Jimmie Johnson said at Richmond Friday that a conference call involving himself, teammate Jeff Gordon and car owner Rick Hendrick has settled the latest dispute between the two drivers.
Johnson and Gordon had first sparred two weeks ago at Texas, prompting harsh words from both, but the pair said afterward that they had settled the matter. However, during last weekend's race at Talladega, the two Hendrick drivers were again in conflict after Johnson swerved into his teammate, leading to the No. 24's involvement in a multi-car pileup moments later. Earlier this week, Johnson accepted blame for running Gordon out of the groove, and Friday he indicated his teammate and his boss had accepted this.
“I talked to Rick and he said we should all just jump on a call and just talk a little bit. That's what we did,” Johnson said. “I think when Jeff jumped out of the car (after the Talladega race), he didn't realize that it was just a bad decision on my part to come down and try to get in front in that lane. So, our conversation was pretty good. In a lot of ways from Rick's standpoint, my standpoint, and Jeff's, it was just a mistake that I made. Unfortunately, coming off the heels of Texas and the fact that Jeff crashed after that, the emotions were high and he got out of the car and said some things that he probably didn't want to. It's amazing how clear you think on Tuesday after the dust settles and the emotions go away.”
Johnson added that he believes the matter had been blown out of proportion: “Unfortunately, this has been in the media more than other things have. As a professional athlete and as a NASCAR driver, you have this stuff take place all season long. A lot of it gets handled behind the scenes and not in front of the cameras and pens and papers; but this one, unfortunately, did. So, it's not something new. It's somewhat new to this caliber with my teammate, but we deal with this stuff all the time and we're all professionals and I'm plenty comfortable with where things are and what's been going on.”
Johnson added that he doesn't believe Gordon's increased competitiveness in recent weeks makes racing him any more complicated.
“In 2007, we raced for the championship, so that's not the case,” he said. “I think from my perspective there's a point where I've got to race people how they race me. If people are pushing and shoving me out of the way, I've got to do the same thing back. I've been very gracious with teammates where I've taken more lumps than I've passed out. That's what the Texas thing was about. I just got to a point where I said, ‘Enough.' But last weekend at Talladega was merely an accident on my behalf. I just misjudged the closing speed.
“We'll just make sure we stay away from each other for a week or two and not let anything else fester this thing along, and we'll be fine.”