Friday, April 19, 2013
Johnson denies blowing whistle
By David Newton
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson denied on Friday that anybody from his team or Hendrick Motorsports tipped NASCAR to potential rules violations by Penske Racing last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
There has been widespread speculation that Johnson's team or someone from HMS told the governing body that the rear end housing on the cars of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano were outside the rules prior to final inspection before the Saturday night race.
Seven-time champion Richard Petty said before Johnson spoke at Kansas Speedway that "undoubtedly" another team turned in Penske Racing.
"It had done been through inspection two or three times and it hadn't got caught," NASCAR's all-time wins leader said.
But NASCAR officials supported Johnson's statement, saying the unapproved parts in the rear housing of both Penske cars were discovered in normal pre-race inspection and not because of a tip.
The violations resulted in both drivers being docked 25 points and the suspension of seven crew members, including the crew chief, car chief and engineer for both teams.
The suspensions will not go into effect until Penske Racing's appeal is heard by the National Stock Car Racing Commission, which means all of those suspended will participate this weekend at Kansas. No date has been given for that appeal.
"No, the Hendrick group and the No. 48 team did not rat out the Penske cars," Johnson said.
HMS became the target of suspicion because Johnson's car was parked next to Keselowski's, and Jeff Gordon's next to Logano's, all weekend at Texas.
Keselowski was outspoken after the race about things that take place in the garage and about his car being parked next to Johnson's last year, when NASCAR penalized the HMS team for an illegal C-post. That fueled speculation this week.
"I'm missing something here, who cares if a team "ratted us out," Keselowski tweeted Friday. "Clearly we felt like the parts were legal to begin with."
Johnson admitted the "best officiating in the garage has always been your neighbor" and that a lot of eyes were on the Penske cars during the Thursday test session in Texas.
"Everybody has people watching," he said. "We have been very impressed with the No. 2 car's staff and their ability to have somebody just stand and watch other teams. So this environment does take place in the garage area."
But again, Johnson said his team didn't turn in Penske.
"We're a company that tries to understand the rulebook as close as we can to the law," he said. "Sure, we've had our issues with it, but that's racing and [it has] been that way since Day 1 of racing. We try to be as smart as we can, conform to the rules and put the best race car on the track.
"All that being said, no. There was a lot of activity around the Penske cars during the test day, just like all the other cars, and everybody is watching and looking. But in no way, shape or form did anybody from the 48 car walk into that [NASCAR hauler] and say anything."
David Newton can be reached at email@example.com.