Jimmie Johnson says duels with Kyle Larson “intense” but not personal

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Jimmie Johnson says his duels with Kyle Larson this season have “been intense’’ but he’s just racing Larson the way the youngster races him.

Last week, Larson said he “wasn’t happy with the block” Johnson put on him down the backstretch at Indianapolis. It was one of a few battles between the drivers this season, including a block Johnson put on Larson at Martinsville and a last-lap pass Larson made on Johnson in the All-Star Race.

“Truth be told, I just race people how they race me,’’ Johnson said Saturday morning at Watkins Glen International. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Kyle Larson or Martin Truex, Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart. It doesn’t matter. There’s that environment on the track. Through the course of the year, it’s been intense with the 42 at times, so I’ve been able to race him back the same way.’’

Johnson cited stage racing as a reason for more intensity on the track this season.

“In stage racing today, we have to block and maintain and hold position more than ever,’’ Johnson said.”To see the extent that some drivers have gone through, even myself, to maintain track position, I said it after Indy (that) Mark Martin would have a heart attack if he was racing in this era. The game has changed.

“I have had nothing personal towards Kyle. I don’t think he’s had anything personal towards me. You just get into that environment of racing people how they race you and certain scenarios exist where you need to fight for that position for whatever reason. It is what it is. It’s a product of stage racing. I think NASCAR  should be happy they created a more intense environment because that’s really what it is.’’

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