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Pit Road Speeding Flap Continues At TMS

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 9 2011

Jimmie Johnson races Ryan Newman out of the pits at Martinsville. NASCAR said he was too racy in the pits last week and penalized him. Some drivers would like to see more transparency when it comes to speeding tickets. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Erik J. Perel)

Fort Worth, Texas – NASCAR champions Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch are more likely to be haggling over common ground than agreeing on it tonight at Texas Motor Speedway.

But in the wake of Johnson’s controversial pit road speeding penalty at Martinsville Speedway last Sunday, Busch said he could understand the five-time/reigning Sprint Cup champion’s consternation.

Johnson’s pit road infraction ended his shot for another victory on the half-mile oval. Johnson was adamant during post-race interviews and on Twitter that he was not speeding. However, after reviewing NASCAR’s data on Monday, Johnson said he was wrong to criticize the ruling. It seems the sanctioning body had caught him speeding in a different segment than the one he thought he was flagged in.

Still, Johnson called on NASCAR to make pit road speed data open and available to everyone in real time – shining another hot spotlight on the frenetic happenings along pit road.

“Yeah, the game has changed on pit road,” Busch said during an interview leading into tonight’s Samsung Mobile 500. “It used to be when I first started (there was) just a groupof officials on top of the tower with stopwatches clocking random drivers. They would choose to call down or they would choose not to call down to your team and let you know if you were too fast or not.

“Then we went into this, I guess more-or-less transponder scoring system on pit road.

Kurt Busch says pit road speeding situation is raising questions. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

I’ve actually been up on the tower during a Nationwide race to watch it work. When you’re at the correct pit road speed, your car number is in green. When you’re in the incorrect speed, going too fast, your car number turns red. So in a sense, it’s black-and-white. You’re good or you’re bad.  They’re going to call your number no matter who you are and they’re going to let you know when you’re speeding.

“The problem is there’s different speed zones that are different lengths. We have 100 feet on entry and exit of pit road, and a lot of times we have 300 to 400 feet in between the segments during the regular pit boxes from Stall 1 to 20 or 21 to 30. There are large differences.”

Those segments, Busch said, too often give a driver an opportunity to speed. “Drivers try to time-out finding the right box with the crew chief on when they can speed and not get caught,” said Busch, driver of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger fielded by Penske Racing. “It’s a black-and-white system. If you’re too fast in a certain segment, then you’re busted.

“Can we go to a program that calculates overall average speed on pit road and include the pit stop time? That’s something that I’d like to take a look at as far as when you trip the beacon to go onto pit road and when you trip it coming off, what is your speed. But it is very difficult because some teams can crank-off those two-tire stops in six seconds, then you have another team struggling with a four-tire stop at 18 seconds. There are a lot of variables. Bottom line is racing should be saved for the racetrack; it shouldn’t be done on pit road. We need to be as safe as we can on pit road for all the crew members out there.”

Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet Impala, qualified sixth for tonight’s scheduled 334-lapper on the 1.5-mile quadoval. Busch, the 2004 series champion, will start 10th.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 9 2011
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Terri S. says:

    At Bill H.

    Did you not get it? Jimmie was told that he was speeding in the actual section where his pit box was, which was incorrect information.

    After he received the correct information, he withdrew his criticism.

    Don’t let your hate for a driver get in the way of your objectivity!

  • Bill H. says:

    “Drivers try to time-out finding the right box with the crew chief on when they can speed and not get caught,”

    Then why are you crying when you get caught? The best way not to get caught is to not speed.