Jimmie Johnson confused over NASCAR parking car after team worked on it during red flag

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Jimmie Johnson had the breath knocked out of him in a 17-car wreck with 16 laps left in Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway, but that wasn’t his main concern after exiting his damaged No. 48 Chevrolet.

Johnson’s day was ended by NASCAR, a penalty for the team for working on his car during the 12 minute and 30 second red flag period that ensued from the wreck.

Johnson said his spotter had been given the signal that the team could begin working on the car.

“The thing I’m most concerned about is that there was a cue given to our spotter for our guys to start working on the car,” Johnson told NBC. “We went out and made a lap and advanced quite a few spots as a result. Now it looks like NASCAR is trying to take that away from us.

“Us and a few other cars heard the cue to allow the guys to start working when the red flag had finished but we didn’t get the cue on pit row. I’m still not clear on what all went on. I think we’re in a bad situation as a result. Hopefully, NASCAR can look at it and we can get this rectified.”

According to NASCAR, Johnson’s spotter heard officials say that drivers could restart their engines. The red flag had not been withdrawn. NASCAR announces on the radio – which all teams monitor – when it removes the red flag and brings out the yellow flag. It is not until then that teams can work on their cars. Johnson’s team started work before the red flag had been withdrawn.

Johnson finished 24th and leaves Talladega eighth in the playoffs standings. He is seven points ahead of Kyle Busch for the final transfer spot.

The seven-time champion ran in the top 10 most of the day, even after his car suffered right-rear damage from contact with Ty Dillon when he slowed to enter the pits early in Stage 2.

Johnson earned 10 stage points after finishing fifth in Stage 1 and seventh in Stage 2.

“Definitely valuable,” Johnson said of the stage points. “That was part of the plan coming in here, and I think the whole field kind of had that same mindset. We had a very fast Lowe’s Chevrolet even with it torn up after a couple of little incidents on the track. We were still in there mixing it up for the win.”

Johnson’s bad day only got worse after leaving Talladega. He was returning his rental car to a nearby airport and stepped right into a pile of red ants.