Championship 4 contenders discuss upcoming title fight
Kevin Harvick, the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, minced no words when this year’s four title contenders met the press Thursday afternoon at the posh Diplomat Resort & Spa, in the annual kickoff event to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“If you guys can’t find something to write about on this stage, y’all need to be fired,” Harvick told the assembled media throng. “So make some good stories and make sure there’s enough people watching. We’re depending on you.”
In a very real sense, Harvick was right. All four drivers have unusually compelling storylines heading into Sunday’s season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead:
● Kyle Busch made it here despite missing the first 11 races of the season after suffering gruesome leg and foot injuries in the season-opening NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona. He rebounded to win four races and make it all the way here.
“It’s just a great opportunity for myself to come back in this format and have the opportunity to race in the way that NASCAR presents the rules and the way the Chase format is,” Busch said. "… A lot of people would say that I don’t deserve the chance to be here, but you know what, we are, and we’re going to give it all we’ve got just to go out there and have some fun and race against these guys.”
● Jeff Gordon will be competing in his final race and trying to win a fifth championship, after winning his fourth all the way back in 2001. Gordon has that rarest of opportunities for any athlete, to retire as a champion.
“I never dreamed that we could have had an opportunity to race for the championship in my final race,” Gordon said. “… There’s definitely pressure, because we all want it. We want it really badly, and it’s not going to come easily.”
● Harvick is seeking to become only the second repeat champion this century and only the 16th driver in NASCAR history to win multiple Premier Series titles.
“I have the confidence in my team and the things that we’ve done this year that I believe that our car will be competitive,” Harvick said. “But as we’ve proven throughout the Chase, even though your car is competitive, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong in our sport, just whether it’s mistakes from me or parts failures or whatever goes on. In the end we’re going to try to control the things that we can control.”
● Martin Truex Jr. drives for Furniture Row Racing, the only single-car team left. In fact, the other three teams are all four-car teams. Furniture Row is also the only team based in Denver, and Truex is the only driver with a rookie crew chief. And an storyline for Truex has been his longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex’s ongoing battle with ovarian cancer.
“There’s really no pressure,” Truex said. “It’s fun to be here. This season has been a ton of fun for me.”
On Sunday, Harvick, Busch, Gordon and Truex will all start Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 tied in points. Whichever one of those four has the best finish in the race will be crowned the champion. There are no bonus points and by definition there can be no ties. Best finish takes it, period.
May the best team win.