Race Weekend Central

Jimmie Johnson Apologizes for Pit-Road Speeding Penalty at Martinsville

On Sunday (April 3), Jimmie Johnson wasted no time criticizing NASCAR for a pit-road speeding penalty that took the No. 48 car out of contention.

“I wasn’t speeding,” he said after a disappointing 11th-place run. “There’s just no way.”

It took only two days for the five-time champ to have a change of heart.

“The fact of the matter is we were wrong,” he said Tuesday, apologizing for both he and Chad Knaus’s public dispute of NASCAR’s call. “I was misinformed and was referring to the segment that I knew I could not get busted in – I thought that’s where we were busted. At the end of the day, that wasn’t the segment we got in trouble on.”

Johnson was referring to NASCAR’s scoring loops, electronic timing sections designated by white lines on pit road. How the sanctioning body calculates speeding is a time over distance formula, averaging out speed from segment to segment over pit road rather than using a rev limiter chip inside the car or an electronic indicator that goes off if the car runs over the maximum speed.

In NASCAR’s system, turns out it was segment three, the one before Johnson’s pit stall that caused the violation. That was different than the segment the team was focused on, one where Johnson went well over the speed limit knowing that due to this formula, there was no way he’d be busted for going over the average because he’d been sitting motionless in his pit.

“You do a pit stop and you have 14 or 15 seconds on your side to accelerate where you can’t get caught speeding,” he explained. “We look at that stuff just like all the other teams and try to make smart decisions on pit road.”

While Johnson showed remorse for his mistake, he also stuck by his Sunday claim that all pit road times should be released publicly for all to see.

“They have the information being sent to a computer that they’re reviewing in race control,” he explained. “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 argument. In a world of black and white that we live in now, we’re all looking for that transparency.”

“All the information is necessary before we get out and run our mouths when we get out of the race car. It would be nice to have all the information, especially with the access and the interaction we have with the media. I was out of the car for 15 or 20 seconds and right into interviews. I hate saying something out of turn and I’ll certainly admit when I’m wrong.”

NASCAR responded quickly, reiterating they have no plans to release such information to the public. PR representative Kerry Tharp explained that could allow certain teams to change their strategy, providing some with an advantage in real time with information that shouldn’t be shared until after the fact.

“It’s a competition among the teams and that competition begins with the team’s qualifying effort,” he stated. “Teams know where the threshold is when it comes to pit-road speeds.”

Johnson has not been fined by NASCAR for his criticism or spoken to them on the incident as of Tuesday morning. There’s no word on whether any further penalties or fines will be administered; last year, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin were among those penalized for speaking out with their opinions NASCAR fervently disagreed with.

About the author

The author of Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 40+ staff members as its majority owner and Editor-in-Chief. Based outside Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild. He most recently consulted with SRX Racing, helping manage cutting-edge technology and graphics that appeared on their CBS broadcasts during 2021 and 2022.

You can find Tom’s writing here, at CBSSports.com and Athlonsports.com, where he’s been an editorial consultant for the annual racing magazine for 15 years.

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