Advertisement
Sports

It’s all fun outside the cars before NASCAR drivers begin final Sprint Cup chase

Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards
Kyle Busch, right, talks to reporters alongside fellow NASCAR drivers, from left, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards during a news conference Thursday.
(Alan Diaz / Associated Press)

None of the NASCAR Chase contenders threw a chair at one another Thursday afternoon.

You rock, sportsmanship and civility!

A reporter at NASCAR’s Championship 4 news conference referenced the recent UFC 205 media spectacle, when Eddie Alvarez and Conor McGregor got into a chair-tossing spit-spat, and asked how these four friendly combatants would be able to start the fire Sunday when racing for the Cup title.

“Right now we’re outside the car,” Joey Logano said. “We might as well get along.”

Advertisement

And so, no inanimate objects were destroyed when Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Logano came together in competitive chumminess at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel.

The meet-and-greet was the last mandatory pit stop for the contenders after the lineup was finalized last weekend, when Logano and Busch raced their way into the mix in Phoenix.

They’ve been forced to make nice, more or less, for a series of media appearances Monday and Tuesday in New York, including the “Jimmy Kimmel Live” show. It’s the nice break in a sport where rivalries can be triggered in a split second.

A wrong twist or turn can ruin somebody else’s day. Or season.

Advertisement

Not so much this time around in the Chase lottery.

After sorting out the final four from 16 Chase contenders, all of the ornery suspects have been eliminated. That would be you, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart, and even Matt Kenseth, assuming Logano stays in that mix.

Every sport is driven by rivalries. NASCAR is no different, but the dynamics of the Chase and the four guys who ended up on the big stage have no acrimonious history.

“It’s really the four,” Johnson said. “There’s really nothing lingering. I’m not saying there won’t be at the end of Sunday night. If you changed a couple of people out it could have definitely been different.”

Johnson has always been one of the good guys in the garage. Ditto for Edwards. Logano doesn’t have to deal with fending off his most contentious dance partner, Kenseth, as they did last year when payback trumped everything.

Busch, who has no problem being front and center if acrimony calls, doesn’t have Harvick as his competitive foil.

“These guys are easy to get along with, easy to talk to, easy to have a good time with,” Busch said.

You’d think they were prepping for a playdate instead of making frantic left-hand turns at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as Sunday afternoon dovetails into evening, with these guys trying to become the last man standing after a 36-race grind comes to an end.

Advertisement

Mind games? What’s the point?

“I don’t think anything I’m going to say to these guys is going to make their car slower on Sunday,” Edwards said. “There’s really no point, even though it may be entertaining to you guys.”

So Kumbaya it is, but it will only go so far on Sunday. The switch will flip soon enough, when the handshakes and the pressers and the chumminess are all over, and everyone gets down to the business of winning.

Logano and Edwards are racing to become first-time Cup champions. On the other end of the spectrum, Johnson chases history, trying to become only the third driver in NASCAR history to win seven titles. Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt would make nice company.

And then there’s Busch, the defending champ, who needed a waiver to qualify last year after he suffered serious leg injuries racing in the Xfinity Series the day before the 2015 Daytona 500. Busch missed the season’s first 11 races before scrambling back not only to qualify, but win the whole thing.

“It’s different for sure,” Busch said. “Last year I was a part-time champion so this year I hope to become a full-time champion.”

Chippiness noted.

A touch of competitive bravado at last.

Advertisement

Although flying chairs remain an optional accessory.

gdiaz@orlandosentinel.com


Advertisement