More family… less feud Team owner Hendrick cools Johnson and Gordon rivalry
By RICK MINTER / Cox Newspapers
What could have been a very interesting NASCAR rivalry has been nipped in the bud, at least for now.
After his two four-time Sprint Cup champions Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson had run-ins on the track and pointed comments afterward at both Texas and Talladega, team owner Rick Hendrick called the two together in an effort to keep the building feud from tearing his race team apart.
“It’s amazing what happens when you get Mr. H. [Rick Hendrick, team owner] involved,” Gordon said. “The three of us had a good conversation. I think we all recognize what contributes to everything that happened at Texas as well as Talladega.
“We laughed about a lot of stuff, and I feel like the most important thing is that all the communication that we have during the week and at the race track, what that contributes to our success as a group, is too important to let a rivalry escalate out of control.
“It’s OK to have rivalries, we understand that, to be competitive, we’re very competitive. All that is good and healthy. That is what we talked about.”
Johnson has a similar description of the three-way conference call.
“We just all hopped on a phone call and talked about what had gone on, and I think when Jeff jumped out of the car [at the conclusion of the Talladega race] he didn’t realize that it was just a bad decision on my part to come down and try to get in front in that lane,” he said. “So our conversation was pretty good to be honest with you.
In a lot of ways from Rick’s standpoint, my standpoint, and Jeff’s it was just a mistake that I made. And unfortunately coming off the heels of Texas and the fact that Jeff crashed after that and the emotions were high and he got out of the car and said some things that he probably didn’t want to.”
Interestingly, Gordon had a little different take on his post-race comments.
“I said what I said, and I wouldn’t take it back,” he said. “But I understand why we had our conversation with Rick and Jimmie and myself this week to make sure it doesn’t go any further.”
Even though many in the sport agree that NASCAR could use a good rivalry, Gordon and Johnson aren’t really the best two candidates, or at least that’s what Gordon said in an interview several weeks back.
He said that for a real rivalry, one that fans could get really excited about, the two combatants need to be very different from each other.
“You have to have the black and white,” he said, holding his hands outstretched to illustrate. “One is over here and represents something more conservative or younger, whatever it may be. Then this one over there represents the core fan, the good ol’ boys and people who have been following the sport for years.”
And he said back then that he and Johnson won’t make much of a rivalry.
“Never,” he said. “We won’t. Jimmie will have a rival — whoever beats him on a consistent basis and keeps him from winning the championship.