have good speed, you’re going to see Kyle Busch being really, really hard to beat. If they unload and they don’t have good speed, I think you’re going to see frustration come out because he’s tired of it. He’s tired of going to the racetrack and having his teammates outrun him.

DALE JARRETT: Thanks for reminding us he hasn’t won in a while.

As Jeff pointed out, there’s a lot going on out there. For the last few months, it’s something that has been a distraction to the driver and to the team. Can they rebound from that? Can they put everything aside here for one weekend and do everything right?

I find it hard to believe mainly because what Jeff has talked about there, is they haven’t had the speed, as even their teammates, much less throwing Kevin Harvick in the mix there.

To me, that’s going to be the most interesting part of the weekend to see how they run on Friday afternoon and are they going to have that speed that’s going to be necessary and can Kyle stay focused through the entire weekend.

KYLE PETTY: I mean, listen, Kyle has been fantastic on NASCAR America MotorMouths on the Wednesday show. He’s the best guest that we have. He’s honest, straightforward. He shoots from the hip. He tells you what he thinks.

The other day was interesting when we had a caller and the guy called in, he said, Hey, Truex has been doing this, Denny has been doing that. Kyle just butted in and said, Basically you want to know why the 18 sucks. The guy kind of laughed. Kyle just went into it.

He said we are just a little off, a little off on the racetrack, a little off on our speed, on our setups. I think listening to the answer before me, that’s it. Where are they a little off, why are you a little off. That’s the most frustrating thing in this sport.

To be a lot off, that’s easy. You can point yourself in a thousand different directions. When you’re a little here, a little there, a little over in pit stops or whatever it may be, the next thing you know you’re running second to a teammate by half a lap like we saw on Sunday. It’s hard to look through the data, hard to figure out where that’s at.

I mean, I think Kyle so far, and they mention it, Kyle has had a solid attitude. We know Kyle wins, it’s happy Kyle. Kyle doesn’t mean, it’s not happy Kyle. That’s the way it is.

But that’s no different headed into Homestead in 2019 than it was the very first time he sat in a Legends car in Las Vegas when he was a kid. I think he’s always been that way. He’s never changed.

You’ve got to respect that point of view, got to respect that in him. So I think for me, I think Kyle Busch’s weekend, my opinion, when they unload, run the first three or four laps, what those look like is going to set the tone for Kyle’s weekend. If they’re not where they need to be, it stands to be not a pretty weekend for Kyle.

Steve, when you’re on the box for a race like this, do you have a generic kind of strategy? You come out thinking we’re going to go like hell, or lay back seeing as how you don’t have to win this race to win the championship?

STEVE LETARTE: Well, I can only speak to what I assume these four think. If any of them think it’s not a win and they better go as hard as they can, then I think they’re going to be sadly mistaken.

I think this format, that was in question years ago when it was first created, but history would say there’s a reason that we have the Championship 4 each and every year. I can’t think of a Fluke 4. Even I use Ryan Newman, someone that people didn’t want to give credit. At the time he finished second, forced the other competitor to win.

I think it’s a combination of the best teams, the pressure, and it’s what makes sports great, which is in the biggest stages, the stars have to rise up. I think we see that time and time again at Miami.

If any of these four guys on Saturday or any of these four drivers on Sunday feel they have any other strategy than to go to Victory Lane, I think they are already going to be very disappointed at the end of the day because the field is just too good in both races.

You’ve spent a lot of time talking about the Joe Gibbs drivers. Not much time about Kevin Harvick. What do you think of Harvick in light of Dale mentioned the tire combination is the same as Chicago and Darlington, a place Harvick was strong at. He qualified very well, so much better than the Gibbs cars on the mile-and-a-half tracks. I would think that allows him and Rodney to dictate the pace of the race. What kind of a chance, opportunity is this for Kevin as opposed to the other three cars?

STEVE LETARTE: I think from strategy, as was asked before, I think the three Joe Gibbs cars are going to separate themselves and run as three independents. I think it’s more the week-long preparation. Even if the Joe Gibbs guys split up, it’s still one organization that is supporting three cars, where Stewart-Haas only has one car.

To be quite honest, the speed of the Joe Gibbs cars have been so high all year long, D.J. joked about it at NASCAR America, I would rather take a Joe Gibbs car with divided effort than perhaps a Stewart-Haas car. From what we have seen from numbers so far, they have won over half the races. I don’t think it affects the strategy much. It’s the support from the organization, whether it can stay at the level it needs to all weekend long.

JEFF BURTON: I think from a driver standpoint, I have a feeling that Kevin and Rodney will take the stance that it’s one against three. I think that’s when Kevin Harvick is his happiest. I think when Kevin feels like people are against him, there’s no way that they can win, that’s when he becomes really dangerous. He just seems to like being in a fight, seems to like almost being an underdog.

Like I said before, I don’t know how you predict who is going to be the best down there. If I had to go to a racetrack that has low grip, tire wear, I’m taking Kevin Harvick. You look at what he does at Atlanta, what he does at turns one and two in Kansas, that’s when he’s at his best.

I like the fact from their standpoint, their chances standpoint, that he knows how to deal with that. I think their mentality will serve them well.

DALE JARRETT: I agree that if you’re going to put someone on this type of racetrack driver-wise, there’s nobody better than Kevin Harvick. Don’t think for a minute that he doesn’t have a chance.

I think the Gibbs cars obviously are going to be difficult to beat just because of their performance all year and what they’ve been able to do. But if there’s somebody that can do that, Kevin Harvick is the man. There’s nobody better.

I don’t have to tell you his stats, you all have the same information that I read, am looking at right now about how good he’s been over the years at this very racetrack. His average finish is phenomenal.

The problem is your average finish isn’t going to do you any good, you have to win the race. He’s done that. Don’t think for a minute that he’s not going to compete at a high level and be right in the mix to grab this win.

This is going to be a tremendous race from four drivers. Kevin Harvick is as good as anybody there. He has every chance. I think they like the idea that everybody, including myself, is talking about the Gibbs drivers. But he has as good a chance as anybody. If you look at the odds that Vegas put out yesterday, they basically said all four drivers are kind of the same, and I agree with that.

KYLE PETTY: One of the shows we do on NBCSN is Racing Roots. We went out to Bakersfield a couple years ago and spent two or three days with him. I agree with Burton. When he thinks it’s everybody against him, he is a dangerous, dangerous man. He’s the most dangerous team. He and Rodney are the most dangerous group going to Homestead because you can’t measure that heart inside his body.

I’ll telling you, man, talked to his wrestling coach, we can drum all that stuff back up if you want to, but there’s something in that kid, in that guy, that just drives him.

If I go back and look at Denny and look at Truex and look at Kyle, when they’ve been off during the year, they’ve been off. Kevin and those guys, Rodney, never give up. They’ll take a 10th place car and run fourth with it. That’s not going to get it done at Homestead, don’t get me wrong. But they never, ever, ever give up. Until they throw that checkered flag, they’re not beat. That’s kind of the way they look at it.

That’s a different attitude than we see in some people. I go back to the championship, we all talked about Kyle, this being important for Kyle. It’s important for Kevin Harvick. He’s 44 years old. This is important for him. We’re fast approaching a sport where you get a 13- or 14-year career, that’s it. You don’t get to drive for 25 years any more. This generation may be the last group to come through because everybody is looking for the next 14-year-old.

I think when you look at it, there’s a lot for Kevin Harvick. There’s a lot for Rodney Childers. There’s a lot on the line for Stewart-Haas Racing. I don’t think they look at it any other way than this is our opportunity, this is an opportunity. It’s not anything more than an opportunity to go down there and show everybody what they can do.