HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Team owner Joe Gibbs says it's every man for himself in Sunday's Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (on NBC at 2:30 p.m. ET).
Just don't tell his drivers.
Gibbs is the first owner to place two drivers in the final round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup since the elimination format debuted in the 2014 season.
"I think there's some information at the shop that ... to be quite truthful, both of them want this in the worst way and they're going to compete," Gibbs said on Friday when he and fellow Championship 4 team owners Rick Hendrick and Roger Penske took questions from reporters at Homestead. "They're not sharing a lot of stuff.
"It's going to be up to them individually, and I think both of our guys, along with (Championship 4 contenders) Jimmie (Johnson) and Joey (Logano), it's such a big deal for them. We kind of felt like, obviously, they're going to be kind of individually going for it. So it'll be at practice today and everything, big deal for both of them, but they'll both kind of be on their own here."
Someone forgot to relay that information to Busch, the defending series champion, and Edwards, who qualified ninth and 10th, respectively, for Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400.
"Did you know we weren't sharing?" Edwards asked Busch in the post-qualifying media session.
"No.," Busch replied.
"No, me neither," rejoined Edwards.
"Joe is not in our meetings," Busch added to hearty laughter from the press corps. "Don't listen to Joe. We're not sharing with him. Everything right now is all the same -- open notebook. I've been looking at Carl's stuff all day. Carl has probably been looking at everybody else, as well as I have, the 11 (Denny Hamlin), the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.), 19 (Edwards), 20 (Matt Kenseth). I've been looking at everybody's stuff all day long, reading some notes and going through some of that stuff and seeing what all is going on within our organization to try to help make ourselves better.
"I mean, that's what we do, and I think we do that all the way to race time. That's sort of the game plan, I think, as to what has been said to me anyways from my crew chief. What about you, Carl?"
"Yeah, we haven't even talked about it," Edwards replied. "It's just business as usual."
COMPETITION BETWEEN MANUFACTURERS EXTENDS TO THE SHOWROOM
Competition between NASCAR manufacturers isn't confined to the race track. In a press conference featuring executives from Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota, Ed Laukes of Toyota couldn't pass up an opportunity to needle Chevy's Jim Campbell.
"Let me apologize for those 16 Monday mornings," Laukes quipped, referring to Toyota's 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories this season.
"Let me apologize for last night," retorted Campbell, referring to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship Chevrolet driver Johnny Sauter won on Friday.
All NASCAR's OEMs are in the business of selling cars, and all view NASCAR racing as an invaluable resource toward that end.
"I would just say, first of all, we're a car company," Campbell said. "So being in a sport where the car and the drivers are the stars is straight right on the money for us. What we have found in this series, we get skill and reach in terms of audience. We know, because we measure closely, that our involvement in NASCAR, we see a lift in the brand.
"We see key image ratings for Chevrolet lifted as well. When those two things happen, good things happen in the showroom. More people put you on their shopping list. That's a fact. We see that for sure."
Ford is expanding its involvement in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with the addition of four-car Stewart-Haas Racing next year.
"There's no secret there's a heck of an investment we all make in this sport," said Dave Pericak, director of Ford Performance. "We wouldn't be doing that if we weren't getting a return on our investment. Having said that, it's the enthusiasts that are here. We are talking to them. We are giving them what they want.
"At the end of the day, those are the people that go out and be the ambassadors for our companies. When somebody wants to know what they should buy, what Ford is doing, Chevy, that's who they go talk to -- they talk to enthusiasts. We're really talking to the people that are going to help us carry our message forward."
THE GAMES TEAM OWNERS PLAY
OK, maybe that's an exaggeration.
But Johnson's team owner, Rick Hendrick, confessed on Friday that's he's been known to make subtle additions to his cars to confound other owners, all of whom are watching closely.
"In the garage area, you watch everybody," Hendrick said. "It's the damndest place I've ever seen about snooping.
"Sometimes you'll put stuff on a car just to watch them take a picture of it, and it really doesn't do anything. But it's just fun to watch them run around and take a picture of it."
Jimmie Johnson led Saturday's first practice with a lap at 174.345 mph, but his No. 48 Chevrolet ran over a piece of hose near the exit of Turn 4 roughly 10 minutes into the final session. The team examined the splitter and changed the right rear tire before sending Johnson back onto the track. The No. 48 Chevy was 10th fastest in final practice. ... Carl Edwards can draw considerable satisfaction from Saturday's two practice sessions. The No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota posted the third-fastest single lap in the opening session, and Edwards was at the top of the chart in 10-lap average, running 169.062 mph over his first 10 circuits. Edwards was second quickest behind Martin Truex Jr. in final practice at 174.031 mph (Truex ran 174.289 mph). ... Defending series champion Kyle Busch, on the other hand, didn't have the speed shown by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate. Searching for different lines around the 1.5-mile track, Busch was 28th fastest in Saturday's first practice and improved to 14th in final practice.