On September 17, the world’s best stock car drivers will battle it out in the first Round of 16 race for the NASCAR Cup Championship. The Round of 16 will last for three races, with the first being at the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. There are 16 hopeful drivers in the battle, and despite any of the odds and past performance, there’s a chance that any one of them could win. Whether you’re a backer of Martin Truex Jr., or someone who Believes that Jimmie Johnson can take the championship again, these drivers quotes will help you to understand more about the driver psychology before the first playoffs race.

NASCAR Drivers Speak:

Kurt Busch – 12th Place – 1 Win in 2017

Kurt Busch is just 12th in the championship right now, but positions don’t matter as much as wins in the post season. He won this year at the Daytona 500, and he had a strong run at the end of the season, with a run of three Top 5 finishes.Busch spoke to the media recently, saying that he didn’t want to wait to turn up his performance levels at the playoffs. Fans will know that drivers in playoff contention will typically not push too hard at the end of the season. For Kurt Busch, an intense competitor, he sees things quite differently.He told media in Charlotte, North Carolina that “In all honesty, you have an off week, there’s a reset, and then now there’s 12 weeks to run out the season. I said, ‘Why are we saving anything? If we are saving anything, why are we saving it? Let’s just go now.’”Clearly the team listened to Busch, and they didn’t hold anything back at the final stages of the regular season. Pushing right up until the end could be advantageous to Busch. It allows him to become more comfortable in his car, he is able to gauge the competition, and it also prepared him for the pressure of the playoffs. Of course, Kurt should be no stranger to pressure in the playoffs, as this will be his 11th time featuring in the NASCAR post season. Busch also shared some insights about the season in general. He told interviewers that “There wasn’t any objections and it’s been nice. Everybody really jumped in to give more. All these 26 races we’re always giving it our all, but these last 10 weeks, these last 12 weeks – let’s go after it even more. That’s the playoff intensity that I want in my guys to understand and to enjoy it as well.”Busch will have a tough job ahead of him at the first race in Chicago. He has started at the Chicagoland Speedway for 16 races, and hasn’t walked away with a single win. He said of the track: “Chicago is a worn out mile and a half track. You compare it to similar tracks, like Darlington. I know Darlington isn’t a mile and a half, but it’s fast. It has worn out asphalt.”If Kurt’s familiarity with Chicagoland can finally get him a win, then the dynamic of the Top 16 will change completely, and the betting odds could look very different by next week.

Brad Keselowski – 4th Place – 2 Wins in 2017

Keselowski has won twice during the regular season, but consistency in all of the races ensured that he stayed at 4th place overall in the championship. Keselowski shares the view of all drivers, understanding that it is wins, not points, that win the playoffs. When speaking recently to the media, the driver said that “Really, I’m not sweating it that much, and when we get to Homestead, it’s back to zero [points in the playoffs], so I don’t have a lot of sweat, really. The last few years, we’ve seen guys riding around the back. You do that this year and lose out on those stage points, you’re going to be in big, big trouble when it comes time to get to the end of that round.”Brad knows that it is the stage points and race wins that will be absolutely critical to progressing in the post season. Drivers that are comfortable and capable of running at the front, will have the strongest chances of getting through to the later rounds. He believes that his car will be better on the shorter tracks, due to the setup and unique performance packages. Tracks like Martinsville and Phoenix are likely to be the strongest for Keselowski.

Jimmie Johnson – 5th Place – 3 Wins in 2017

Jimmie Johnson isn’t the strongest favorite in terms of betting odds, but he’s definitely a fan favorite, and he’s also a seven-time winner of the NASCAR championship. If he can win this post season, then he will take that record up to eight. Johnson looked to be in a slump throughout the later stages of the season, but this is nothing new, and is actually reminiscent of his season last year. He has still had three wins this year, which is more than the almost all of the other drivers in the playoffs. This gives him a lot of confidence going into the Round of 16. Johnson could also have an advantage because of his familiarity with the playoffs tracks, and they’re also tracks where he has had a lot of success in the past.He told the media that “I feel that, once we get back to tracks that I know the sensation I’m looking for, and I know how to create speed at these tracks, I can help better steer our group and say, ‘OK this is the area we need to work on.’”When asked directly about whether he could win, Johnson was cautiously optimistic, saying that “I think our chances are really good, and we should be in the conversation. I know we need to earn that right to go out and be part of the conversation, so maybe there’s a good bet there to be had.”