Brief NASCAR championship press conference offers a bit of tension and little else

There wasn’t much to glean from the 10 minutes the four title-contending drivers were on stage together. (Getty)

If you were expecting Thursday’s media session with Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. to be eventful or filled with some trash talk, your expectations were misplaced.

The pre-finale press conference with the four drivers racing for the 2017 Cup Series title didn’t last long enough to provide a glimpse into any themes or storylines among the four heading into Sunday’s race. The 10-minute event involved just seven questions. Among them were questions about each driver’s pick for the Xfinity Series title and how they would each describe the Cup Series season in one word.

The buzz for Sunday’s race was not palpable. These press conferences have been unfulfilling since the 2010 and 2011 editions when drivers traded verbal jabs and one-liners and Thursday’s group media event might have been the worst — and definitely the shortest — of the last six.

There was at least one redeeming moment in the gathering when Busch and Keselowski were asked about their longstanding rivalry. It’s the first time the Cup champions have gone head-to-head for the Cup title. And each driver is searching for his second title.

Keselowski, the 2012 champ, did his best to downplay any talk of the rivalry between them, knowing full well that Harvick and Truex may be the two strongest contenders for Sunday’s race and championship win.

“I think looking for this weekend, there’s four of us up here on the stage, and for probably both of us, it’s not enough to beat each other, we’ve got to beat everyone to win a championship. It would be, at least from my perspective, a little bit foolish to get caught up on any one person,” Keselowski said.

Busch, the 2015 champ, was more matter-of-fact about their feud, which sparked a bit in 2017. The two drivers collided at the beginning of an Xfinity Series race at Michigan and again when they both went spinning at Watkins Glen.

“Sometimes you just don’t like a guy,” Busch said. “Fact of the matter. I never ran into [teammate] Matt Kenseth. I don’t think Matt Kenseth ever ran into me. There is a respect factor out there on the racetrack, and you can certainly do a better job sometimes when you’re around some of those guys that you may or may not necessarily like, but as once a wise man told me, I think it was Chase Elliott, I race those how they race me.”

If Sunday’s race comes down to Busch and Keselowski, perhaps we’ll see some contact.

More likely — at least at this point, anyway — is that the race for the win will involve Truex, the season’s most dominant driver on 1.5-mile tracks like Homestead-Miami Speedway. While Truex joked he’d be willing to wreck any of the other three drivers for the title, he also said he didn’t anticipate needing to do something drastic.

The only driver among the four without a title, Truex has openly embraced being the championship favorite thanks to his team’s performance in 2017.

“I have not thought about any desperation moves,” Truex said. “I don’t plan on being in that position. I think a perfect scenario is to go out there and race them heads up and beat them fair and square. That’s how I approach racing. That’s how I plan on doing it Sunday.”

Harvick beat Truex two weeks ago at Texas, snapping a four-race win streak the driver of the No. 78 car had on 1.5-mile tracks. We wondered if Harvick would subtly dig at any of the three others during the press conference given his ability to verbally poke and prod. But Harvick was fairly silent during the group format. Perhaps that was part of his gameplan.

“We came here with no intention other than to win this championship, and there’s really no reason to ‑‑ it’s not boxing,” Harvick said. “This is a car race, and there’s a lot of things that are involved in it. It’s not my mind against his mind. It’s my team and everybody that has to show up and navigate the weekend because this weekend is not like any other weekend that we’ve been to.”

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!