Hamlin complained on his radio and warned Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, that he would take action before bumping Johnson out of the way during Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway.
The frustration did not stem from just Sunday, though. Hamlin’s patience with Johnson – who won Sunday’s race – has waned since last month at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Hamlin’s anger boiled while he ran seventh, trailing Johnson about 175 laps into the 500-lap race.
“We were racing for 13th or something at New Hampshire and he turned us, luckily I saved it,’’ Hamlin said of Johnson. “Nearly wrecked us there. I raced him hard for the lead at Charlotte and then we come here and I catch him from a really long ways back. They didn’t want to let us go. It was frustrating from my standpoint, so I had to move him out of the way. I gave him many warnings on the radio.’’
As Hamlin continued to hound Johnson, Hamlin’s frustration grew. He complained on the radio about how Johnson has raced the past couple of years in general and the New Hampshire episode in particular. Hamlin said on the radio he would move Johnson.
“He thinks I’m bluffing. He thinks I’m bluffing,’’ Hamlin said.
At one point, Hamlin called out Knaus, Johnson’s crew chief, saying: “All right Chad, this is why I race you the way I do.’’
For all that happened, Johnson was confused by Hamlin’s actions.
“I’m puzzled that he had to move me like he did,’’ Johnson said after his ninth career Martinsville victory. “The inside is a preferred lane. I gave him the inside. I had a little something working on the top. There’s a line of cars behind him. I just can’t roll over.
“I prefer to race people cleanly. I could have easily taken the easy route and moved him when he came back to take over the lead, and I didn’t. I hope that showed him that, ‘Look, man, I don’t have a beef.’
“I don’t know what he has cooking in his head, what he thinks happened at Loudon, what he thinks happened at Charlotte. Man, I’m out there to win. We got points on the line. We got a championship in the line. I got accused of racing hard? I’ll take that as a compliment.’’