While expressing sympathy for Clint Bowyer and the Richard Childress Racing squad over the New Hampshire penalty situation, Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson reckoned NASCAR had no choice but to act the way it did. He also was pleased that NASCAR's Robin Pemberton and John Darby have directly refuted rumors circulating about similar discrepancies in the dimensions of the cars of his own Hendrick Motorsports team at Richmond earlier this month..
“I heard something after Richmond and, frankly, I was excited to hear that because of the situation we were in. People felt that we may have been illegal and NASCAR didn't want to nail us on it…which is complete BS," Johnson said.
"At the end of the day, NASCAR has made it very clear to us with what we experienced in Sonoma two years ago maybe, and then as the Car of Tomorrow has come along, that there is zero tolerance. It doesn't matter if it's only the thickness of a quarter [as Bowyer pointed out in his press conference earlier today -Ed.]. They don't care. I hate that the No. 33 is in the position but NASCAR has to be consistent with what they do. Zero tolerance is zero tolerance. There is no, ‘I'm sorry, you are close.' It is black or white."
Johnson expressed some surprise about revelations that the RCR squad had been warned by NASCAR over the potential for infractions, but went on to draw a penalty anyway.
"I didn't not know there were multiple warnings to them. When you are warned, it is kind of a weird situation because as a race team, that is your job – to push it right up to the edge," he noted. "So we've been there before and faced with the decision, you have to back off a little bit. They are warning you, you are too close to the tolerances and with cars that are made of steel that can get bumped around, moved around and for whatever reason, it's contact on track, it's a tow truck, a push truck, whatever it is, you have to leave yourself some room to be on the right side of the line.”
Johnson added that he was comfortable with NASCAR's long-running precedent of not taking away race wins for rules infractions.
"With the penalties as stiff as they are now, yes, you do get the trophy and a check mark in the book, but the penalty is so stiff. It's hard to say," he said when asked whether points deductions and fines were sufficient. "The days of just blatantly doing something to get around a rule from NASCAR are far behind us. We are just dealing with very tight tolerances on weekly basis and, trying to find that advantage, you live close to the line. All I have ever known is points and fines and the win stays. So to me, it is something I haven't really thought about and no big deal.”
Asked to respond to Bowyer's suggestions that his No. 48 car as well as the No. 11 of Denny Hamlin may also have been questionable, since they had to go through NASCAR's height stick checks twice, he replied facetiously.
“Man, our car was so illegal, it was ridiculous. I'm surprised it even passed, period," he said with a grin. "I didn't even know, I heard about that. I just saw something where he [Bowyer] was holding up a quarter [during his media conference]. Man, I don't know what goes on through tech, I didn't even know our car was in question or had to go through the sticks twice. But, I don't care. I just drive the car. Show up with my helmet and go.
"Let's just stir things up…NASCAR gave the No. 11 and the No. 48 a little slack and let us roll through and wanted to nail the No. 33…we'll just take that angle and have some fun with it. Let's just play into it because regardless of what I say, people are going to believe that. So, the hell with it, let's just ride it..."