"Bottom line, he just started running his mouth," snapped Jimmie Johnson at Watkins Glen on Friday, talking about Kurt Busch. "At the end of the day, I'm not going to let him run his mouth at me. It's just kind of how it is."
Anyone expecting Jimmie Johnson to return to the NASCAR paddock this weekend with his normal calm composure restored and displaying a more diplomatic, conciliatory stance toward Kurt Busch couldn't have been more wrong. Johnson took over the pre-race media appearance to let loose with both barrels and make it clear that his verbal fight with Busch was anything but done.
The fight between the two drivers started after the two made multiple swipes at each other on the final lap at Pocono after Johnson succeeded in passing Busch for third place. Replays showed Johnson that swerved at the side of Busch, and Busch responded by swerving into the #48 and making the first actual hit.
"We come off turn 1 and Kurt gets to me to side-draft me. I try to break the side draft and from there, he felt it was necessary to run into the side of my car and tear my car up," said Johnson explaining that initial swerve he made toward the #22. "I made zero contact with Kurt at Pocono. Once he hit me, then I leaned on him back. When I went to break the draft, I never touched him. Then he instigated the contact. That's not my goal."
But what really had Johnson worked up was how Busch had behaved when the two confronted each other in pit road immediately after the end of the race.
"When I hopped out the car and started talking to him, he had one level of interaction with me when he's sitting in his race car. When he got out of the car, neither one of us were happy, but we were talking," he said.
"Then 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's where you saw me engage like I did. If you're going to say something, say it to the man's face eye-to-eye when he's there, not when he walks away.
"The stuff on track made me mad, but to have somebody run their mouth like he does and did to me – if you look back at the timeline to when I was the maddest, that's when I was mad."
Johnson pointed out that Busch has always seemed to talk his way into trouble during his NASCAR career. "If you look at over the years and what his mouth has done for him: It got my 'biggest fan', Jimmy Spencer, to punch him in the face; it's led to issues with the NASCAR officials on pit road; I think we all tune in weekly and wonder what he's going to say to his crew guys; you look at what he said to Roger Penske, his car owner," he added, referring to the team radio tirade earlier this season that marked a watershed for the Penske organisation's season.