Ryan Blaney said his contact with Jimmie Johnson was just racing, but the seven-time champion felt he was run over.
Blaney spun Johnson in Turn 5 at Watkins Glen on Lap 63. Both were a few laps removed from having made green flag pit stops and were working their way back up the leaderboard as the cycle continued.
“He had old tires,” said Blaney. “They just did gas only, and he was pretty slow. I passed 10 guys off the bus stop all day. He hit the third curb pretty bad and got in that position, and he was up, and I had a good run. I was there. He left probably a lane-and-a-quarter or so, and I took it.
“At first he didn’t turn down like I thought he knew I was there, and then he kept coming,” Blaney continued. “I tried to check up, and it was just too late. I mean, obviously, I didn’t mean to spin him out. I don’t want to do that. It’s obviously an accident, but he was upset, and I can’t blame him for being upset about it. We’re just racing hard, and I thought there was a lane there, and it just closed.”
Starting at the back because of unapproved pre-race adjustments, Blaney went on to finish fifth. Johnson wound up 19th.
“I was trying to hear what he had to say but his lips were quivering so bad and he can’t even speak — I guess he’s nervous or scared or both; I don’t know what the hell the problem is,” Johnson told NBCSN. “He just drove through me, spun us out; and clearly that has big implications on what we’re trying to do for the playoffs right now. Clearly not happy with his actions there.”
Blaney said it was good for the two to talk things over, and he doesn’t blame Johnson for being angry.
“He’s trying to get in the playoffs right now and have good runs,” said Blaney. “Trust me, the last guy I want to spin out is Jimmie. We always race great together. I’ve looked up to him for a long time and still do, and he’s the last guy I want to spin out. It didn’t end well. He wasn’t happy and I can’t blame him.
“He’ll probably race me pretty hard here for the next few weeks, but I can’t blame him for that. It was definitely not my intention there.”
In his first race with new crew chief Cliff Daniels, Johnson qualified eighth and earned points in both Stage 1 where he was sixth and in Stage 2 when he was 10th. The contact took away what Johnson felt was a shot at finishing inside the top 10.
“(I) just got drove through,” he said. “He claims it was racing; I can’t wait to go racing. Everybody stay tuned.”