Hendrick intervenes in team feud

Team owner Rick Hendrick has intervened in the tense rivalry between his drivers Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon to prevent it from escalating any further

Hendrick intervenes in team feud

The two four-time champions clashed two weeks ago at Texas while battling for position and they both said they were "disappointed" with each other's aggressiveness following the race. Last week at Talladega Johnson blocked an overtaking move by Gordon, which then ignited a chain reaction that caught the latter in a multi-car crash.

Gordon said Johnson was "testing" his patience minutes after the wreck, which left the taste of an escalating feud between the two.

This week Rick Hendrick held a conference call with both drivers to attempt keeping their emotions under control, a move that Gordon applauded as he reckons the team needs to maintain its good level of communication both on and off the track, which he considers one of the keys to the squad's success.

"We had a good conversation this week," said Hendrick. "It's amazing what happens when you get Mr H [Rick Hendrick, team owner] involved. The three of us had a good conversation. I think we all recognise what contributes to everything that happened at Texas as well as Talladega.

"We laughed about a lot of stuff and I feel like the most important thing is that all the communication that we have during the week and at the race track, what that contributes to our success as a group is too important to let a rivalry escalate out of control."

Johnson admitted during their call he was at fault at Talladega while trying to block Gordon, and said that his team-mate's remarks were probably just said in the heat of the moment and not intended to take their feud any further.

"We just all hopped on a phone call and talked about what had gone on and I think when Jeff jumped out of the car [at Talladega] he didn't realise that it was just a bad decision on my part to come down and try to get in front in that lane," said Johnson.

"So our conversation was pretty good to be honest with you. In a lot of ways from Rick's standpoint, my standpoint, and Jeff's it was just a mistake that I made. And unfortunately coming off the heels of Texas and the fact that Jeff crashed after that and the emotions were high and he got out of the car and said some things that he probably didn't want to."

Gordon stated that their conversation does not imply they will not continue to race hard against each other and says that what matters is how they handle things internally in order to avoid a conflict within the team.

"I think we're still going to race hard," said Johnson. "Those guys are so good that we know we have to race them for a lot of wins if we're going to win races. We know that there's times that we're going to have to race those guys extremely hard for a win.

"That's the message that came pretty clear from Rick is that, 'Hey, there's no reason to do anything silly or dumb.' When it comes down to win the race, nobody expects you to not go for it. I think what Jimmie and I learned from it is that we might have some more incidents out on the track, but it's how we handle it among ourselves and for our team."

Like one week ago, following their Texas incident, Johnson has once again said that their feud is behind and that things are now good between the two.

"I think the lesson in all of it is that we're very competitive guys and emotions are high regardless of if it's a team-mate or not, and we're both doing everything we can to win races," Johnson added. "So everything's in good shape. And we'll just make sure we stay away from each other for a week or two and not let anything else fester this thing along and we'll be fine."

Johnson and Gordon will start Saturday night's Sprint Cup race beside each other on the second row of the grid.

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