Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Johnson Rules at Pocono; Instructions Snafu Mars Another Cup Race

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Johnson Rules at Pocono; Instructions Snafu Mars Another Cup Race

Article excerpt

Byline: DON COBLE, The Times-Union

LONG POND, Pa. -- Another NASCAR blunder and a rash of late-race cautions couldn't keep Jimmie Johnson from winning Sunday's Pocono 500.

Johnson managed to rally from 26th after the sanctioning body allowed all but three of the lead-lap cars to pit early during a caution period. Johnson, leading at the time, stayed on the track because NASCAR told all of the drivers before the race pit road wouldn't be opened until the second lap of caution.

Twenty-four other lead-lap cars pitted after one lap, leaving Johnson, Terry Labonte, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray to argue with officials that pit road should have been closed. Johnson and the other three lead-lap drivers said they were following NASCAR's pre-race instructions.

The other drivers said they saw a green flag at the opening of pit road.

"There were two rights and it made one wrong," NASCAR president Mike Helton said. "We made a mistake on that. I can't explain why days like today happen. But we realized there was no fix for the problem."

The victory at the Pocono International Raceway helped soothe Johnson's anger. But he admitted he's still confused.

"We sat through the drivers' meeting where they told us pit road was closed until the second time we came by," Johnson said. "I went by pit road and all of a sudden, I looked in the mirror and nobody was behind me. You do the right thing and you do what you're told and you get burned."

A week after NASCAR needed 24 laps to sort through a scoring issue at Dover -- a delay NASCAR president Mike Helton later called "unacceptable" -- the sanctioning body needed seven laps to figure out why its new pit road rules failed. That allowed some drivers to make extra stops for gas so they could avoid a final pit stop. By the time the race restarted, Johnson was up to sixth. …

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