Championship Contenders Meet the Press

Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin had different thoughts on strategy during the press conference. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)

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CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The tightest Chase for the Sprint Cup battle in NASCAR history hit South Florida Thursday with the annual Championship Contender's Press Conference officially kicking off the weekend’s season-ending activities.
 
Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick met members of the media as a prelude to Sunday’s Ford 400 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
 
The trio come into the last race of the season with Hamlin leading the Chase standings by a mere fifteen points over Johnson with Harvick in third place 46 behind.
 
“You look at last year and it was just a total disaster,” said Harvick who has led the impressive turnaround at Richard Childress Racing which did not have on driver in last season’s Chase and this year put three into the playoffs.
 
“This is a win-win situation for us. There's no losing."
 
While the duo on top of the standings have received most of the attention in the days leading up to the championship-deciding race, Harvick has at times been the forgotten man in the title hunt.
 
And he’s fine with it.
 
“We’re in this thing and plan to be until the bitter end,” Harvick said. “We’ll just go about our business and perform like we know we can on the race track.
 
“I know what my approach will be - do what it takes to win your team a championship, so whatever it takes...”
 
Hamlin is considered to be under more pressure as the series leader especially in wake of his lead shrinking from 33 to 15 points after his unfortunate fuel mileage issues in Phoenix last week.
 
However the Joe Gibbs Racing driver doesn’t believe the pressure of winning a championship is going to derail the efforts of his team that has performed so well this season.
 
“I feel like I have the best cars and the best team every week,” Hamlin said. “That’s not going to change this weekend. We’re putting what happened last week behind us and I know that as a unit we’re as strong as we’ve ever been.”
 
Dealing with pressure is part of the sport according to Hamlin and being in a title fight isn’t the first time he’s faced such a serious situation.
 
“I had to fight for my job,” Hamlin said of his tenure at Joe Gibbs Racing. “That was way more pressure than this right here. I fought other guys for my job and only had 3 races to do it. That's serious pressure."
 
Johnson finds himself in a strange position coming into the season finale - not leading the point standings. In his quest for an unprecedented fifth straight championship, Johnson will have to do something he’s never been forced to in the past – come from behind to accomplish the feat.
 
However, despite those uncharted waters, Johnson doesn’t think he has the most pressure of the championship-contending trio.
 
“We have nothing to lose -- this guy does,” Johnson said pointing to Hamlin.
 
Although Sunday’s race is the last of this year’s in the “Boys Have at It” season, at least one of the three drivers believes intentionally crashing an opponent is how they will go about trying to win the championship.
 
“To wreck a guy to win a championship? I don't know how high I could hold the trophy,” said Hamlin. “I'm not going to sell out."
 
However not everyone was on the same page as Hamlin.
 
“I'll sleep fine. I'll do whatever I have to do,” said Harvick.

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