Philadelphia, PA – NASCAR had a field day with pit-road speeding penalties during Sunday's 400-mile race at the newly repaved Pocono Raceway.
Race officials issued 22 penalties for driving too fast while entering or exiting pit road. Eighteen of them occurred within the first 70 laps of the 160-lap race.
Travis Kvapil was caught speeding four times, while David Reutimann, who drove the No. 51 car in place of the suspended Kurt Busch, received a penalty on three separate occasions. A.J. Allmendinger, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski were busted twice each.
Johnson received his first penalty during a round of green-flag pit stops on lap 42. The five-time Sprint Cup Series champion was nailed again on the following lap when he served his pass-through penalty. Johnson rebounded from a one-lap deficit in the early going to finish fourth. He was convinced NASCAR had a glitch in its timing loop for the 11th and final segment in the pits.
"There is something wrong with the timing loop, and the orange line and the way the drivers interact with that," Johnson said. "Normally, when we hit the orange line, we go, and I did that the first time we got nailed. The second time I waited until the tail was over and got nailed. We'll look into it and see what happened. But either way, we still came back. We had a very fast race car, and I had a shot at the win."
But NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton disagreed with Johnson's notion.
"There's nothing wrong with the loops," he said.
For each sanctioned racetrack, NASCAR monitors speeds from the yellow line at the entrance of pit road to the yellow line at the exit. The timing loop in the pits is divided into segments. How many segments depends on the size of the track.
The pit road area at Pocono was lengthened during its new pavement process within the past 10 months. Therefore, the number of segments increased from 10 to 11, with the last section expanded from 56 feet to 83.
"Our position is like it's always been - yellow line to yellow line," Pemberton exclaimed. "This track has gone under a lot of reconfiguration since last year. It's all brand-new pit road and all brand-new loops. Positions have been changed since last year. Sections are smaller than they were last year throughout pit road, and actually, the last section is a little bit bigger.
"The bottom line is, every week when we go into a racetrack, there's maps that are printed for the crew chiefs to come get. Some choose to get them, some choose to measure their own lines and some go off of last year's measurements."
The pit road speed limit at Pocono is 55 mph, but NASCAR does have a tolerance of up to 5 mph more than the limit. NASCAR handed out penalties to anyone who drove faster than 60 mph.
By the time this race had reached its halfway point, most drivers and crew chiefs figured it was best to drive on pit road slower than normal. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was one those drivers who played it safe during his pit stops.
"(Crew chief) Steve (Letarte) just told me about them and just said to be careful," Earnhardt Jr. noted after his eighth-place finish. "So I was extra careful. I was probably ridiculously slow coming onto pit road. But I just don't want to get popped.
"I get burned on TV and by the fan base whenever we do anything stupid on pit road, such as miss our stall or something. It takes me about a year and a half to get over that in a lot of people's eyes."
When the series returns to Pocono the first weekend in August, it's likely we'll see a lot less speeding penalties because teams are more in the loop now.