Kurt Busch still stirring the pot with JJ

August, 13, 2011

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Kurt Busch did a nice job of stirring the pot on his feud with Jimmie Johnson Saturday at Watkins Glen International.

He didn't take any personal shots.

He didn't get emotional.

Busch knows he's in the head and under the skin of the five-time defending Sprint Cup champion, so he played it cool in a smug way that has to infuriate Johnson even more.

Ok, Johnson would call Busch's demeanor "smart ass" instead of smug, as he did during last week's postrace pit road confrontation about the way Busch raced him for third place on the final lap.

But you get the point. Busch is going to use this as much as he can to give him an edge, should the championship come down to the two former champions.

"I learned from one of the greats about how to keep a memory on who does you right and who does you wrong," Busch said. "And that was Jimmy Spencer. He taught me a lot."

How times have changed. The driver who in 2003 at Michigan punched Busch in the nose apparently has become Busch's role model.

Busch mentioned Spencer several times Saturday, including in his opening remark when asked what he thought of Johnson's comments in the same room Friday.

"When you said Jimmie was in here I didn't know if you meant Spencer or Johnson," Busch deadpanned.

Johnson was direct with his attacks on Busch, referring to the way the 2004 Cup champion has bad-mouthed his crew and owner Roger Penske over the in-car radio, basically calling Busch a coward for fueling last week's postrace confrontation with comments only after Johnson had turned to walk away and only after a crowd had gathered.

Busch was more subtle.

Granted, Busch had an advantage since he had a day to digest Johnson's comments and plan a rebuttal. That was most obvious when he brought up Johnson's explanation of trying to break a side draft the first time the two got into each other on the final lap.

Johnson, by the way, said he didn't touch Busch.

"That's not a move of a five-time champion," Busch said. "That's a move of a guy who has an issue with a guy like me."

Busch knows about having issues with a guy like him. He learned from one of the best in Spencer, who in June told SceneDaily.com he "made a better person out of Kurt by punching him."

There's some truth to that. Busch realized a feud of that magnitude makes it tough to win a championship because your focus isn't solely on the championship.

That doesn't mean Busch won't stir the pot with Johnson, realizing that "if I'm in his head, then he's got to worry about us" in the Chase.

So far, he's doing a nice job of that.

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer



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