Johnson Not Ready to Forgive Vickers

Wednesday, October 11th 2006, 8:45 am
By: News On 6

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Here's one thing race fans won't see any time soon: Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers buddying up at the track, or anywhere else.

Johnson's anger toward his teammate and friend had not subsided Tuesday, two days after Vickers wrecked Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final lap at Talladega Superspeedway.

Johnson spent the bulk of his weekly conference call avoiding even mentioning Vickers' name, finally unloading on his teammate about 20 minutes in when asked if the two had spoken.

``I got a message from him, but that was about it,'' Johnson said. ``I don't have much to say or much to talk to him about.''

Asked if their relationship had changed, Johnson said he wasn't sure because it had only been two days since the incident. But it didn't sound as if Johnson has any plans to forgive Vickers any time soon.

``I have a hard time feeling he was really sorry for what he's done,'' Johnson said. ``At the same time I know it wasn't intentional so I just kind of go on, (but) if I look at the interviews and the quotes and the message that Brian left me, I wouldn't take it as an apology by any stretch of the imagination. That's where I am at.''

Earnhardt was leading on the final lap of Sunday's race at Talladega, with the two Hendrick Motorsports drivers running second and third. Johnson attempted to pass Earnhardt heading into the third turn and Vickers followed to help push him into the lead.

But Vickers hooked the back of Johnson instead of pushing him, and the contact sent Johnson spinning into Earnhardt. Vickers darted by both of them for his first Nextel Cup victory.

The outcome hurt both Johnson and Earnhardt in the Chase for the championship standings. Vickers, who is not eligible for the Nextel Cup title, is leaving Hendrick at the end of the season to drive for Toyota next year.

His impending departure has gotten him locked out of Hendrick team meetings, and racing incidents with teammate Jeff Gordon in New Hampshire last month and now Johnson has caused friction between the once close-knit group.

But Vickers said he believes he and Johnson can get past Talladega.

``Do I think Jimmie is upset? Yes, of course he is. Do I think we can fix that? Absolutely,'' he said after the race. ``Jimmie is a great person, he is a very mature man and I am sure when the time is right, we will have our opportunity to work things out.''

Sunday's outcome also has been awkward for car owner Rick Hendrick, Johnson said.

Hendrick is like a second father to Vickers, who was very close to Ricky Hendrick _ Rick's son _ before his death in a 2004 plane crash. And Vickers' win was done in the No. 25 Chevrolet, which was owned by Rick Hendrick's late father, Papa Joe, and run by Ricky.

Hendrick had an emotional discussion with Vickers in Victory Lane, then left the track without talking to reporters.

``Rick's view is that he's the highest of highs and the lowest of lows,'' Johnson said. ``His father's team got back to Victory Lane, but at the expense of one of his other cars taking a hit in the points. I think it's tough for him. He's happy, he's bummed.

``It's the same way that I am and my team is. But at the end of the day, I'm happy for the No. 25 team. They've been working very hard to get where they are, and they've been close to winning. So I am happy for those guys. But I'm disappointed that I lost all those points that I did. And I think that's just kind of the overall feeling that everybody has.''