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Head2Head: Will Johnson-Busch feud affect them in Chase?

September 12, 2011, , NASCAR.com

Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson shake hands after a contentious race at Richmond. (Getty Images)

Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch renewed their rivalry in the final race before the Chase at Richmond International Raceway. Johnson was spun by Busch early and then Johnson retaliated. Both drivers said after the race they don't anticipate this feud bleeding into the Chase ... but nothing is certain.

Will Johnson-Busch feud affect them in the Chase?

YES NO

Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch have six Cup championships between them, they know what it takes to reach the apex of their sport. That's why I'm flabbergasted at how they are racing each other as the Chase gets ready to begin.

Drama is the last thing any driver needs as he looks to win the championship. A driver must be focused, must be mentally prepared for the 10-week grind of the Chase and distractions are detrimental. Yet, Busch and Johnson have renewed their rivalry just as it seemed it was settling down.

Can they overcome it? Sure, but winning the title has just become more difficult for both of them. Instead of focusing on the task at hand, they will now have an eye on each other. That's not good.

In Johnson's reign these past five years, we have marveled at how Johnson and the No. 48 team stay distraction-free. Nothing seems to bother them, nothing seems to affect them. Well now, Busch is affecting the five-time champion.

And for Busch, it's clear he's concerned with Johnson. I won't go so far as to say Johnson is "in his head," but clearly Busch races the No. 48 different than other guys on the track.

Both Johnson and Busch have a legitimate shot at the championship, but when one races the other in an aggressive way, will we see a repeat of Richmond? It's that kind of uncertainty and drama neither one of these guys can afford at this point of the season.

Bill Kimm, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

Somebody cue up Head Games by Foreigner for this one. Not long after their last-lap door-banging down the backstretch at Pocono -- Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson were at it again with more histrionics at Richmond.

Busch was quoted as saying, "I know we're in his head," after Johnson attempted to retaliate for contact earlier in the race. But for all Kurt's bravado, the pressure remains on him to show he can perform at Johnson's level for the next 10 races. The closest he's been to a second Cup title was a distant fourth in 2009, and in last year's Chase, he imploded after a six-race stretch without a top-10 finish.

Heck, the Busch-Johnson dustup wasn't even the best display of road rage Saturday night, but because of past history -- and with the championship run looming -- it got a lot of attention. Will it really matter much by Homestead? Probably not, unless one is hopelessly out of contention and decides to ruin the other's chances.

The ingredients were all there Saturday night: Two drivers who don't like each other, on a tight track where bumping and banging are par for the course, and both already locked into the Chase. So it wasn't surprising what happened. But the idea that Richmond's shenanigans will affect how each drives in the Chase is like comparing a spring training game to the World Series. It's a whole different ballgame from here on out.

Intimidate "the five-time chump?" Actions speak louder than words. And when it comes to head games, perhaps the biggest knock on Busch in the past is that he sometimes forgets to use his.

Mark Aumann, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

But with one eye on each other, will Johnson and Busch be able to have both eyes on the Cup championship? Bill Kimm and Mark Aumann have their thoughts. Read their take on this feud and then weigh in with yours in the comments below. And don't forget to vote in the poll at the right.

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