Jimmie Johnson’s spotter takes blame for team working on car during red flag

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Earl Barban, spotter for Jimmie Johnson, took the blame for telling the crew they could work on Johnson’s wrecked car when they couldn’t, leading NASCAR to park the car and prevent Johnson from gaining an extra point in Sunday’s Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Johnson was among the cars involved in a 16-car crash that brought out the caution on Lap 173. He went to pit road for repairs but NASCAR issued the red flag. Teams cannot work on a car during a red flag. Johnson’s crew began working on the car before the red was withdrawn, leading to NASCAR’s action.

Johnson finished 24th. The team had hoped to get Johnson out to run at least one lap under caution to gain one spot and one point. 

Each point could be valuable for Johnson, who sits in the final transfer spot heading into Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas Speedway. Johnson leads Kyle Busch by seven points and Matt Kenseth by eight points for that last transfer spot.

Barban explained Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint” what happened:

“I ended it one lap earlier when I was anticipating (NASCAR) taking the red out and putting the yellow in,” Barban said. “Definitely my fault for telling them they could work on the car a little prematurely there. Before I knew I made a mistake, it was too late, they were already working on it. So we were unable to make that one lap. I don’t think we could have gone green or any more than that.

“I’m crossing my fingers at Kansas that that one point doesn’t make a difference for us. If it does, like I said, it’s my mistake there. The radio came up. I was overly excited probably.

“The guys I knew, they had to do a lot of work to the car still, which I had thought, and (tried) to tell them as soon as I could. Over the radio, it was ‘withdraw the …’ and I was just assuming they started to say red and they stopped talking and then they fired the cars and then they said it over again. Obviously I pulled the trigger a little too quick.

“That one lap that we were going to make and makeup that one spot was taken back. For sure I’ll definitely wait until I can see the yellow flag waving before I say anything else.’’

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