Watts says he's sorry for chasing tire

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The crewman who received a four-race suspension from NASCAR for chasing a tire through pit road into the infield grass during Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway apologized on Thursday.

"To go after the tire was a quick reaction and obviously the wrong decision," Jimmy Watts, the gasman for Marcos Ambrose, told a team spokesman after a request for an interview. "I want to apologize to my team, my competitors and to NASCAR."

The incident forced NASCAR to call a caution in the middle of green-flag pit stops on Lap 67 because Watts was in harm's way had a car spun out or lost control coming off Turn 4.

The caution put more than half the field a lap or more down, directly affecting the rest of the race, which was won by Kurt Busch. Had Watts not chased the tire, NASCAR may have opted to wait until green-flag stops were over to throw the yellow flag.

The governing body sat Watts for the remainder of the race, then on Tuesday suspended him for four races because he violated a safety policy of leaving the pit area with cars on the track.

Also, crew chief Frank Kerr was placed on probation until the end of the year because he is considered responsible for his crew's actions.

Watts, who works as a fireman when not at the track, took full responsibility for the act that took him from obscurity to the middle of the public eye.

"Everything happened so fast on pit road that I just didn't realize how far I had to go out until I grabbed the tire," he said. "I put myself in jeopardy and I know how hard NASCAR works to make the pit crew members safe on pit road. I stand by their decision and will serve my four-race suspension."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com.