Both already locked into the 10-race Chase for the championship, the longtime rivals tussled repeatedly Saturday night on the 0.75-mile oval at Richmond International Raceway.
First, Busch nudged the five-time defending champion into the wall.
Then Johnson retaliated, sending Busch spinning and then spinning, too, a battle that he wound up losing because while Busch was still contending for the victory, Johnson headed for the garage.
"I got your number," Busch fumed on his radio, apparently aimed at Johnson.
When Johnson finally got back on the track, he was 34 laps off the pace, and he and Busch never tangled again. Busch finished fifth, Johnson 31st.
"When he came back to us, you know, you could see it coming. That's not something you see from Jimmie Johnson every day so I know we're in his head. If we're going to race this way, he's got to worry that there's 10 other guys in the Chase, not just the 22," Busch said.
"He's got to learn to race," Busch said. "He's been able to beat guys the last five years just by outdriving them with what he has for equipment."
Johnson admitted he retaliated after Busch hit him the first time.
"If you're going to spin me out, I'm going to spin you out," he said. "It's just part of it. I'm sure I'll go find him and talk to him and he'll run his mouth and we'll go from there."
The two have battled before in this "have at it, boys" year for Sprint Cup racing.
Last month at Pocono, they sideswiped each other on the final lap, then yelled at each other on pit road. Busch, the 2004 series champion, was still in his car when Johnson approached him.