Wednesday's roundup: Harvick tries to rattle Logano

Associated Press

Miami — As the youngest driver in NASCAR's championship race, Joey Logano hasn't been in the same high-stakes situations as his other three competitors.

Seeing an opportunity to maybe rattle his cage, Kevin Harvick pounced.

Harvick poked at Logano during Wednesday night's championship kickoff news conference when the four drivers were asked how they were approaching Sunday's finale. The Sprint Cup title will go to the highest finishing driver among Harvick, Logano, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman.

Before Logano could explain his approach, Harvick interrupted him and accused him of blocking at Talladega to help teammate Brad Keselowski win the race.

"I thought you were going to say you were going to send Brad out to be a moving chicane like you were at Talladega," Harvick said.

Logano didn't flinch: "I don't know what you're talking about," he said. When the formal portion of the event was over, Logano patted Harvick on the back and said, "Nice."

Harvick has played these games before — he needled Denny Hamlin during the 2010 lead-up to the championship. Hamlin was the points leader and stressed about the expectations, and the contenders news conference set the tone for a miserable weekend in which Hamlin lost the title.

The next year, Tony Stewart openly ribbed Carl Edwards at their contenders event. Then Stewart won the race and the championship on a tie-breaker over Edwards.

Harvick and Logano have had issues in the past, and Logano once said that Harvick's wife, Delana, "wears the firesuit in the family." With five wins this season, Logano could be considered the favorite on Sunday along with Harvick, who has four wins.

So it made sense for Harvick to try to play some mind games with the 24-year-old driver, who is in his first title hunt.

Logano said after that he wasn't bothered by Harvick.

"I think it is funny," he said. "It is so cool to be here and having a shot at the championship. On top of that, when you have one of the threats to win the championship along with yourself trying to play head games with you, it means they're nervous about you and I think that's kind of cool.

"I'm all right with it. I'm having fun with this."

Harvick insisted he wasn't joking about the Talladega dig: "I told him that after Talladega, I said, 'That karma will catch up with you, buddy.' He knows I wasn't joking."

Hamlin, who insisted he lost the championship because he ran poorly in 2010 and not because of Harvick's jabs four days earlier, said he expected Harvick to make a run at Logano.

"Joey is the new guy, he's the young guy and obviously he's got a great shot at the championship," Hamlin said. "Everyone is going to look for every advantage that they can get, whether it be coincidence or not that the person poking fun is the one that kind of gets under the other person's skin. You knew Kevin was going to have a little fun out there."

No big names, but ...

There's no Jeff, Jimmie or Junior.

Bad Brad missed the cut, and Smoke never contended.

NASCAR's biggest stars are all absent from this final field of four racing for the Sprint Cup championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday.

The elimination format introduced by NASCAR officials this season was designed to emphasize wins over points and create a survival-of-the-fastest finale.

Jeff Gordon and Keselowski were eliminated last week. Six-time and defending champion Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's most popular driver, were knocked out in the second round. Three-time series champion Tony Stewart didn't make the 16-driver field.

It was a startling development for NASCAR, particularly since Earnhardt, Gordon, Johnson and Keselowski combined to win 18 of 35 races this season. They will be racing only for pride and a trophy on Sunday while Harvick, Hamlin, Logano and Newman will be chasing the Sprint Cup championship.

The quartet lacks star power. But it is a formidable field and all four drivers have their share of tangled histories and compelling journeys that have them within reach of what will be the first NASCAR title for one of them.

"These moments are what you live for when you're racing or a professional athlete," Harvick said of his first true chance to win a championship. "You want these moments."

Despite 41 laps led all year and no wins, Newman has a chance to end the 20-year championship drought for Childress.

"We're in this hunt," Newman said. "This is a chance for a dream to come true."

Cast aside by Joe Gibbs Racing last year, the fit with Penske has been spectacular for Logano.

Foyt has surgery

Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt is in stable condition at a Houston hospital following triple bypass surgery.

Team spokesman Anne Fornoro says Foyt is expected to remain hospitalized until Monday.

Foyt was admitted this week after complaining of intermittent chest pains.

Fornoro says doctors found blockages in three arteries in which Foyt, 79, previously had stents placed.

Pit stops

Swedish driver Marcus Ericsson says he has terminated his contract with financially stricken Formula One team Caterham with immediate effect, ahead of his move to Sauber.

Caterham missed the last two grands prix, in the United States and Brazil, after being taken over by insolvency specialists last month as it looks for a new buyer.