Johnson’s post-race comments revealed much about his state of mind toward the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion, however. And rest assured, Johnson wasn’t about to take the blame for the earlier incident between the two that ignited Harvick’s fury.
Lining up third behind Harvick’s race-leading car on Lap 135 of 267, Johnson got a big restart and dove down onto the apron beside Harvick.
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Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet quickly shot up the track into Harvick’s left rear, leaving Harvick with a tire rub before the two drivers continued on with Johnson behind Harvick. But three laps later, Harvick spun and crashed in Turn 3 when his left-rear tire went down — a clear result of the contact with Johnson.
After finishing 42nd and seeing his hopes of a second consecutive title take a serious hit, Harvick expressed his displeasure with Johnson by confronting the six-time champion in the driver motorhome lot.
But Johnson wasn’t willing to admit fault, instead suggesting that Harvick was just as responsible for their consequential collision.
"He didn’t leave me any space," said Johnson, who went on to finish 11th. "He was pinning me down (on the apron), and I had to get back up on the track. I wouldn’t say that what he did was any different than other situations I’ve been in like that. When you are in his position, you want to get the inside car in a bad angle so they have to lift. I was fine with lifting, but I had to get back on the racetrack, so I worked my way back up on the track."
After returning to the race following an extended stay in the garage for repairs, Harvick gestured at Johnson’s pit crew from inside his car.
Johnson didn’t seem surprised by his fellow Chevrolet driver’s reaction.
"I assume he would try to find it is my fault," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said of Harvick. "I just simply needed the lane to get back on the racetrack. By no means was I trying to do anything different. I’ve seen him on the flat working his way back up looking for a racing lane. That is what I was doing. I was on the bottom trying to get back up on the racing surface, and he was trying to pin me down and I had to get back up, or else it would have been a hell of a mess."
As for his 11th-place finish, Johnson certainly had hoped for better — along with leaving Chicagoland in a better position in the Chase standings — after running in the top five for a good chunk of the race.
Heading into next weekend’s race in New Hampshire, Johnson is ranked seventh among the 16 Chase drivers — not a bad position, but not exactly where he wanted to be, either.
"Managing points was certainly part of it," Johnson said of his strategy at Chicagoland. "Restarts were wild and crazy. So, we’re just trying to be smart. But at the same time, we had such a good car from the start, then we were off, and then we were back on. I wanted to be up there racing for the win or at least for the top two or three."