It has been the NASCAR story of the week: Jimmie vs. Jeff.
For two straight races,
The back-and-forth continued last Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. As Gordon was making a bold run to the front of the field late in the race, Johnson cut in front of him, stopping his momentum -- an absolute no-no among teammates at a restrictor-plate track.
The two eventually wrecked in separate crashes, but as soon as Gordon climbed out of his No. 24 Chevy, his verbal grenades were thrown at one person: Johnson. "I was coming 10 mph faster than anybody, and the 48 is testing my patience," Gordon said. "It takes a lot to make me mad, and I am pissed right now."
So where does the Johnson-Gordon blowup go from here? Not far. This may be an irresistible storyline, but it's hard to imagine it will develop much further. Let's look at the facts: The two are friends -- very, very good friends, actually; the two know they would have to answer to their owner
Is it possible that the two could tangle again on Saturday night at Richmond (Va.) International Speedway? Yes, but it seems highly unlikely. Given who's involved, this is a story that doesn't have legs.
But Gordon and Johnson both should challenge for the checkers at Richmond. They're among the five drivers to watch on Saturday night.
More significant, Gordon is far from the only driver who's recently been upset with Johnson's driving. All up and down pit road at Talladega late on Sunday you heard under-their-breath complaints that Johnson had been a wild man out on the track. This is completely out of character for JJ, and my hunch is that he'll author a clean race on Saturday night and rip off a top-five run to silence at least some of the criticism.
In 34 career starts at Richmond -- almost a season's worth of races -- Gordon has only two career victories. His last win at RIR was in 2000, but he did finish third here last September and has wound up in the top-10 in each of the last seven starts. Given how well Gordon has been running recently, this streak should continue on Saturday.
A native of Chesterfield, Va., Hamlin will no doubt be fast at Richmond, which he considers his home track. He won here last September and on Saturday night he'll be driving a car that has reached Victory Lane three times in only four starts. He's my pick to take home the trophy.
Harvick won at 'Dega on Sunday with a gutsy pass of