BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) – Jimmie Johnson’s feud with Ryan Blaney was showing no signs of slowing down, heading into today’s NASCAR Cup race at Michigan International Speedway
Johnson still wanted Blaney to apologize for making contact from behind going into a turn nearly a week ago at Watkins Glen.
The seven-time champion approached the 25-year-old Blaney after the race, pointing his index finger at him during a heated exchange .
“When I went to talk to him after the race at some point he said he felt bad, but I never heard, ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to,’” Johnson said. “I thought I would get a call from him during the week, just with the friendship that we had, and the amount of respect I thought we had for one another.
“To me, it’s pretty obvious he meant to drive through me.”
Blaney said, multiple times while surrounded by reporters, he had no plans to say he’s sorry.
“To get on my knees and beg for his forgiveness, that’s not how it is because that’s not what happened,” he said. “If he’s expecting an apology out of me, that’s out of line.”
Blaney went on to finish fifth in his No. 12 Penske Racing Ford, closing strong enough to have a solid showing after starting from the rear of the field at Watkins Glen.
Johnson, meanwhile, spun out and ended up finishing 19th to make up a little ground in the playoff race.
“It did not turn out the way it could have for us and points are so important for us right now,” Johnson said. “That’s where the frustration came from.”
RacinBoys Broadcasting Network reported on Saturday that the two racers buried the hatchet on Friday when Blaney visited Johnson in his motorhome.
“We talked for half an hour,” Blaney told RBN. “I thought it ended really well. It was just a discussion, two guys talking, explaining our sides. We didn’t agree on some things, but it was agree to disagree on a few things.”
Johnson is tied with Ryan Newman for the 16th and final spot in the playoffs with just four races remaining to determine the field. Since the playoffs started 15 years ago, Johnson has earned a spot each time. This year, there are no guarantees he will still be racing when it matters.
"It's top of mind," he said. "That's all we're here for. We've got four yet. We absolutely should be in the playoffs. There's no excuses."
Johnson, though, potentially could have a third crew chief in three races in his No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Cliff Daniels called the race at Watkins Glen, replacing Kevin Meendering after Johnson's winless streak reached 80 races, but Daniels' first child is due to be born soon.
"We have a plane ready if Cliff gets the call," Johnson said. "He will be there for the birth of his first born."
Johnson split with longtime crew chief Chad Knaus after going winless last year, ending a 17-year run that helped him match a record with seven Cup championships.