Johnson has strong words for Hornish
DAYTONA Beach, Fla. -- Meet the new Jimmie Johnson, the guy who isn't afraid to do a little trash-talking.
That's right. Mr. Vanilla himself let it fly on media day.
The always courteous, easygoing four-time Sprint Cup champion is the last guy you would expect to stir up a little controversy, but he still has an ax to grind with Sam Hornish Jr.
Three months after the fact, Johnson still has issues with Hornish for the wreck at Texas Motor Speedway that caused the No. 48 team its biggest problem during the 2009 Chase.
That moment could have cost Johnson his record fourth consecutive championship. It didn't, of course, but Johnson hasn't gotten over it.
His feelings came out Thursday when he was asked which driver he wanted to learn from (Mark Martin) and which one he wouldn't want to learn from.
"The guy I wouldn't want to learn from would be Sam Hornish," Johnson said. "He hits way too much stuff, including me. And still today, he's never said a word about it. At this point I wish he would walk up and say, 'Man, I meant to crash you.'"
Hornish hit Johnson's car as they exited Turn 2 on the third lap of the Dickies 500, sending Johnson's machine into the outside wall. The two cars hit again and Johnson crashed hard into the inside wall, causing major damage to the front of the 48 Chevy.
The team worked diligently in the garage for more than an hour and made an amazing effort to repair the car and get it back on the track, but Johnson finished 38th. He lost 101 points off his lead over Martin (dropping the margin to 73 points) with two races to go.
Replays later showed Hornish wasn't entirely at fault for the incident. He was tapped by David Reutimann's car as they went through the turn, causing Hornish's No. 77 Dodge to get loose and hit Johnson.
That fact still isn't enough for Johnson to forgive Hornish.
"He hasn't said one word," Johnson said. "Either way, with everything that was on the line, wouldn't you at least walk up and say, 'Man, I hate it for you. It wasn't my fault.' But the guy just doesn't talk. He doesn't say anything. No. It's like it must have been someone else."
Now what was all that talk about Johnson being boring and unemotional? When you're still mad at a guy three months later -- even into the next season -- that's pretty emotional.
Hornish did talk to reporters immediately after the race.
"I was already loose when I got hit," Hornish said. "I was just trying to correct it and not get into the 48. Obviously, you don't ever want to detract from the championship when you're not really even involved in it."
So Hornish did say what Johnson was looking for -- he just didn't say it to Johnson.
Fast-forward to Thursday and Johnson still doesn't like it. His session with the media came Thursday morning.
Hornish didn't speak to reporters until Thursday afternoon. So Hornish had a much larger media contingent at his table than he expected, with reporters wanting to hear his response to Johnson's criticism.
"I guess I'm a little bit surprised by this," Hornish said. "Jimmie's had ample opportunity to look at the [video] tape.
"I don't want anybody to be mad at me or not like me because of something that happened on the racetrack. If you don't like me as a person, that's one thing. But we're all racing hard and trying to do what we do."
Hornish said he knew Johnson was angry at Texas, but he thought Johnson was over it one week later at Phoenix.
"Jimmie ripped me at Texas, but I knew he hadn't seen what happened," Hornish said. "The next week he said he shouldn't have said those things.
"And David [Reutimann] called me up after that happened and said he was sorry he took me out of the race."
That's the point for Johnson. Reutimann called Hornish, but Hornish never talked to Johnson about it.
"I have a hard time talking to people that want to talk to me, being the shy person I am," Hornish said. "So I sure didn't want to talk to some guy who wants to beat me up. But now after all this, next time I see [Johnson] I will talk to him."
Two of the most mild-mannered guys in the Cup garage had a little spat on media day. If this is an indication of things to come, NASCAR really is back to basics.
Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He is the author of "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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