Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he was surprised to hear his fans lit into Jimmie Johnson on Twitter following Saturday night's race at Daytona International Speedway – but added he probably shouldn't have been.
"I was (surprised), but these people are passionate," he said. "I don't know if I should be that surprised by anything with the fans. 'Cause they're passionate, you know? They get in their minds what they think is right and what they think happened and they run with it."
Some of Junior Nation was angry with Johnson and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, for ditching the two-car partnership the Nos. 48 and 88 cars had. Fans felt Johnson owed Earnhardt Jr. after the 88 pushed the 48 to the win at Talladega earlier this year.
As Earnhardt Jr. said after the race, his frustration was more with the end-of-race chaos on the track than with Johnson. And when he spoke to reporters at Kentucky Speedway on Friday, he still felt the same way.
"(Johnson's decision to pit) didn't really bother me at all," Earnhardt Jr. said Friday. "I figured Jimmie would still have a good opportunity to get up to me and help us, and we were in fine shape until people forgot how to drive or thought they could disobey the laws of physics. They were trying to fit a square peg in a round hole."
Johnson, who also spoke to reporters on Friday, said the pair waited too long to make their move and were too far back in the field. At that point, Johnson's only chance at a good finish was to hope for three green-white-checkered attempts – which Knaus felt would run some cars out of fuel.
"Tires don't make that much of a difference there, so I assume it was trying to get enough fuel in the car to go three green-white-checkers," said Johnson, who added he hadn't spoken to Knaus about the reasoning.
Johnson said in that situation, it becomes a mentality of "Let's just do whatever we can to get our best finish."
"It was kind of every man for himself, because we were so deep in the field," Johnson said.
Earnhardt Jr. said he didn't have a problem with that way of thinking.
"They got to do what they've got to do on pit road," he said. "If they want to come pit, they've got to come pit. I can't argue with that. I'm fine with that. I don't have a problem with what he did.
"It seemed like just a normal damn race to me – the man wanted to go down pit road. No big deal. Caution was out. That's probably a good time to go down pit road."
As Earnhardt Jr. heard about the flack Johnson was catching on Twitter – Johnson kindly labeled the tweets as "creative messages" – he called his Hendrick Motorsports teammate to sympathize.
"Now you know why I don't have Twitter!" Earnhardt Jr. told Johnson on the phone.
But while NASCAR's most popular driver wasn't upset with Johnson, he was still frustrated over the how the Daytona race ended.
"You run all night long to get to the end of that race, and you can see the finish line," he said. "Then you just all crash for some reason. Pretty stupid."