Johnson apologizes for criticizing NASCAR

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Jimmie Johnson admitted Tuesday he was speeding on pit road at Martinsville, and apologized for criticizing NASCAR over his late-race penalty.

But the five-time defending champion remained adamant that NASCAR should post pit road speeds in real time, and had the information been readily available, he wouldn’t have argued the penalty. Johnson said he learned of his pit road speeds on Monday.

“If pit road segment times were broadcast live for everyone to review, it would eliminate the finger pointing,” Johnson said in a conference call with reporters.

“It’s probably not good for me to climb out of the car and call NASCAR’s credibility into judgment, and I apologize for that. When you’re only dealing with part of the information and heat of the moment, it’s easy to react.”

When told of Johnson’s comments, NASCAR vice of president of competition Robin Pemberton maintained the driver had access to all the information. Pemberton said Sprint Cup Series director John Darby radios down the pit road speeds after a penalty, and the information was passed on to Johnson crew chief Chad Knaus.

“He gets the information during the race. Chad gets that information from the official, who passes it on to the crew chief after the penalty,” Pemberton said. “He had all the segments and all the speeds immediately after it happened.”

Pemberton also defended NASCAR’s policy of not posting the speeds in real time because it could risk creating a competition on pit road.

“We feel the pit road speed is set for safety, it is not an area of competition, and that’s why the limits are there,” Pemberton said. “I feel like if the numbers were in real time, it would turn pit road into a competition. All the drivers want to get within 1 mph of the limit. They all accelerate on their way in, and speed up on their way out. If we start broadcasting that, we’d have to back pit road speed up even more.”

The latest speeding controversy came after Johnson was flagged for going over the 30 mph limit on the final stop of Sunday’s race. He was second at the time of the penalty, but fell back to 11th and finished the race in that position.

He was adamant at the time of the penalty that he was not speeding, and stuck with that after the race because he was under the false impression he had been penalized for the segment on pit road leaving his box _ an area where speeding is virtually impossible.

He was still angry late Sunday when he posted on Twitter, “If NASCAR wanted to eliminate speeding controversy, they would post the times for the world to see.”

Johnson had not backed off that two days later. NASCAR shares the speeds with offenders after a violation and will provide them to media after the race, but Johnson wants it live in the television broadcast.

“They have the information sent to a computer to review in race control,” he said. “It’d be very easy to broadcast that signal like timing and scoring for teams to see. There’s no argument in live time. In a world of black and white, we’re all looking for that transparency. If I were them, I would believe it’d be a smart move to make just to eliminate this. We have this controversy once every month, every couple of races.”

NASCAR measures the speed on pit road in several segments separated by timing lines, and drivers are measured by their average speed within each segment. The timing is done through an electronic system that was implemented in 2005 after officials abandoned the long-used process of timing through hand-held stopwatches.

Pemberton dismissed the notion that fans will never trust the numbers unless they are given in real time because NASCAR can allegedly manipulate the numbers after the fact to show whatever it wants. He then rattled off a list of high-profile speeding penalties that ruined what could have been a good day for the sport.

“It’s a bad day to penalize anybody, whether it’s Juan Pablo Montoya, Brian Vickers, Dale Earnhardt Jr., anybody. That ruins our day, too,” Pemberton said. “It would have been great if Juan won at Indianapolis, or Dale Jr. didn’t speed at Bristol and could have won there.

“It’s not good for anybody when someone gets penalized. But we don’t turn a blind eye to breaking the rules.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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