Drivers complaining about being caught for speeding on pit road is certainly not a new phenomenon.
But it does get a little more attention when the guy who has won the last five Sprint Cup championships is involved.
Like it or not, Jimmie Johnson making an issue about being caught for pit road speeding is a bigger deal than when anyone else challenges the subject. As the reigning champ five years running Johnson has earned a voice in the NASCAR garage that deserves to be listened to.
NASCAR is not unlike other sports where veterans and athletes who have accomplished more than others get the benefit of the doubt and the ear of officials.
Ask any NBA rookie about how it feels to get hammered driving to the hoop only to watch a referee swallow his whistle. However that same play with a Kobe Bryant or Dwight Howard involved most likely has a completely different outcome simply because of the veteran stars being involved.
Young pitchers nibbling around home plate won’t get nearly as many called strikes as a veteran hurler who hits the same spots.
That’s the lay of the land in pro sports and NASCAR is no different.
So Johnson’s adamant stance about not exceeding the accepted speeds in place Sunday at Martinsville Speedway carries a little more weight than just any old driver swearing they were within the limits.
However after originally calling out the sanctioning body for being wrong after Sunday’s race when the penalty levied took Johnson from any kind of contention to win, the five-time champion softened his stance a couple of days later.
“I wasn’t speeding,” Johnson said.” They didn’t like how it looked – the way I managed my timing lines. 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.”
Johnson now says there was a mix-up in his mind of just where he was pegged for speeding in one of the designated timing zones NASCAR’s uses to measure pit road speeds.
To avoid the mix-up Johnson believes NASCAR could simply publish or broadcast the numbers for all to see in real time fashion, simplifying the process in his mind.
"It would be very easy to broadcast that signal – just like they do for timing and scoring – for all the teams to see," Johnson said. "At that point, when it's coming up live time, there's no arguing it. In the black-and-white world we live in now, we're all looking for that transparency. If I were them, I would believe it would be a smart move to make, just to eliminate this (controversy).
"If we have that data instantly, I think it would, one, be cool for the fans to have that information 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."
I completely believe Johnson was over the line and his speeding penalty was warranted.
But Johnson is still absolutely correct.
While I’m not making allegations in any way that NASCAR somehow manipulates these times or challenging the integrity of the sport, why not eliminate any doubt by making this information public?
From a fan’s perspective it’s another way to raise the sport’s credibility by making this process transparent. No cloak and dagger, no behind the curtain conferences, no hiccups in the execution. Post the number and if it exceeds what’s been established as the limit bang – penalty assessed.
In this age of technology there’s no doubt in my mind this can be done. And in this age of fans salivating for every piece of information and data they can get their hands on, the move would be a total win-win for NASCAR.
I love watching a baseball game and knowing the pitch count of the guy on the mound. Or following rebounds and assists in real time during a basketball game. Numbers enhance any sport’s enjoyment factor and in NASCAR’s case it would cement home it’s credibility at the same time.
There’s an argument that by broadcasting these speeds it provides an unfair advantage to other teams and disrupts competitiveness. I don’t buy that from a sanctioning body that has always preached about an open garage. Or one that allows teams to openly “eaves drop” on other team’s radio communications via scanner.
NASCAR has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years by opening itself up to fans and allowing the sport to grow simply by providing more access. It’s time the next step is taken and the mystery of pit road speeding to disappear.
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