Busch Vs. Johnson: Is It Over?
By: Steve Blevins on September 12, 2011 | 2:59 P.M. EST
Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson discussed their views about Saturday night at Richmond. (Photos: Getty Images)
Two of the record-tying 15 caution periods in Saturday’s Wonderful Pistachios 400 at Richmond International Raceway stemmed from incidents involving five-time and defending Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson and 2004 Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch.
The pair has been at odds since Pocono last month, and each had their own distinct view of Saturday night’s incidents.
“We raced down into Turn 1 and I locked up the left front trying to avoid him,” Busch said after finishing fifth. “And then you could just see the payback coming from a five-time chump. So this is where we stand. Cars that are racing, cars have been wrecked.
“When he (Johnson) came back to us, you know, you could see it coming. That’s not something you see from Jimmie Johnson every day so I know we’re in his head. If we’re going to race this way, he’s got to worry that there’s 10 other guys in this Chase, not just the (No.) 22.”
Johnson obviously disagreed with his rival’s assessment after finishing 31st.
“I got run over going into Turn 1,” Johnson said. “If you’re going to spin me out, I’m going to spin you out. It’s just part of it. I’m sure I’ll go find him and talk to him and he’ll run his mouth and we’ll go from there. So we’ll see what happens. I’ve worked very hard to not have any contact with him. And even the Pocono thing; I made a move to break draft. I didn’t touch his car; he instigated and ran over the side of me. So if he can stop running into my Lowe’s Chevrolet, everything would be just fine.”
The Chase for the Sprint Cup begins Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., and one of the top questions on many fans’ minds is whether what happened at Pocono and Richmond will roll over into the championship run. Johnson is taking a cautious approach.
““We’ll see,” Johnson said. “Time will tell. It’s in his (Busch’s) hands. I didn’t do anything until he ran me over. I passed him two or three times tonight without touching him and then he ran me over going into (Turn) 1. So, it is what it is. But I’m very excited for this Lowe’s Impala. Granted, we had our issues with getting turned around there, but we had a very strong race car at the start of the race tonight and were running in the top four or five. And that’s unfortunate we couldn’t finish where we were supposed to tonight, but we’ll go to Chicago and we’ll have a good race.”
Busch says he’s ready to move forward.
“I’m good with where we are,” Busch says. “We raced hard; we’ve got good cars that are not too terribly wrecked. But he’s got to learn to race. He’s been able to beat guys the last five years just by out-driving ‘em with what he has for equipment. If he wants to switch equipment let’s see what we can do but I’m going to beat him fair and square with my Penske Dodge.”
Johnson says he’s ready for whatever happens.
“Competition is competition, and there's been plenty of rivalries,” the defending champion says. “Maybe it hasn't been to this level, but racing Jeff (Gordon), racing Mark (Martin), racing Carl (Edwards), the '06 deal, Kevin (Harvick) and I had a little rub going and I had some issues that I had to deal with. So I've been through a lot of it. The bottom line is we can race out there without running into each other, and that's where it goes.
“Unfortunately we have had a history over the years. We spoke a few minutes ago up on the stage, and I certainly hope it's behind us. I have no intentions to run people over. The incidents that have happened have been accidental in the past when he was in the (No.) 2 car. He knows that, and moving forward, I'm just not going to let people run our race car over. There's been a lot of contact going on, and that's why I retaliated tonight. It was a good time to do it. Moving forward, I think we've raced together the last two weeks, three weeks and been just fine on the racetrack. We can do it. It can be done. We had eight, nine years before that where everything was fine. It's possible, and I think it's in both of our best interests to get it behind us and go forward.”