LOUDON, N.H. – It’s bad enough to make a mistake, but it’s unforgivable to make the same one twice.
That seemed to be Jimmie Johnson’s philosophy during Saturday morning’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Last week at Chicagoland Speedway, in the opening race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Johnson led a race-high 118 laps, only to be bamboozled by a pit road speeding penalty that dropped him to 12th at the finish.
After watching video of the offending pit stop, Johnson concluded he had gunned his No. 48 Chevrolet a fraction of a second too early as he left pit road.
So when practice started at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Johnson went to work. He practiced pit road entries at the flat 1.058-mile track. He practiced maintaining pit road speed, trying to ensure he won’t be ensnared by the addition of timing lines that have shortened the timed segments entering and leaving the pits.
All told, Johnson ran 57 laps in the Saturday morning session, more than any other driver.
But his work had started earlier in the week.
“I’ve spent a lot of time this week working on pit road speed again,” Johnson said. “Any way we possibly can – from simulators and looking at the simulator that we have for the dash, which is on a workbench, to looking at my teammates to looking at everything.
“I was fine on pit road. I just left about two feet too early in the last segment. I thought the nose was at the line and evidently it was a couple of feet early, and I got burned on that. So I just might wait a bit longer before I punch it at the end of pit road.”
Chase drivers dominated Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour, occupying 13 of the top 15 positions on the speed chart. The only exceptions were the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets of Kasey Kahne and Alex Bowman, who were third and 10th, respectively…
A Friday penalty levied against Chase Elliott’s No. 24 team could also prove costly to fellow Chase driver Brad Keselowski. Demoted to last pick of pit stalls because of four written warnings for pre-qualifying inspection failures, Elliott’s crew chief, Alan Gustafson, was left with stall No. 5, directly behind that of Keselowski.
Elliott starts 10th and Keselowski begins 11th in Sunday’s Bad Boy Off Road 300, and if Elliott manages to stay in front of Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford, Elliott will pit first and force Keselowski