Chase favorite Kevin Harvick gets an early start on the mind games

Reid Spencer - NASCAR Wire Service Thursday, Nov 13 1519

It didn’t take Kevin Harvick long to start the needling — and his target was the new guy, Joey Logano.

Before the drivers’ portion of Wednesday’s Championship 4 Media Day was 10 minutes old, Harvick made an issue of Logano running interference for teammate Brad Keselowski at Talladega in a race Keselowski had to win to stay in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Seated at the dais in the ballroom at Trump National Doral with fellow Championship 4 Round drivers Logano, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman, Harvick suggested Keselowski, who was eliminated last Sunday at Phoenix, might return the favor and block for Logano in Sunday’s title race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on ESPN).

“I thought you were going to say that you were going to send Brad out to be a moving chicane the way you were at Talladega,” Harvick said.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Kevin,” Logano retorted.

“Maybe you should ask Roger,” Harvick rejoined, referring to Logano’s team owner, Roger Penske.

Competing in his first Chase, Logano may have seemed to Harvick the most vulnerable target. Or perhaps Harvick, the championship favorite, considers Logano the biggest threat to his own title aspirations.

“Bingo,” tweeted Keselowski when that precise notion was suggested on social media.

In a question-and-answer session with reporters after the press conference, Harvick demurred.

“I think anybody can be a threat,” he said. “Obviously, Denny (Hamlin) has been really good at this particular race. Joey’s been good all year, and Newman’s been pretty consistent. I think if you put yourself in position to win this race, you’re going to win the championship.

“So that’s really our focus going into the weekend, to try to win. Obviously, the 22 car (Logano) has been probably one of the better cars all year, as far as speed and consistency and winning races.”