Afforded a night to sleep on Johnson's pointed criticism on Friday, when the five-time defending champ questioned his manhood, Busch presented a face of calm Saturday, restating his position that what happened a week ago at Pocono was good old-fashioned racing. Busch never got defensive, and when the first question came at him – asking for his response to the comments Johnson made Friday in the media center at Watkins Glen International – Busch responded with a joke.
"When you said Jimmie was in here, I didn't know if you meant Spencer or Johnson," Busch quipped.
On Friday, Johnson brought up the now-infamous 2003 incident in which Jimmy Spencer punched Busch in the face. Clearly, Busch had heard everything Johnson had to say.
"Where we raced each other with a juke and jive and rubbin' – that's racing," Busch said in response to Johnson's comments. "I was caught up in it this week, just following it, and talked to my dad about things. And my dad's like, 'Well, that's rubbin', that's racin', son. That's how it works.
"He's the one that taught me a lot about racing, and everything that I've done in racing is to try to make him proud, and he's like, 'Rubbin's racin'. ' So I'm putting the 'r' back in racin' and rubbin' is racin'."
Fans don't necessarily disagree. In a Yahoo! Sports poll asking "Whose side are you on in the Kurt Busch vs. Jimmie Johnson feud?", 58 percent of readers sided with Busch.
The ultimate question is: When does rubbing become dirty racing? In explaining what upset him at Pocono, Johnson said Busch got into him, "side-drafting" coming off Turn 1.
"I try to break the side draft," Johnson explained. "From there, he felt it was necessary to run into the side of my car and tear my car up."
Busch sees things differently.
"This is a bunch of guys here racing stock cars in the Southeast," Busch said. "This isn't open-wheel racing, where we're supposed to pass each other clean and be out in front and leading by 10 seconds.
"For me, I think the line was when he swerved at us to say – I guess yesterday he said – he was trying to break the draft," Busch added. "That's not a move of a five-time champion; that's the move of a guy that has had an issue with a guy like me."
In an interview that lasted nearly 16 minutes, this was the only dig Busch took at Johnson.
Now, the focus shifts forward – to Sunday's race at Watkins Glen and beyond. Johnson is second in the points standings. Busch sits fourth, just five points back. The two are potentially on a collision course in the race for the 2011 championship, a scenario not lost on Busch.
"That's great," he replied when asked for his reaction to the way Johnson called him out. "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."
- Kurt Busch
- Jimmie Johnson