April 25, 2010
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There was no hiding it following Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway where, moments after getting out of his torn up race car, Gordon had this to say about his teammate and friend: "The 48 [Johnson] is testing my patience. It takes a lot to make me mad, but I am pissed right now. … I don't know what it is with me and him right now."
At issue for Gordon was the way Johnson blocked him with only a handful of laps to go. Gordon was charging on the inside line when Johnson changed lanes right in front of him, forcing Gordon to check up. Moments later, stuck in mid-pack traffic instead of being at the front, Gordon was caught in a wreck that ended any shot he had at victory.
This incident comes on the heels of last week's run-in between the two where Gordon questioned the way Johnson raced him at Texas Motor Speedway. After that race, both drivers said they were "disappointed" in the other.
At Texas, there were arguments to be made on both sides, as neither Johnson nor Gordon cut each other any slack. The latest incident, however, is cut and dried. Johnson, slowed up in the middle lane, clearly blocked Gordon's progress – a dangerous move that forced Gordon onto the infield apron in order to avoid an accident. Gordon had every right to be mad.
The question now is how does this impact their relationship going forward?
While Gordon has maintained a relatively clean image throughout his 18-year career, he's never been hesitant to push back when he feels he's been wronged. We saw this a few weeks ago at Martinsville when, after a run-in with Matt Kenseth, Gordon used his bumper to make sure Kenseth didn't win the race.
Rick Hendrick obviously doesn't want to see a similar response. (Neither would Gordon. He does, after all, have partial ownership of the 48 car.) The guess here is that Hendrick will meet with the two drivers this week. He'll listen as both drivers give their side of the story, then will chime in with some sage advice that will defuse the situation.
That said, next weekend at Richmond, the 24-48 situation will be all the talk, and the cameras will be trained on them whenever the two are next to each other on the track.
UPDATE: Johnson has taken the blame for the incident at Talladega.
"I misjudged the closing rate," Johnson told The Associated Press. "We all make mistakes, I am no different.
"Certainly, that was my fault. I made the mistake there."
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