While most have the race at the Monster Mile in their rear view mirrors, with the focus moving to the Tricky Triangle of Pocono, competitors Jimmie Johnson and Juan Pablo Montoya are still jawing about that pesky restart at Dover last weekend.
In fact, the five-time champion announced during his media availability that he is going to use some of the rain delay time at Pocono to sit down with NASCAR and talk about it some more. And here is what Johnson advised that he wanted to share.
“I feel that in NASCAR and auto racing there are very few moments where maybe a penalty could be drawn or a foul could be drawn like we would see in the NBA Finals where there is flopping going on,” Johnson said. “I really believe that in the restart zone to the start-finish line that Juan (Pablo Montoya) just didn’t go.”
“I think he was smart in letting me get out ahead of him and letting NASCAR make the call on me to keep me from having the lead and winning the race.”
For Johnson, this was all about NASCAR enforcing the restart rules in his opinion.
“I think we can look at enforcing it differently,” Johnson said. “I think everybody looking at it afterwards can see that Juan just didn’t go.”
Johnson also opined that these types of calls just should not happen anymore, especially with the data and technology now available.
“We have the tools to maybe make a better decision,” Johnson said. “The race had been taken away from us, the championship bonus points are gone, and it’s very difficult at that point to do the right thing.”
“But in today’s world of technology, I hope that we can figure out exactly how does that rule read.”
Johnson continued to also look at the whole situation as a Juan Pablo Montoya flop.
“I kind of get it, but from the restart zone to the start-finish line, if a guy breaks or has trouble NASCAR has the ability to make the call and say that they had trouble and it’s fine to go,” Johnson said. “Someone flops, what then?
“Essentially Juan found a loophole in the officiating and worked it to his advantage,” Johnson continued. “I took the bait clearly.”
Johnson advised that he was not in favor of getting rid of the restart zone but clearly expressed his desire for further clarification from the sanctioning body.
“I’m cool with whatever it is, I just want it to be crystal clear what we can and cannot do,” Johnson said. “I’m fine with whatever; I just need to better understand the rule.”
“If we want the leader to have full advantage, let’s really give them the opportunity to take that restart and if not, then let’s enforce it properly the other way.”
Johnson said that he bore no ill will against Montoya but remained clearly aggravated about the whole restart situation.
“I really don’t have anything against Juan for doing it,” Johnson said. “As racers, we need to work any and every angle we can to win a race.”
“That’s what we do, we race,” Johnson continued. “Sure I’m mad I didn’t win the race, but I’m not mad at him.”
“I think we need to look at how we officiate and how we can regulate that and keep that from happening again.”
Johnson also advised that other drivers have come up to him and shared that they too thought there were issues with that restart.
“All these guys have talked to me and I just saw Clint (Bowyer) and he was like ‘Dude, I was on the brakes, like I stomped on the brakes to stop because I knew you were in trouble.’
“It is what it is,” Johnson said. “I can’t change it and I can’t do anything about it.”
“But moving forward, I think we can prevent that situation from happening again.”
So, what was Juan Pablo Montoya’s take on the restart situation?
“If I did that on the restart, why only Jimmie passed me in his lane?” Montoya asked. “Even if I had a bad start and he beat me by a bumper, NASCAR would not have said anything.”
“But it was Jimmie…….and then the field.”
“I’m OK with it,” Montoya continued. “He didn’t even want to line up next to me when we came to the cones.”
“He wanted to dime it and he just mistimed it.”
While Johnson may need more clarity about the rule, Montoya felt that it was crystal clear, at least from his perspective. And he clarified that he was not taking advantage of any loophole in his opinion.
“The loophole is that you have to start between the cones and the leader is in charge,” Montoya said. “And that’s what I did.”
“What’s so hard about that?”
“I’m the leader,” JPM continued. “I know you (Johnson) dominated the race, but we came to a pit stop and we did a better job than you guys.”
“We’re the leader not you.”
For Montoya, the ultimate irony was that Johnson was indeed dominant and most likely would have passed him back had he not received the restart penalty.
“If he would have backed off and let me go, he would have passed me again,” JPM said. “It would have been all good.”
“He wanted to time it really well where he didn’t have to deal with me but he mistimed it.”
“That’s it,” Montoya said. “No drama.”
What seemed to seal the deal for Montoya in his argument about being right on the restart was that Johnson was the only one that seemed to have gotten snookered.
“I normally do a good job on restarts,” JPM said. “If I would have restarted and Jimmie passed me and four cars followed Jimmie, I think NASCAR would have said the 42 had a bad start.”
“But how is it that only Jimmie went away?” Montoya continued. “I don’t know.”
“He’s probably that good.”