Retired NASCAR driver and NBC Sports analyst Kyle Petty will be joining Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte to cover the first race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase this Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.
We spoke to Petty this week about the Chase, his pick to win the NASCAR championship, and which track will be pivotal in deciding the winner.
How will Jimmie Johnson, the No. 1 seed, do in the Chase?
“In my grid he makes it to the round of eight, but not to the final round. Even though they won races earlier in the year, I haven’t seen anything in recent weeks.”
Martin Truex Jr. has just three top-10 finishes in the last 11 races, but he had the second-best average finish in races at Chase tracks this season (7.4). How far will Truex Jr. go in the Chase (Contender, Eliminator, Championship, Champion)?
“In my grid he only makes it to the second round. The reason being, this is such a long season. He was so good the first part of the season but that was three months ago. I think if you look at it, what he did three months ago really doesn’t matter. Other teams have gotten hot, he has cooled off.”
What track do you believe could shake the Chase?
“I think Talladega and Martinsville will absolutely shake up the Chase. Those are the two tracks which have the potential to change the Chase for a driver. And it is not always because of something the driver does in the race. You can be running second in the last lap of a race and wind up finishing 20th, you have to pay attention to what everyone is doing.
“At Talladega you can get caught in someone else’s accident. Martinsville has a tendency to be the same. You can be running well and have an issue, and there isn’t time to recover late in the race. You look at Chicago and you look at Texas, those races play out the way drivers think they will. Drivers just have to run their race and finish.”
Will Jeff Gordon win a race this season?
“That is the key Chase question. Everyone is pulling for him, I think other drivers are pulling for him. On my Chase grid, I really do not have him getting out of the first round. If circumstances fall right yes he could win a race. Recently, he hasn’t been competitive enough to win and circumstances have kept him out of victory lane. With 10 races left in his career, a win in the Chase is a tall order.”
Who finishes best among Chase drivers without a win this season (MCurray, Gordon, Newman, Menard, Bowyer)?
“I am pulling for McMurray, but I think Newman will do the best among Chase drivers without a win this season. What Newman and his team have done week in and week out this season is pretty special. They have been good enough to run from 5th to 10th and that is what it takes.”
Who is your pick to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase title?
“Joey Logano is my pick. He has really come into his own. He has been competitive at ever track, carrying a little momentum into the Chase. He did a masterful job of driving at Daytona and won at Bristol. I think Matt Kenseth will be right there with him.”
The starting lineup for the opening round of NASCAR’s playoffs has been set with Kevin Harvick on the pole.
Team Penske drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski will start second and third, followed by Martin Truex Jr.
Ryan Newman will start sixth in the myAFibRisk.com 400, Kyle Busch seventh, Kurt Busch will go off in ninth and Jeff Gordon will go from 10.