Last week, Jeff Gordon admitted he is getting frustrated with teammate Jimmie Johnson. Both drivers rubbed fenders for the lead, with Gordon not yielding to the defending champion.
After, the two agreed they have a "healthy respect" for one another. That is how the teammates described it before the green flag waved at Talladega.
However, after the checkered flag fell, Gordon was singing a different tune.
It was lap 183 and Gordon was running just inside the top 10. Johnson was just ahead and Gordon made his move. Suddenly, Johnson goes low and pushes Gordon below the yellow line. The move forced Gordon to let off the gas so he can avoid a penalty and killed his momentum.
Two corners later, Jeff Burton makes contact with Mike Bliss, and Gordon gets caught up in the aftermath.
Meanwhile, Johnson is ahead of the pack and avoids all catastrophe.
Gordon gets his car repaired and managed to come across the line in the 22nd position, while Johnson got involved in the last caution and finished 31st.
It was after the race that Gordon spoke his mind, and everyone watching on FOX and in the media center were left gasping.
"The 48 is testing my patience, I can tell you that. It takes a lot to get me mad and I'm pissed right now," Gordon said to FOX's Dick Berggren. "I don't know what it is with me and him right now, but whatever."
Healthy respect? It doesn't seem like it.
This is a very healthy rivalry, and it looks like it's just getting warmed up. Gordon has just added more fuel to this fire. He's just waiting for the opportunity to light the match and set it off.
These two have been battling harder with each other this season than they were during their championship battle in 2007.
That year at Martinsville, these two beat and banged the last several laps with Johnson getting the victory. It was that race that really set off these two as fierce competitors.
But this year, it seems as though Gordon has taken the lead role in trying to push Johnson aside. It's no secret that the drivers are getting tired of the No. 48 winning so often, and Johnson's attitude is not helping. It's as though because he's the four-time defending champion, he wants to be treated as such.
He may be the champ, but not when the race starts. He's just like the other 42 cars in the field.
Everyone is just surprised at who is taking the lead in pushing Johnson back. It was expected that maybe it would be Hamlin based on last season.
Instead, it's the other four-time champion in the Hendrick stable. Gordon appears to be tired of taking a back seat to Johnson, Chad Knaus and the entire No. 48 team. He knew that when Rick Hendrick hired Johnson, it would lead to a lot of good things. Gordon himself then became part-owner of that team.
It's certain that Gordon didn't expect Johnson to equal the success he had over his entire career in just a few short seasons.
At Las Vegas, there was no question that Gordon had the best car. It was probably the best car he's had at that track.
Both Knaus and Steve Letarte made the right calls in that race for their respective drivers. It was Johnson who took advantage and went onto victory.
At Texas, things heated up extremely quick. The beating these two did for the lead was something you'd expect to see late in the race, not midway through. The radio traffic told the story, and afterwards they each had their respective opinions.
It seems as though Talladega really set the tone for how these two will go about their business in the next few weeks.
Whether Hendrick himself will step in and try to mediate the feelings between Gordon and Johnson is yet to be seen. What is clear as day is that this is no longer a "healthy respect" between these two.
After Talladega, it can be considered a rivalry.
Both drivers added gasoline to this feud the last few weeks. Who's gonna light the match to set off the inferno?
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