Kurt Busch vs. Johnson
Kurt Busch vs. Johnson
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Kurt Busch has apologized to the two reporters he had confrontations with following Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway.
Busch, upset over a question about his ongoing feud with Jimmie Johnson, had to be physically separated from NASCAR.com reporter Joe Menzer on pit road.
Later inside the media center, answering a question from Associated Press reporter Jenna Fryer, Busch denied saying he was inside Johnson’s head. When Fryer tried to show him the Dodge Motorsports transcript after the press conference Busch took it away and tore it up.
Chase for the Sprint Cup
NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup has a new format in 2011, and possibly a new champion. ESPN.com Topics has you covered on all the changes as five-time champ Jimmie Johnson looks to defend his title.
Busch said during Tuesday’s Dodge Motorsports conference call that he was excited over battling back for a fifth-place finish and “ready to celebrate,” not be asked about being “dumped deliberately” by the five-time defending champion.
“I’ve apologized to those two guys, the individuals,” Busch said.
Busch also hopes he and Johnson, who have had several run-ins over the past 16 months, will drive smarter around each other when the 10-race Chase begins on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.
“We talked about it afterwards,” Busch said. “We don’t need to continue to wreck racecars, but we do need to continue to put on a good show. That’s what our fans pay for. They want to see a genuine rivalry.
“For him and I, we are going to continue to race each other hard, but we know it’s championship time now.”
Busch first spun out Johnson on lap 185 of Saturday’s 400-lap race. When Johnson returned to the track later he purposefully spun Busch out. That was a continuation of their feud that has seen run-ins at Infineon Raceway, Chicagoland, New Hampshire and Pocono over the last two seasons.
“I’m just not going to let people run our race car over,” Johnson said after the race. “There’s been a lot of contact going on, and that’s why I retaliated tonight. It was a good time to do it.”
Busch’s post-race issues began when Menzer attempted to ask if he or Johnson could win the championship as long as they continued their feud. Busch interrupted halfway through the question, gave a pointed answer and walked away.
As he walked away, Menzer told Busch it was a legitimate question considering the history between the two drivers. According to multiple reports, Busch turned back toward Menzer and began a profanity-laced tirade, then approached him before being physically restrained by members of his Penske Racing team.
Inside the media center Busch was asked by Fryer about his comment that “I know we’re inside his (Johnson’s) head.”
“I did not say that tonight,” Busch said as he sat a table with Johnson on the opposite end. “I did not.”
When Fryer showed Busch the transcript of his comments after the press conference Busch snatched it away, tore it up and threw it down on the desk.
Busch also challenged the first reporter again in the media center.
NASCAR officials said there would be no repercussions from the incidents.
Busch said moving forward he is focused on the championship, believing this is his best opportunity to win a title since he took the 2004 crown for Roush Fenway Racing.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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