News & Media

Busch says his piece on Johnson: 'I'm in his head'

August 13, 2011, David Caraviello,

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Kurt Busch needed a clarification.

"When you say Jimmie was in here," he said, "I didn't know if you meant Spencer or Johnson."

And with that, the Penske Racing driver took his first jab at five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, who had taken his rival to task a day earlier over the on-track contact and pit-road exchange that took place last week at Pocono Raceway. Still clearly upset with the way he had been spoken to after that event, Johnson had invoked the name of Spencer -- who infamously socked Busch in 2003 -- while referencing a litany of incidents in which Busch had allegedly talked himself into trouble.

"I guess he said [Friday] he was trying to break the draft. That's not the move of a five-time champion."


"I'm not going to let him run his mouth at me," Johnson had promised on Friday at Watkins Glen International. Saturday morning it was Busch's turn to visit the media center, and the 2004 series champion positioned himself as a stock-car purist who was racing the way fans want to see drivers race, and getting inside Johnson's head in the process.

"Where we raced each other, with a juke and a jive and rubbing, that's racing," Busch said. "I was caught up in it this week, just following it, and talked to my dad about things, and my dad was like, 'That's rubbing. That's racing, son. That's how it works.' He just gave me that confidence. He's the one who taught me a lot about racing, and everything I've done in racing is to try to make him proud. And he's like, it's rubbing racing. So I'm putting the R back in racing. And rubbing is racing."

Johnson and Busch certainly did some rubbing in the final laps at Pocono, making contact at least three times in an exchange that began when Johnson said he tried to break a side-draft Busch was trying to get off the No. 48 car. Busch saw it a little differently, given a history of incidents between the two drivers that dates back more than two years.

"I guess he said [Friday] he was trying to break the draft. That's not the move of a five-time champion. That's the issue of a guy who's had an issue with a guy like me," Busch said. "We've raced each other hard, and I've been spun out and wrecked a few times, and we both know that we look at each other very sternly. That's great competition. So that blends into rubbing is racing. When you have a history with a guy, you just don't forget about it. I learned from one of the greats about how to keep a memory about who does you right and who does you wrong, and that was Jimmy Spencer. He taught me a lot."

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Busch, who cut his competitive teeth on short tracks, believes he was just racing the way NASCAR fans want to see drivers race. "[Johnson] was real amped up, and he felt like I did him wrong," he said. "To me, the response from different people this week and our race fans, they're like, wow, that was exciting. That's what we want to see. That's the intensity and passion that our sport is built off of. This is a bunch of guys racing stock cars in the Southeast. This isn't open-wheel racing where we're supposed to pass each other clean and be out front and leading by 10 seconds."

In fairness, Johnson seemed to have less of an issue with the on-track contact at Pocono than he did with the way Busch allegedly spoke to him on pit road, where the drivers exchanged words immediately after the event. Reminded Saturday of Johnson's comments in that regard, Busch could only smile.

"That's great," he said. "It means I'm in his head. And if I'm in his head, then he's got to worry about us running through this Chase."