Reigning champion Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch had another ill-tempered confrontation on the track at Richmond, although it was afterwards that the fireworks really started, especially for Busch.
The on-track conflict started on lap 186 of 400, when Busch locked up and slid into Johnson into turn 1, sending the #48 into the outside wall giving him heavy damage to the rear of the car.
Johnson's race was already compromised and so he targeted the next best thing - wrecking Busch's night as well. He dove down into the corner underneath the #22 and spun Busch on lap 247. Busch got off lightly and was able to resume - he finished in fifth place at the end of the night - while Johnson also spun as a result of the contact and ended up in the garage for the next 34 laps for repairs.
"He has no one to be upset with except himself. If he didn't run me over going into turn one, nothing would have happened," said an unrepentant Johnson. "It's simple stuff, you wreck me and I'm going to wreck you."
“When he came back to us, you could see it coming,” Busch said, who also called Johnson a "five-time chump" as he fumed after the race. "He's been able to beat guys the last five years just by outdriving them with what he has for equipment. If he wants to switch equipment, lets see what we can do but I'm going to beat him fair and square with my Penske Dodge."
And it was at this point that things got really strange.
In a live televised pit road interview, Busch maintained his earlier line from their clash at Pocono that Johnson's hostile reactions showed that Busch was rattling the champion: "That's not something you see from Jimmie Johnson every day so I know we're in his head. If we're going to race this way, he's got to worry that there's ten other guys in this Chase, not just the #22."
In the formal press conference after the race, when Johnson was asked about Busch's "in his head" comment, Busch interrupted to flatly denied he'd said it: "I didn't say that tonight. Did not." One Associated Press
reporter then showed him the transcript of the earlier TV interview, which Busch snatched out of her hands, ripped in half and threw both pieces back on the reporter's desk before storming out.
Earlier, Busch had been approached in the pit lane by NASCAR.com
reporter Joe Menzer, who had started to ask, "Kurt, can either you or Jimmie win the Chase ..." before Busch had suddenly cut him off.
"How did I see you were going to come with that? We're good," Busch had snapped before turning away and walking off. Menzer called after him that it was a valid question given the on-track incidents, at which point Busch reportedly rounded on him, started swearing at Menzer and was apparently only prevented from getting physical with the reporter by the intervention of Penske Racing team members.