CHARLOTTE – NASCAR Cup drivers confused over the lack of a penalty to Jimmie Johnson’s team Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway sought clarity in the most 21st century of ways.
Denny Hamlin, the founder of the series’ Drivers Council, said a text chain his group uses with NASCAR executives Scott Miller and Steve O’Donnell helped explain why Johnson didn’t receive a penalty for his team securing lug nuts outside its pit stall.
“I had questions along with many other drivers,” Hamlin said Tuesday during a news conference to unveil his No. 11 Toyota’s Martinsville paint scheme that highlights a FedEx partnership with Walgreens. “So I went to our Driver Council texts, and Miller and O’Donnell both explained it the same way as they did everyone else. I thought for sure it was a penalty, but I can also see sometimes you’re gassing the car as the cars are rolling through the pit stall, and that’s not ever a penalty.
“I think it’s kind of a judgment call. The way they explained to me is that they chose for it not to be a penalty; not that anything is written black and white in the rulebook about being able to secure lug nuts outside the pit box.”
Miller explained in a Monday interview on SiriusXM Satellite Radio why NASCAR hadn’t communicated the policy to teams.
During a test at Martinsville, Kyle Larson said he didn’t agree with the call because NASCAR’s rulebook says that service must be completed within the pit stall (NASCAR officials have said Johnson wasn’t penalized because the team tightened lug nuts – a maneuver to ensure safety — after the stop was complete).
“I’m sure Jimmie and their team would agree … they didn’t follow the rule,” Larson said. “I would like to see NASCAR just use the rule, make us back all the way up to our pit stall like we typically do. I know I think they said that him losing spots on pit road was already a penalty in itself. Not really, because if he would have gotten the penalty he deserved, he would have been behind the lapped cars.
“I don’t think it was the right penalty. I would hope that if it happens to us or anybody else they would do the right thing.”
Hamlin said the Drivers Council primarily started the text chain with NASCAR officials to set times for meetings, but it also is used for communication in other ways (such as this clarification). “We constantly have advice for O’Donnell and Miller,” he said.
Contributing: Dustin Long in Martinsville