- Terry Blount, ESPN Staff Writer
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LONG POND, Pa. -- Jimmie Johnson says Juan Pablo Montoya is the equivalent of an NBA flopper. Montoya says Johnson can't admit his mistake. The two continued to agree to disagree Friday about what happened last weekend on the final restart at Dover.
Johnson was penalized for jumping the restart and beating Montoya, the leader, to the start-finish line. Johnson says Montoya pulled off a NASCAR version of an NBA flop, deliberately slowing down to force Johnson to get a penalty.
Montoya, who ended up second to Tony Stewart in the Sprint Cup Series race, just laughed and said Johnson simply mistimed it and blew it, causing his penalty all by himself.
"If I did something so wrong, why is it only Jimmie passed me?" Montoya asked Friday at Pocono Raceway. "If I had such a bad restart, why didn't NASCAR say anything? It was Jimmie [moving ahead], and the whole rest of the field [staying behind him].
"Jimmie didn't even want to line up next to me. He was trying to time it and he mistimed it."
Johnson doesn't see it that way. He started on the inside of the front row as the second-place car, but zoomed ahead of Montoya in the restart zone and didn't give the position back, which NASCAR rules require.
Johnson was penalized, forced to come down pit road, and finished 17th in a race he dominated most of the day.
"I've had time to digest it this week," Johnson said. "To me it's like the problem with flopping [falling down to make it appear a player fouled you] in an NBA game.
"Juan just didn't go. In my opinion, he played it right to let me get out ahead of him. Nothing against Juan doing it. As racers, we work every angle. I put it more on the officiating. Everybody could see Juan just didn't go. I took the bait. He found a loophole and worked it to his advantage."
When told of Johnson's comment, Montoya smiled: "Did I? Wow, I'm that good. Man, that's an accomplishment. He should tell me what I did so I can figure it out myself.
"Look, what's so hard to understand? There's no drama. The leader restarts the race. That's the rule. You can't beat the leader to the line. The funny thing is Jimmie probably would have passed me anyway had he not mistimed it."
Johnson continues to maintain the wrong call was made and the rule is unclear.
"We have the tools to make a better decision," he said. "The race was taken away from us. NASCAR has the ability to make the call, so when someone flops, what then?"
Johnson also claims he tried to give the first position back to Montoya, but Montoya wouldn't move ahead of him.
"I tried the entire front stretch to give it back," Johnson said. "Next time, I'll just stand on the brakes and stop. Even if I finished fifth, it would have been better than 17th. I just saw Clint [Bowyer, who was behind Johnson] and he said, 'Dude, I was on the brakes. I knew you were in trouble.'"
Jeff Gordon, Johnson's teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, tends to agree with Johnson, but also said the leader has all the power.
"Looking at the video, I think Jimmie was on the edge of anticipation," Gordon said. "But I think Juan did a great job. That flop was as good as it gets. The leader has that ability to do that."
NASCAR officials said Montoya maintained a proper pace and did nothing wrong.
"I just want it crystal clear as to what we can and cannot do," Johnson said. "Just enforce it properly either way. We have the technology to do that."
Montoya was asked what he would do Sunday if Johnson was first and he was second, lined up side by side on the final restart.
"I'm gonna beat him by 10 car lengths," Montoya joked.
13dTom McKean, ESPN Stats & Information