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NASCAR America: Failure to communicate ‘biggest issue’ with lack of Jimmie Johnson pit penalty

NASCAR must improve its communication following confusion around a Jimmie Johnson pit stop during the Bank of America 500.

One of the main stories to come out of Sunday’s Bank of America 500 was a late pit stop by Jimmie Johnson.

The pit stop took place on Lap 280 and saw Johnson start to leave his pit box before being stopped by his team due to an unsecured lug nut on the left front wheel.
Johnson backed up but his car, but he did not back all the way into the box before the lug nut was secured. NASCAR did not penalize the team. Johnson entered pit road fourth and exited 15th before finishing seventh.

The rule regarding pitting outside the box is rule 10.9.7.d:

“A vehicle may receive service only when they are in their assigned pit box and/or the garage area or at NASCAR’s discretion. Should a vehicle pit outside of its assigned pit box and begin to remove a wheel/tire(s), crew members must reinstall those same wheel/tire(s) and re-position the vehicle back within their pit box to avoid a penalty.”

Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, said the team was not penalized because the lug nut is a safety issue and the act of securing the lug nut was self penalizing.

NASCAR America analysts Steve Letarte and Kyle Petty shared their thoughts on the pit stop.

“When I go back and I read the rules and I go through it, I completely understand that there shouldn’t be a penalty for the 48,” Letarte said. “It’s hard to explain but think about a car that slides long into the pit box. The tire changer starts to take lug nuts off. You push the car back, you jack it up, change the tires and everything’s fine.

“That’s also hitting the lug nuts outside the pit box. By the rule, the 48 shouldn’t have been penalized. I questioned it during the broadcast because it failed the eye test.”

Letarte’s “bigger issue” was that Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, knew NASCAR wouldn’t penalize the team, but others, including race-winning crew chief Cole Pearn, did not.

“NASCAR gets criticized about consistency, this had nothing to do with consistency,” Letarte said. “I have an issue with communication. ... Chad Knaus is a seven-time champion. If he needs a rule explained in further detail I think all the competitors should get a, ‘hey, guess what guys? This was a topic of conversation. If you have questions, come talk to us.’”

Petty also had an issue with some teams not knowing the rules and the “subtleties of the rules.”

“How can there be a subtlety for this rule, no subtlety for that rule and part of the guys know it and part of the guys don’t?” Petty asked. “I don’t know what sport we’re playing because that doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Said Letarte: “Words on paper are very different from a call in a race. It’s not in-bounds or out-of-bounds. It’s kind of the flow.”