CONCORD, N.C. — Jimmie Johnson said something needed to happen as a result of the measures taken by Michael Waltrip Racing to manipulate the outcome of Saturday night’s Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond, Va.
He believes that something, however, needed to happen a lot sooner.
“NASCAR should staff up rather than the downsizing that we’re seeing in the area of officiating,” said Johnson. “It’s tough in the (race control) tower to take care of it all. They need other people, other qualified people with the resources and technology to make the decisions.
“In my opinion, if there is a question they don’t know, they need to stop the race immediately. Red flag, pits are closed, figure it out and make the best judgment they can.
“Trying to go back on Monday or Tuesday to fix the situation is just too much.”
That’s the scenario NASCAR was placed in this week after allegations quickly arose following Saturday night’s race that MWR cars conspired to help a teammate make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Monday night, NASCAR issued one of its toughest penalties in history, which ultimately put Ryan Newman in the 12-driver Chase and knocked out MWR driver Martin Truex Jr.
Johnson admitted it would be difficult for some people to accept NASCAR stopping the race to ensure a correct call is made, but it was “the lesser of the evils.”
“Trying to come back on a Monday or a Tuesday and rectify the situation seems like a bigger problem to me than to stop the race,” he said.
“We’ve done an amazing job through officiating tech inspection and pre-(race) and post-(race) and what goes on, but the race-calling itself, we need more officials. We need more people involved in the game.”
Johnson’s appearance Wednesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway was part of NASCAR’s “Chase Across America” tour building to the start of the 10-race stretch to decide the series championship, which will begin Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.
As for Johnson, the 12 Chase drivers have their points reset, which leaves him as the second seed, three points behind Matt Kenseth.
It has been a rough past four races for Johnson — he hasn’t finished better than 28th.To add to his woes, he was easily bested Wednesday by seven-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher in a burnout competition on pit road.
“I’m not going to lie, I’m sitting there in my car getting ready to grab second gear and try to create a little more smoke and that thing goes thundering by,” said Johnson. “I had no clue what was happening. I thought a bomb went off next to me.”
This weekend, the National Hot Rod Association will kick off the Countdown to the Championship at zMax Dragway with the Carolina Nationals. The Chase will stop at CMS on Oct. 12 for the Bank of America 500.