Johnson relishing battle with Gordon

Reigning NASCAR Nextel Cup champion Jimmie Johnson says he is relishing the challenge of racing his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon for this year's title

Johnson relishing battle with Gordon

Johnson currently lies second in the Chase for the Nextel Cup after losing victory and the points lead to Gordon last weekend at Talladega. The pair are currently nine points apart and have arguably been the two most dominant drivers in the series this season.

"It's something that I think we've been dealing with for a long time," says Johnson about his rivalry with Gordon. "We just understand that on the track we're competitors and we try to help each other and work with each other as much as we can.

"But at the end of the day I know he's trying to win races, he knows that I am, and that goes for the championship battle as well. And I'm not saying that it's a piece of cake and specially if we get to Homestead and it's Jeff and I fighting for the championship, it's going to be very challenging."

Johnson believes despite tension developing as the title race edges its climax, his relationship with Gordon will remain the same. He says it will take more than crashing into each other for things to change between them, but he doesn't expect to be rubbing fenders with his car owner.

"Our relationship has been competitive even though we've been friends," Johnson added. "I don't want to say we won't crash and we won't get into each other at some point because if we would be crashing this weekend in an accident we would be all over the headlines.

"But it would take a lot to jeopardize a friendship as it's just not in either one of us to do that. It's just not who we are as racers on track."

Johnson arrives at Lowe's Motor Speedway this weekend as the clear favourite to take victory, having won at the 1.5-mile oval five times in the last four years and taking four back-to-back victories in 2004 and 2005.

He will start the race from the front row, while Gordon will line up fourth on the grid.

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