NASCAR: At Chicagoland, drivers trade paint, then words
By Dan Gelston
JOLIET, Ill. ó Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson traded paint. It might be awhile until they exchange pleasantries.
Busch was fuming with Johnson after two of NASCAR’s top stars got into some late-race bumping Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway that left each of them wondering if one has a problem with the other.
Johnson, though, seemed more ready to move on and let the incident slide.
Busch might still be upset when the Sprint Cup series picks up July 26 at Indianapolis.
Johnson had lost his lead to Denny Hamlin late in the race and fell back into three-wide racing with Busch and Jeff Gordon. Gordon appeared to get under Johnson, and the three-time defending Cup champion’s No. 48 Chevrolet got loose and made contact with Busch.
Angry at the contact, former champion Busch appeared to deliberately turn into Johnson. Their cars connected, causing a spark of excitement in a 400-mile race that Mark Martin won in mostly dominating fashion.
“The No. 2 (Busch) and I touched and he bodyslammed me after that,” Johnson said.
Busch and Johnson also spun together and tangled at Sonoma, perhaps one reason for Busch’s ill feelings. Johnson slid into Busch and later apologized.
Another reason could be while Johnson salvaged an eighth-place finish after seemingly having the race won until Hamlin caused him to lose control, Busch fell all the way to 17th.
“It looked like it was pretty crazy up there, but it worked good for me,” said Gordon, who ended strong with a runner-up finish.
Busch said he was starting to lose faith in Johnson’s “ability to be a three-time champion on the track.”
“A couple of runs spoiled by the 48 car,” Busch said. “I’m not digging it.”
Johnson claimed Busch was coming again to intentionally tag him for a second time.
“He’s one of those guys that his temper can get away from him,” Johnson said. “When he first hit me it was like, all right man, this is racing. This isn’t necessary. And then he backed off.”
The bumping was just part of racing and Johnson seemed perplexed about the steady line of questioning after the race. Johnson said he was willing to let it go unless Busch was still really angry at him after a cooling down period.
“The good thing is each week we end up running into one another again and talking at driver intros or something,” Johnson said. “It never fails.”
Johnson did refuse to blame Busch for costing him the victory. After all, the 50-year-old Martin had the car to beat all night long and led 195 of the 267 laps.
Martin and Gordon made it a 1-2 finish for Hendrick Motorsports ó and made a Colorado couple $1 million richer.
It was part of a promotion run by LifeLock, the title sponsor for the June race in Michigan and Saturday night’s race at Chicagoland. Donna and Richard Musgrave correctly predicted Martin and Gordon, in any order, would finish 1-2 at Michigan, earning them the trip to Joliet, Ill. to see if they could repeat the feat.
If Martin and Gordon both finished in the top two again, the Musgraves would win the life-changing payout.
Martin won, Gordon was second and the Musgraves went home to New Castle, Colo., to celebrate.
Certainly they went home happier than Busch and Johnson.