Johnson apologizes, offers solution
Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson took the high road Tuesday and apologized for questioning the sanctioning body over a pit-road speeding penalty Sunday.
Johnson, who was irate about the penalty and questioned its validity after the race at Martinsville Speedway, said he was misinformed concerning which segment of pit road the penalty addressed.
“The comments I made in the race and (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) made and then the comments following the race were made without all the information and the fact of the matter is we were wrong,” Johnson said during a national teleconference Tuesday. “I was misinformed and was referring to a segment that I knew I could not get busted in, I thought that was where we were busted and at the end of the day that wasn’t the segment we got in trouble on.”
Despite Johnson's apology, the greater debate he ignited continues.
In denying that he was speeding on pit road, Johnson reopened a lingering issue in NASCAR: Should the sanctioning body show pit-road speeds for teams during a race?
Johnson believes so.
“I made this point once before and still think it’s a very valid point that if the pit-road segment times were broadcast live for everyone to review, it would eliminate this finger-pointing,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s probably not good for me to climb out of the car and call NASCAR’s credibility into judgment and I apologize to NASCAR for that, but when you’re only dealing with part of the information, and you’re in the heat of the moment it’s easy to react and I was wrong . . . Problem was, we were talking about the wrong box.”
Johnson said that he had not yet spoken with NASCAR officials concerning the penalty — or his misunderstanding concerning it.
Still, a live feed with the speeds would not only have helped him understand where the penalty occurred but might have prevented it in the first place.
Johnson said that when he and Knaus were given their speeds on Monday and given a chance to review those, they saw they had been sitting on the outer limit of the allowable speed on the previous stops. In an effort to gain as much ground as possible at a critical point in the race, Johnson just pushed things too far.
Still, knowing his speed — and the segment it impacted — at the time would have helped him not make the erroneous statement. NASCAR has scoring loops throughout pit road that helps teams monitor pit-road speed. Johnson said teams know the loop locations, which can play into where one chooses a pit stall. In the area in which he thought he was penalized, he knew he could not have been speeding because of where his stall fell in the section.
Johnson said that it turns out he was correct in that assessment — but was wrong about where the penalty was incurred.
To prevent similar misunderstandings, he sees a simple solution.
“They have the information being sent to a computer that they’re reviewing in race control,” Johnson said. “It would be very easy to broadcast that signal, just like they do for timing and scoring, for all the teams to see. At that point, when it’s coming up live time, there’s no arguing. In the world of black and white that we live in now, we’re all looking for that transparency.
"If I were them, I would believe it was a smart move to make just to eliminate this.”