The feud between Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch that began at last Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono has continued on to this weekend's round at Watkins Glen.
Last Sunday, Johnson and Busch clashed on the final lap at Pocono while battling for third place, with the growing animosity then bubbling over into a heated discussion in the pits when the race was over. Johnson stated that although the on-track issue had riled him, what really made him furious was his rival's attitude in the pits following the race. He criticized the Penske Dodge driver for "running his mouth" and brought up previous incidents he's been involved in with competitors – and even his own team – in the past.
"There are two parts to this thing: First part is on the track; second part is pit road," said Johnson. "The on-the-track part, we all know we come off of Turn 1 and Kurt [Busch] gets to me to side-draft me. I try to break the side-draft and then from there he felt it was necessary to run into the side of my car and tear my car up. So, yes, I was mad at that point.
"And then it brings me to the other part which was on pit road. I'm not sure if anyone has had words with someone before, but when you are in that moment and you're having words with someone and the crowd starts to build around, that guy all of a sudden gets brave. And when you think it's over and you walk away, that guy gets real tough, I don't know about you, but that really makes me mad.
"Bottom line, he just started running his mouth. We know there has been plenty of history over the years. And there are just things that just kind of boil to a head and when I hopped out of the car and started talking to him, he had one level of interaction with me while he was sitting in his racecar. And when he got out of the car, neither one of us where happy, but we were talking. And the crowd started to build and his bravery started to build. I walk away and he got awfully tough. That part frustrates me and that is where you saw me engage like you did.
"I mean, if you are going to say something, say it to the man's face and eye to eye when he is there. Don't wait until he walks away."
The Hendrick driver said he doesn't expect to retaliate against Busch on the track due to the respect he has for his rival's boss, Roger Penske. However, the pair are set to compete in Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Watkins Glen, where only the victory is at stake as neither are series regulars.
When asked about his reaction to Johnson's comments, Busch joked that he was glad he had got inside his rival's head.
"That's great. It means I'm in his head – and if I'm in his head, then he's got to worry about us running through this Chase," said Busch. "I've been through enough issues in my past to know where I need to be."
He added that Johnson's moves in trying to defend third place on the last lap at Pocono were not those he would expect of a five-time Sprint Cup series champion, but those of someone that he's had some history of previous exchanges with.
"For me, I think the line is when he swerved at us," added Busch. "I think he said yesterday he was trying to break the draft. That's not a move of a five-time champion. That's the move of a guy that has had an issue with a guy like me.
"We've raced each other hard and I've been spun out and wrecked a few times and we both know that we look at each other very sternly. That's great competition. That blends into 'rubbing is racing' when you have a history with a guy. You just don't forget about it. I learned from one of the greats about how to keep a memory on who does you right and who does you wrong. That was Jimmy Spencer. He taught me a lot."
Busch said the pit road exchange was simply a consequence of the heat of the moment and that he didn't regret what happened.
"Yeah, I mean if we would've run into each other in the motorcoach lot afterward, the adrenaline would've calmed down a little bit and there probably would have been a better discussion," said Busch. "But he was really amped up and felt like I did him wrong and to me, in the response from the different people this week, they're like 'Wow! that's exciting, that's what we want to see!' That's the intensity and the passion that our sport is built of.
"This is a bunch of guys here racing stock cars in the Southeast. This isn't open-wheel racing where we're supposed to pass each other clean and be up front leading by 10 seconds."