MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Jimmie Johnson lost his solo grip on first place, and he got a driver mad at him.He and Greg Biffle got into an altercation after Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway as Johnson was getting ready for a television interview. The camera caught Biffle grabbing Johnson by the back of the neck of his firesuit and yelling at him, “You tore my bumper off!”Johnson responded, “I was inside of you.”Biffle said, “That was a [expletive] move!”Johnson repeated, “I was inside of you.”Biffle said, “You ran into the back of me. You better watch it.”Biffle, who finished ninth, lost his rear bumper with 125 laps to go, and he believed it was because of contact from Johnson.“It takes a lot to get a rear bumper to come off,” Biffle said later, when he had calmed down. “He claims he was inside of me. It sure felt like he hit me from behind and rubbed it across. ...If it wouldn’t have happened, we had a top-5 car here today — finally, to get in the top five at Martinsville.”Johnson appeared to brush off the incident, and he said he welcomes a tight battle for the championship, now that he is tied for points lead.“It’s been a great battle with the 20 car,” Johnson said. “And the 24 has clearly shown he wants to be a part of this deal, as well. And there’s some other guys back there who are kind of close. Going to be a dogfight at the end — the way I would want to go racing for a championship, and I know, exactly what the fans want to see.”It was Johnson’s lowest finish in his last four races at Martinsville. He had won from the pole in his last two starts at the track.Harvick’s regretKevin Harvick expressed regret for saying on Saturday after a crash in the truck race that Ty and Austin Dillon, the grandsons of Richard Childress, are the reason he is leaving Richard Childress Racing.“Sometimes you regret the things that you say, for sure,” he told Fox Sports 1. “Yesterday was definitely one of them. ... Obviously, when those emotional situations come about, you say things that you really don’t want to say.”Harvick was spun out by Ty Dillon, and afterward, Harvick called him and brother Austin “rich brats who have had everything fed to them” and that the organization’s focus on them is the reason he is joining Stewart-Haas Racing next year.Bowyer disappointedClint Bowyer, who had one of the fastest cars in practice, was disappointed with his third-place finish.“We were so good in practice; really, really strong in practice,” he said. “I was super-optimistic. But it just wasn’t our day.”Bowyer led 60 laps and gained two spots in the standings, moving up to sixth.“We worked very hard to get where we were,” he said. “Was looking forward to this race; thought we had a legitimate shot at it. Just came up short.”Pole-sitter seventhDenny Hamlin, who won the pole, said he wound up with a much worse car than he qualified.“We realistically really had about a 25th-place car,” he said. “Even though the car drove as bad as it did, we still were able to be at least somewhat competitive.”The three-time Martinsville winner finished seventh and credited his crew.“They kept picking me up spots,” he said. “Seventh isn’t what we like here at Martinsville, but still, it’s a step in the right direction.”Vickers’s concernBrian Vickers, sitting out the rest of the season because of another blood clot, said the main reason he is not racing is because he can’t risk an accident while he is on blood-thinning medicine.“It’s not the clot, and it’s not that I can’t race on blood thinners,” he said. “It’s just that I can’t crash. ...The risk is not even so much external injury like a cut or something; it’s really more of an internal injury. They wouldn’t be able to stop the bleeding.”Briefly• Kevin Harvick, who finished sixth, said his car was leaking water and ran 150 laps without water pressure. “That was nerve-wracking,” he said. “Luckily it was a small hole.”• Chevrolet won its 11th straight manufacturers championship and 37th overall.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @calexmendez