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« Did Ford turn a corner or just get lucky in Pocono? | Main | If ever a driver NEEDED to win a race it’s Marcos Ambrose this weekend »

Has Johnson finally found a true rival in Kurt Busch?

By admin | August 3, 2010

By Richard Allen

When thinking about the history of NASCAR racing the subject of great rivalries often comes to mind. Petty vs. Pearson, Allison vs. Waltrip, and Gordon vs. Earnhardt are just a few examples of great champions of the sport who had true rivals. Virtually everyone of the greats has had another great to be that one guy who always seemed to offer a challenge when seemingly no one else could.

Oddly, for a guy who has won four consecutive championships, Jimmie Johnson has never had that one other driver to serve as a constant nemesis. He has had spats with a few others along the way, including teammate Jeff Gordon, but no one has seemed to really stick with him to be a constant thorn in the side.

Perhaps that one true rival has emerged in the presence of Kurt Busch. Over the last couple of seasons these two have seen their number of on-track incidents escalate, with the most recent having occurred this past Sunday in Pocono.

On lap 165 of the Sunoco Red Cross 500 Johnson gave Busch a shove on the rear bumper with the intention of providing a bump draft like effect. Instead, the result was a horrifying accident in which Busch’s car went for a long skid across the grassy infield along the track’s backstretch area. Driver Elliott Sadler was collected in the fracas and sent head-on into the inside barrier in a devastating way.

Busch was very matter of fact when asked what happened after he emerged from the infield care center. “Got wrecked on the straightaway,” Busch declared. “Jimmie drove straight through us.’

Johnson explained that there was no ill intent on his part in the incident. “It was certainly nothing intentional. And if he’d like to talk, I’d be more than willing to talk about it,” he said.

“He and the #33 were side drafting real hard. I just came up to bump-draft him and push him along down the back straightaway,” Johnson went on. “So, we did make some contact. I was just trying to bump-draft him.

“He was already wobbling and I bumped him and then it was wobbling some more and then eventually it did a lazy turn to the right and into the wall. I certainly feel bad. I am glad the #19 is OK.”

This was at least the fourth time since 2009 these two have had trouble with each other. Earlier this year in New Hampshire, Busch rubbed Johnson’s back bumper and got him out of shape as the two raced for the win in the final laps. A few laps later, Johnson returned the favor and later admitted that he was more intent on getting back at Busch than he was on getting the win.

Few have seemingly been able to get under Johnson’s skin in such a way.

The two have also managed to run afoul of one another in Sonoma and Chicago over the past couple of seasons with Busch once claiming he had “lost faith in Johnson’s ability to be a three-time champion on the track.”

What will be interesting throughout the rest of the season will be to see if these two former champions carry this rivalry into this year’s Chase for the Championship. And more, it will be interesting to see if it is Kurt Busch who has found the secret to stopping the incredible championship Johnson has enjoyed over the past four years.

Follow @RacingWithRich on twitter.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

Topics: Articles |

5 Responses to “Has Johnson finally found a true rival in Kurt Busch?”

  1. Steven Glazier Says:
    August 4th, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Of the few acticles over the last year on this, no one ever compares the severities of the incidents and the drivers’s reaction. It seems Kurt gets dumped in one of those “racing things” as per JJ, but KK has only been bumped but not wrecked, and complains like Gordon. There is another one who mouths about other’s driving about as often as he wrecks others. Sonona alone, he spun more people that the 42 other cars in total, but no writer touched it and he laughted it off.

    Of course it it typical WWE format as the Kesslowski and Edwards stuff. You can infur the rest

  2. JerseyGirl Says:
    August 4th, 2010 at 8:24 am

    I think “enemy” is a more accurate word than rival. If Johnson already knew the 2 was “wobbling”, then hitting him or “bump drafting” probably wasn’t the best idea, but then again, as long as Johnson is getting the advantage, that’s all that matters to him.

    I hope that Kurt and the other drivers have taken note that Johnson doesn’t do well when the others play physical with him. I’m hoping that they have figured out that a little contact may throw him off his game and use that tactic to their advantage when they need to in the chase.

    I am not advocating wrecking the 48, but he seems to feel entitled to have other drivers pull over for him and upset when others race him hard, so why not try to get inside his head by rubbing on his car as needed.

    After all, it is “boys, have at it” according to NASCAR’s new rules. Just don’t tweet any derogatory comments, wrecking another driver for a win is fine. (sarcasm intended)

  3. shawn Says:
    August 4th, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Rich, I want to comment on the chase. It is time to scrap the chase and award points based on the whole season as was the case prior to 2004. There are many holes in the format that deter focus from winning to just ” points racing”. Never back in the day would you have heard the drivers say “well it was a good points day”. I think drivers would race harder to win if the focus was not on who is in the top 12. Who cares about being 12th in points,it used to mean you had lots of work to do.In the old format,if you were out of contention for a championship,you just tried to win as many races as possible.That is part of what has been lost is the importance of a win at any given track.To see the joy on the face of Jamie McMurray after his two wins was a breath of fresh air.Winning races is what it needs to be all about,not who is 10th-15th in points.The old system was not broken,the new one is!

  4. Justin Says:
    August 5th, 2010 at 8:49 am

    First, I think in order to have a rival, someone needs to win a few races, Johnson has spanked the Cup Series field essentially since his first Cup start. In 04 Busch won the title, edging Johnson by, 8 points??? Something crazy like that. Think about it, Johnson was 9 points away fro having won 5 out of the last 6 Cup Titles…. Anyways, just dont think Busch counts as a rival, enemy yes….

    One point for you JerseyGirl, remember Bristol (I think), Busch did the old bump and run on Johnson, moved him out of the way, and Johnson gathered it back up, and returned the favor 10 laps later, and went on to win the race…..I dont think Johnson’s feathers get ruffled as easily as you think….

    Side note, I am not a Johnson fan, just trying to stay neutral….

    I think it is less about Johnson driving through the 2, and more about the 2 not having enough talent to gather himself when contact is made….did his spotter not tell him the 48 was coming with a run? Did he not think that the 48 was going to bump him? EVERY driver was bump drafting at Pocono. I cant imagine Busch is so stupid to think Johnson would just patiently sit behind him, and watch the side by side battle between the 2 and the 33. If he was unprepared for a bump, he is a fool, if he was prepared, and lost it any ways, he has a lack of talent.

  5. HCP Says:
    August 5th, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Justin your comments are so laughable, johnson doesn’t have more talent then any Bush brother, he’s had superior equipment all his cup career, putem in one of bob jenkins cars and still be a start and park too. In other words he would be just like Bobby Labonte. The real problem is the Hendrick camp. I think there should be a franchising and a cap on the sport!

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