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The Champ Was Right To Plead For Transparency

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 7 2011

Jimmie Johnson races Ryan Newman out of the pits at Martinsville. NASCAR said he was too racy in the pits last week. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Erik J. Perel)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

As the NASCAR circuit gets to work today at Texas Motor Speedway it’ll be interesting to see whether the pit-road-speeding issue dies down or gains steam and produces a positive result for drivers, fans and the media.

In the closing laps at Martinsville last week, the five-time and defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson was busted for speeding on pit road, ending his chance for another Martinsville win.

Johnson howled long and loud, in post-race interviews and on Twitter, that he couldn’t have been speeding. In the aftermath, it wasn’t just the die-hard conspiracy theorists who suspected that Johnson got busted to give Dale Earnhardt Jr. a better chance to win.

Then, after seeing NASCAR’s data on Monday, Johnson said he was wrong to criticize NASCAR. They’d actually caught him speeding in a different segment than the one he thought he was caught in.

But more importantly, the five-time champion called on NASCAR to make the pit road speed data open and available to all – in real time.

The champ is right on this one, and he finds himself on the same side as many a fan and media

Jimmie Johnson said displaying pit lane speeds would be a winning move. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

member, who have long noted that TV viewers can see every sort of telemetry on the cars, even down to how much a driver is turning the wheel or applying the brakes, but not a thing about pit road speeds.

“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,” Johnson said on a teleconference with reporters. “(NASCAR officials) have the information being sent to a computer that they’re reviewing in race control. 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.”

He said that transparency would benefit fans, competitors and NASCAR’s credibility.

“It would one, be cool I think to add another layer of information for the fans to digest and two, it would eliminate people like myself on Sunday feeling so strong about what took place, making comments and in a way probably harming our sport and the credibility of our sport,” he said.

NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp responded to Johnson’s remarks by saying in an email to some reporters that the sanctioning body “shouldn’t have to display each team’s speeds to the other competitors to let them figure out the other teams’ strategy.”

Here’s an idea. Put the data out there for all to see. Do away with the five-mile-per-hour cushion, measure speeds all along pit road instead of by segments then tell the drivers to “Have at it.”

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 7 2011
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