Thanks to steady rain all day, the only on-track activity to talk about at Pocono on Friday was Sunday's Dover restart, which saw Jimmie Johnson get penalized -- and lose any shot at a win -- for jumping it with less than 20 laps to go.
Johnson had the dominant car that day, leading 147 laps. But Montoya was the leader at the time of the restart and Johnson accelerated before he did, beating Montoya and the rest of the field to the start/finish line.
There was no dominant car Friday at Pocono. No one got on track and all activity was officially canceled just after 2 p.m. Eastern. That means the field is set by owner points and Johnson will lead the field to green on Sunday with Carl Edwards next to him. Yes, it's probably safe to say that Johnson isn't going to be overanxious to hit the gas at the drop of the green.
"I really believe that in the restart zone to the start-finish line that Juan (Pablo Montoya) just didn’t go and in my opinion, I think he played it right," Johnson said. "I think he was smart in letting me get out ahead of him and let them make the call on me to keep me from having the lead and winning the race. It’s interesting, I really don’t have anything against Juan for doing it, as racers we need to work any and every angle we can to win a race. That’s what we do, we race. I put a little more weight into officiating in exactly how the rule reads and the way the rule is intended to be enforced. I think we can look at enforcing it differently. I think everybody looking at it afterwards can see that Juan just didn’t go."
Johnson said that he hoped that with current technology that there would be a way to determine if a leader had mechanical issues on a restart that prevented him from accelerating immediately. He also likened the gamesmanship between drivers on the front row to players in the NBA flopping to exaggerate a possible offense by another player and talked about how that gamesmanship could depend on the size of a track's restart zone. Restart zones vary from track to track.
"Someone flops, what then?," Johnson asked. "You think about the restart zone at Indy, you have a couple hundred yards from the end of that zone to the start-finish line and if I’m the leader and on the outside, I could let five or six cars go by and then get to the start-finish line and trap them all down and put them in position to be penalized. Essentially, Juan found a loophole. He found a loophole in the officiating and worked it to his advantage so sure I’m mad I didn’t win the race, and I’m not mad at him, but I think we need to look at how we officiate and how we can regulate that and keep that from happening. Dover, it’s a very short distance from the zone to the start-finish line. At other tracks, it’s a huge distance. (At Pocono), it’s pretty big. I would have to imagine it’s a couple hundred yards as well. You could pin four or five people into that position if they take the bait, which I took the bait clearly.”
When he was asked if he found a loophole in NASCAR's restart rules, Montoya, who will start Sunday's race 25th, responded with a question himself.
"Did I? Wow, I’m that good," Montoya said with a laugh. "Man that is a compliment. The loop hole is that you have to start between the cones and the leader has got to -- I think the start says you have to restart between the two cones that I did. And you are not supposed to beat the leader to the line. What is so hard about that? You know what I mean? I read a quote about him this week. I was at my house and I read a quote. He (Jimmie Johnson) said ‘if he wouldn’t have done that the No. 42 would have beat him.’ I’m like well I’m the leader not you. I was thinking I know you dominated the race, but we came to a pit stop and we did a better job than you guys. And as we did a better job than you guys we are the leader not you. Crazy enough if he would have backed off let me go he would have probably passed me again. It would have been all good. He wanted to time it really well where he didn’t have to deal with me through turns one and two, but he mistimed it. That is it, no drama.”
One way to not have to worry about the second place car to the finish line is to go back to single file restarts. That's what defending champion Brad Keselowski would vote for after expressing he wasn't a fan of double-file restarts.
@nickbromberg st8 up single file with wave arounds. The leader earned this
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) June 7, 2013
While Keselowski's solution may be the most equitable for all -- one lane of drivers wouldn't be starting outside of the preferred racing groove -- don't look for NASCAR to change the double file restart rule anytime soon.
Like the double file restarts? Are you a fan of Keselowski's rule? Should the restart zone be eliminated in favor of another approach? Drop us a line in the comments.