MATT CRAFTON, No. 88 Great Lakes Floors / Menards Toyota Tundra, ThorSport Racing
Do you feel like you must win to advance?
“No, I think you just run in the top-five, top-three and you get yourself out of the first elimination round. Then the next one I feel that you’re going to be stacked up against ones that are probably a little faster so you might have to win there. I don’t think you’re going to hit the panic button yet.”
How does your championship experience help now that you’re in the Playoffs once again?
“Tremendous amount. Going into the Playoffs and even my second championship – just the pressure that you had. I know that Johnny (Sauter) I’m sure last year, you had the pressure – you know what could go wrong. There’s so much pressure on you when you get to the second one, it was just if it happens it happens. You’re definitely nervous, but that first one’s very nerve-racking just because you think of any gremlin that can go wrong. I just remember like the last race all I had to do was start the race. I just remember being nervous as the thing got started. I’m really looking forward to – hopefully we got all of our gremlins out of the way so far.”
BEN RHODES, No. 27 Safelite Auto Glass Toyota Tundra, ThorSport Racing
What were the closing laps like at Chicago when you were trying to clinch a spot in the Playoffs?
“It’s honestly a blur looking back at it. I can tell you it wasn’t pleasant, wasn’t the most fun race of the season. We had a good time. The race didn’t go the way we wanted. There was multiple mistakes, different things that were going on and we had to overcome those throughout the entire day, the entire night. Not the most fun race in recent memory, but I feel like that’s good rehearsal for the Final Four. Hopefully we can make it there and be consistent, limit those mistakes going forward and just play it safe going forward. Make sure that we don’t put the pressure on ourselves and I think we’ll be just fine. “
With the unknowns at Talladega, does it worry you that it’s an elimination race?
“I guess I’m different because I kind of like it. I like the fact that there’s an unknown certainty to it. We all have to go there, we all have to race. We all are subjected to the same conditions, so I kind of like the uncertainty of it. I like Talladega. I like Daytona. Those are some of my favorite races out of the whole year, so that it’s in the Playoffs – I don’t think it could come at a better time.”