Tension rising between Gordon and Johnson

NASCAR teammates Gordon and Johnson showing a little ‘annoyance’ with each other

April 21, 2010|By Tania Ganguli

You had to wonder, watching Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon bang into each other Monday, how much that had to do with the smoldering rivalry between the former protégé and his erstwhile teacher.

What happened between Johnson and Gordon at Texas Motor Speedway was nothing more or less significant than, as they say, a racing incident.

But the four-time champions don't often speak publicly about their annoyance with each other.

With 94 laps to go in Monday's race, coming off Turn 4, Gordon and Johnson bumped and banged their cars, each annoying the other.

Said Johnson: "I am pretty disappointed in how he was racing me today, but we will get to the bottom of it and sort it out. No need to play it out in the press and we'll get it taken care of at the shop and during the week and come back to the next race and do it again. I think we are both pretty frustrated with how we have been racing each other."

Said Gordon: "He wasn't fast enough and my car was just so good I could just get right to his bumper and he got loose. I guess he thought I was being too aggressive. I don't know, he just drove into my door. It ended up costing him. When you have a race car like that, you don't (have) teammates and friends out there and race hard."

On his radio, Gordon told his team, "He must want to be treated differently than everybody else."

Gordon and Johnson both take great cars to the track — this weekend in Texas they were two of the best cars again — but Johnson leads the series in points and Gordon is fifth. Johnson has won three races, and Gordon has won none.

The seeds of this conversation began growing at the end of last season, when it became clear Gordon no longer would be Hendrick Motorsports' only four-time champion.

In February, Johnson revealed just a little bit more about the relationship.

"There is no one more motivated and annoyed by our success than Jeff, and I mean that in a great way," Johnson said.

Told of the quote back then, Gordon disagreed. He insisted Johnson's success didn't bother him, he just wanted to win. It's true Gordon shows respectful admiration for Johnson's accomplishments. That is the case with most of Johnson's opponents.

Still, it's hard to believe it doesn't bother Gordon at all.

tganguli@tribune.com

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