That was clear last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when Larson went to pass Johnson and Johnson blocked him nearly down to the grass on the backstretch.
After the block, Larson said on his team’s radio: “He hates us. Forty-eight can’t handle it.”
“I wasn’t happy with the block,’’ Larson said Friday night at Pocono Raceway. “Everybody blocks, I guess, at Indy. I didn’t mean to move him either into (Turn) 3. I was just glued to his bumper so I couldn’t really see when we were getting into the corner. I don’t mind blocking, but when you’re going that fast and (they) run you all the way to the grass or all they way to the inside wall, I think there is a line for that type of stuff.’’
The battles between Larson and Johnson are one of the fascinating subplots this season, a duel of young and old, champion and the driver viewed as the heir apparent. They raced for the win at Dover. Johnson beat Larson on a late restart to win there earlier this season.
Run together enough and there will be little incidents that can grow.
Johnson let his feelings be known after the All-Star Race when Larson passed him on the final lap for second place.
“Yeah, I slid Jimmie into (Turn) 3 there on the last lap,’’ Larson said that night. “He was a little upset with me after the race.’’
Johnson stuck a hand out the his window toward Larson after the race.
Larson admitted Friday that last lap was a bit of a flash point,
“I would say that was, in his eyes, when it got serious,’’ Larson said.
Larson also notes another incident they had earlier in the year.
“We were battling at the end of a stage at Martinsville and he blocked me into (Turn) 1 and made contact and then was running into the back of me under yellow,’’ Larson said. “It’s been kind of all season. It’s been little stuff. Nothing serious. We just race hard with each other and it’s competitive and fun and frustrating at time.’’
So where do they stand heading into Sunday’s race at Pocono Raceway?
“We’ve been racing hard,’’ Larson said. “I think I’ve done some things, or in his eyes, I’ve done some things that he doesn’t like, and I think it goes vice versa a little bit. It’s a fun little battle, for sure, to be able to battle Seven-Time like that. I think it’s fun. I don’t think he thinks it’s fun.’’