The title contenders meet with the media in Miami

You’d think these guys wouldn’t get along as well as they do. Thursday the four Championship contenders for this year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup title sat together on a stage in a hotel that looks straight out of a movie in Miami Beach.

The Championship 4 media day was held at the Miami Beach Edition a swanky sort of place complete with a Rolls Royce parked in front along with a bright orange Lamborghini.

Inside the four drivers met the media first together on stage then individually each driver rotated through stations that included radio, TV and the print/internet media.

Last year’s Championship 4 Media Day included a now-famous quip from Joey Logano that the title field was “The Big 3 and me.”

The Big 3, of course, was the threesome of Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick, who had dominated the season to that point. Those three returned to the Championship 4 this year, leading to an updated quote from Busch on Thursday.

“This is the Big 3, with the New 1,” Busch said with a laugh, referencing Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, who qualified for his second Championship 4 and first since 2014 with his win last week at Phoenix.

As for Hamlin, he doesn’t mind being the (new) one to crash the party this year.

“These three … have been the standouts year in and year out,” Hamlin said of his competition. “You see one or two guys get into that Championship 4 here and there. I think it would be most gratifying if we did win because this is by far the best (field) you could put together. It would mean more for that reason.”

Harvick and Busch each have had the most Championship 4 appearances since the elimination-style format was introduced in 2014 — five times in six years. Truex Jr., meanwhile, has qualified four times.

“It’s difficult to navigate the playoffs and there’s a group of guys that have been there and done that and know that you’re going to have some things that you’re going to have to deal with throughout the playoffs,” Harvick said. ” … Our teams are experienced and have navigated those things year after year and I think you see the best crew chiefs and the best organizations and the best drivers and they consistently stick out.”

Don’t think Hamlin is just happy to be here, though.

“I’ve got a chance, an opportunity, another one. This will be our third essentially going to Homestead with a legit shot,” Hamlin said. “Certainly you don’t want to squeeze away any opportunities, but it doesn’t make me nervous by any stance. We already won Homestead. We won Homestead last week. That was our win-or‑go‑home race.  We performed at an incredibly high level.

“We have now a free weekend to go out there and have fun and keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’ll have a chance by the end of the night because we have all year long as long as we do the same thing.”

The fun and games will all end Sunday when the four hit the track with the highest finisher winning this year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series title.

Greg Engle