April 05, 2011
When word of a speeding penalty on the 48 team filtered up out of Martinsville's pit road late in the race on Sunday, the reactions fell into one of two camps: "NASCAR's wrong" (the 48 team and its fans) and "about freaking time" (everyone else).
Running in second place at the time of the penalty, Jimmie Johnson eventually brought home his car in 11th place, a phenomenal disappointment for a driver who's all but owned the track in the last few years. And clearly, Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus were livid at the thought of losing out because of a ruling.
"I wasn't speeding," Johnson said after the race. "There is just no way. People will say whatever. But with the math and the way we know our timing lines, there is just no way. You accelerate real hard through your timing zone. A lot of guys get dinged for that. I've been dinged a couple of different times. Usually you get dinged when you pass someone or break the plane of the car in front of you. With no one there, I accelerated like I always do from my mark. There is just no way. There is just no way."
Obviously, Johnson thought there was no way he was speeding through the segment that included his pit stop. And when he received the detailed information on Monday, it turned out that he was correct; he hadn't sped through that section. He'd sped through the final section of pit road, at a time when he was trying to outrun Kyle Busch. That contradicted the information he'd received initially, and to Johnson, made much more sense.
"The comments I made in the race, and Chad made, and the comments following the race were made without all the information," Johnson said during a Tuesday morning press conference. "And the fact of the matter was, we were wrong. I was misinformed, and was referring to a segment where we could not get busted in. I thought that's where we were busted. And at the end of the day, that wasn't the thing we got in trouble on."
Now, it's not going to break most race fans' hearts that the defending five-time champion lost out on a rules violation. But this speaks to a larger problem: the fact that NASCAR doesn't disclose pit road speeds or violation specifics. Why not? This is different than a judgment call, as in the case of a caution flag (one could argue that some of the long green runs warranted cautions on Sunday); this is (in theory) a cut-and-dried, you're-too-fast-or-you're-not ruling. Why not disclose that information?
NASCAR has enough problems with the perception of favoritism. And while an anti-Johnson ruling (or, for that matter, an anti-Dale Earnhardt Jr. one) has the secondary effect of blunting that criticism, why not just let in some light?
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