The later stages of the Big 8 Series opener at Rockford Speedway in Loves Park, Illinois this past Sunday featured a classic battle with what some are coining as a controversial ending.
With 15 laps go to in the 88-lap feature event, Bobby Wilberg who was running second at the time, hit the left rear bumper of leader Casey Johnson going into turn three. Johnson got loose and made contact with the wall hard enough to break a panhard bar mount and end his day.
Johnson exited his car and gestured to Wilberg in disgust after being taken out of the race.
Wilberg would go on to get his first ever Big 8 Series win in the 10 years of the series to a chorus of boos from the fans in the stands.
CLICK HERE to watch video of the incident.
After the race, Wilberg and Johnson had a discussion in the pits and each went on their way agreeing to disagree.
Neither of these two drivers have a history against one another. In fact, Wilberg is a good friend of Johnson and has helped him in any way possible through his career. He even brought gifts for Johnson’s daughter after her birth last year.
So is the friendship ruined from this incident? Is Johnson keeping this moment in his back pocket to retaliate down the road? The simple answer to both of those questions is…no.
“I know he didn’t mean to get into me that hard,” Johnson told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I know he was trying a finesse move to get alongside of me. I know he wasn’t trying to wreck me.
“I am not going into the next race with him planning on sending him into the fence.”
Wilberg also spoke to Speed51.com and openly admitted that he made contact with Johnson.
“I misjudged by an inch and hit him. I was going to try to set myself up to get a run on the inside, he pinched me a little and because the upper part of the track was still a little moist from a quick shower that passed over, he got loose and went into the wall.”
Wilberg, who works at Lefthander Chassis in Roscoe, Illinois, has been racing for over 30 years and understand Johnson’s emotion that he had after the race. That emotion doesn’t change his feelings 48 hours later about what he thinks of Casey Johnson.
“I like Casey a ton,” expressed Wilberg. “He is a super hard driver that I would put in my car at any time. If he walked in today, I would help him. We are going to race each other again and again. Things like this will happen, and to me, its over and done with and we will move on. Casey’s job is to race you hard and he did.
“I knew I touched him and I got on the radio and apologized right away.”
Johnson believes him and has watched the video of the incident. He even recalled what Wilberg said during a rain delay.
“I remember Bobby talking to another driver and heard him says that we don’t need to tear up any more cars in this race,” Johnson recalled. “This happened near the end. Oh well, we will be back and we will race hard together a lot this year and in the future.”
One of those upcoming events where both will be on track will be the ARCA Midwest Tour’s season opening event, the Joe Shear Classic presented by SCAG Power Equipment on Sunday, May 3 from Madison International Speedway in Oregon, Wisconsin.
Speed51.com’s 51 TV will provide live pay-per-view broadcast of the seventh annual event. CLICK HERE for more information.
– Kevin Ramsell, Speed51.com Director of Business/Midwest Editor. Twitter: @KevinRamsell
Photo Credit: Dan Margetta video