MIAMI BEACH FL- Unlike some sports press conferences prior to the game, or, match, there was no drama Thursday in Miami Beach. There was no chair throwing, name calling, or trash talking. In fact the four drivers competing for the season title in NASCAR’s final race seemed more like four co-workers just hanging out.
The four drivers had already endured a week filled with media appearances in New York.
“I would say it’s kind of been fun this week,” defending champion Kyle Busch said. Being in it last year, I thought it was pretty fun. It was kind of more a sending off of Jeff, if you will, so we were all kind of cordial with each other because we probably kind of had to be because it was nice to be for Jeff.”
“This year it’s just been fun,” he added. “These guys are easy to get along with, easy to talk to, easy to have a good time with and joke around and mess around, so it’s been good.”
“Sorry we’re letting you down,” Jimmie Johnson who will be going for a record seventh title Sunday joked.
“At the end of the day, I grew up,” Carl Edwards who lost the title in 2011 by a tiebreaker. “And this has been the kind of sporting event where, hey, you go in there and your respect your competitor as best — I realize what these guys are capable of, and I think that being able to go have respect for your competitor, but still, when that race starts, we’re going to race each other with a lot of intensity. I don’t think you have to be throwing chairs at each other to have a good competition on the field of battle.”
“I think you see that in all sports,” Joey Logano who won his spot in the Championship 4 a week prior at Phoenix. “You watch a football game, after the game they’re all shaking each other’s hands after they just knocked the heck out of each other. That happens. You even watch a hockey game, afterwards they all shake hands, whether they want to or not. It’s enforced that sport.”
While the four do get along out of the racecars, when its time to race, the attitudes will change.
“I do think there’s obviously a switch that everyone, maybe when they put their helmet on, things change,” Logano said. “We’re all out there as competitors, but right now we’re outside the car, we also get along, right? We’ve got to spend a lot of time together this week.”
“I think one other thing that plays into that,” Johnson said. “And I’m not sure if people like it or love it, but this is the 39th race we’ve probably had against each other this year, and then years out of doing it, so we do have a rapport, and we also do learn how to socialize outside of the car and then how to flip the switch, as you mentioned. It’s just something that I guess we grow up dealing with from a young age racing, however we did it as youngsters up until now, and where a fighter is somebody, they might see that guy one or twice in that moment, and oh, by the way, in the UFC they try to kill each other anyway, so it’s all about killing the guy.”
“And I think that — I don’t know how the guys feel,” Edwards added turning to his fellow drivers, “But I don’t think anything I’m going to say to these guys is going to make their car any slower on Sunday, so there’s really no point. I know it’s entertaining for you guys, but…”
After all the pre-race media, the press conferences and relaxed banter, the green flag will fall Sunday. At the end, one driver will win the title. When that race starts, all bets are off, and no longer will simply four be friendly co-workers.
“I’m ready to go to war with these guys,” Johnson said. “We’re fired up.”