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 Buschâ€™s car went for a long skid across the grassy infield along the trackâ€™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. â€œGot wrecked on the straightaway,â€ Busch declared. â€œJimmie drove straight through us.â€™
Johnson explained that there was no ill intent on his part in the incident. â€œIt was certainly nothing intentional. And if heâ€™d like to talk, Iâ€™d be more than willing to talk about it,â€ he said.
â€œHe and the #33 were side drafting real hard. I just came up to bump-draft him and push him along down the back straightaway,â€ Johnson went on. â€œSo, we did make some contact. I was just trying to bump-draft him.
â€œHe 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.â€
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 Johnsonâ€™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 Johnsonâ€™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 â€œlost faith in Johnsonâ€™s ability to be a three-time champion on the track.â€
What will be interesting throughout the rest of the season will be to see if these two former champions carry this rivalry into this yearâ€™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 |