DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Rick Hendrick blames NASCAR's inconsistent policing of restarts for Jimmie Johnson's recent issues.
Johnson has lost two races in the last month in part because of problems on late restarts. The five-time NASCAR champion was penalized for jumping the start with Juan Pablo Montoya at Dover and complained last week that Matt Kenseth was laying back on a late restart at Kentucky.
"I don't care how good you are, you can get snookered," Hendrick said before Saturday night's race at Daytona International Speedway.
"That's the one part of this thing that NASCAR doesn't control, and I don't think it's in (Johnson's) head. I think he's been bitten a couple of times, so he's had to be more conservative because he can't count on NASCAR to do it the same way every time."
Johnson said at Daytona he needs to loosen up and stop taking the restart rule so literal.
"I feel like I'm maybe a little focused on the way the rule reads exactly and paying maybe too close of attention to that," Johnson said.
"There are a lot of restarts, especially during the Kentucky race, that I brought down that I feel like a good citizen, a good student in doing exactly what I'm supposed to. There are other times when I don't feel that exactly happens and that it's not called or viewed from the tower as kind of the (way the) rule reads. At the end of the day, I'm just going to lighten up on how I think about it and use that zone and that area regardless of the way the rule reads to get an advantage and worry about myself."
But Hendrick said he's spoken to NASCAR officials about being more precise in policing restarts — to no avail. Hendrick would like to see NASCAR rely on technology to monitor the starts because it's more reliable than series officials determining what's legal or illegal from watching in a suite above the track.
"You've got guys who lay back and accordion the field, have everybody running into each other," Hendrick said. "Go back to Dover and Juan jumps and OK, so now Jimmie is gun shy. Then the next time, you want to be careful, and they start jerking you around. Somebody gets you spinning the tires, or someone gets inside of you.
"To me, they ought to be able, with telemetry, set it like pit road. You've got to maintain your speed, they throw the green, instead of this (driver) on the gas, off the gas, making guys behind them slow down and then the (leader) takes off. I think we've been able to control everything else, why can't we control this?"
NASCAR can access computer data from the race cars after an event to see if drivers started and stopped on a restart, or if a driver slowed prior to the restart.
Hendrick wants to see something in real time — and before the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins in September.
"It's almost like when we used to not have pit road timing lines and you'd argue this other guy passed me and NASCAR would be sitting upstairs using a stopwatch to decide who is right," Hendrick said. "This is the same deal. (NASCAR) is sitting at an angle watching the commitment lines — why can't we make it more mechanical? All the cars come around together at the same pace, the timing lines are there, and if somebody jumps the start, throw the caution and redo it.
"What are they going to do when they get to a points battle and somebody gets away with something there? Is that the right way to end the championship? I don't think so."
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