DOVER, DE - JUNE 02: Joey Logano, driver of the #18 Dollar General Toyota, and Justin Allgaier, driver of the #31 Brandt Chevrolet, lead a group of cars off of pit road during the NASCAR Nationwide Series 5-hour Energy 200 at Dover International Speedway on June 2, 2012 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
There were more speeding penalties Sunday than in the previous eight races combined. So what was the deal?
In the first race NASCAR ever used electronic timing on pit road – the 2005 Daytona 500 – officials handed out 14 speeding penalties.
Since then, drivers have adapted and adjusted to the concept of having timing zones or sections on pit road, and they've become experts at getting as close as possible to going over the limit without actually doing so – at least most of the time.
No other racing series makes as many pit stops during an event as NASCAR does, so you'd figure the 43 drivers in each Sprint Cup Series race are probably the 43 best in the world at getting on and off pit road without speeding.
Sometimes they slip up, of course; that's the nature of competition and pushing the boundaries. But overall, this group of drivers is pretty damn good.
Take the recent Coca-Cola 600, for example: Over the course of a 600-mile race, NASCAR was forced to hand out a total of five speeding penalties.
Hey, nobody's perfect.
But in Sunday's 400-mile race at Pocono, the drivers were really imperfect. Officials handed out a whopping 22 speeding penalties – a NASCAR single-race record as far as anyone can tell – and blamed it all on driver/team error.
Given that 20 of the penalties were for "too fast exiting" the pits – mostly for speeding in the 10th and final section on the way back to the track – this would seem to raise some questions.
After all, there were more speeding penalties assessed in Sunday's race than in the previous eight Cup races combined. And the 22 total speeding penalties accounted for 34 percent of all speeding infractions for the entire season to date – in one race!
NASCAR contends the drivers either made mistakes or were simply unaware of the reconfigured pit road since the last visit to Pocono.
That seems hard to believe. So crew chiefs for drivers such as Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski simply got lazy and decided not to check the pit road timing lines after the track was repaved?
Race teams are incredibly meticulous and rarely leave any stone unturned when trying to gain a competitive advantage. It seems ludicrous to suggest they somehow overlooked a key detail such as the timing zones on pit road.
If it wasn't driver error, then what happened? That remains unclear. Johnson – who was busted twice – suggested the line at the end of pit road may have been oriented in a different way than at other tracks.
When so many drivers were getting penalties in the first 50 laps, NASCAR could have called a competition caution to perhaps check the system. With such an usually high number of speeding infractions, it would have been worth stopping the race to make sure the timing was accurate.
Instead, NASCAR put all the blame on the teams and wouldn't allow for even the possibility that the system was having issues.
In the end, officials got lucky. Most drivers went extra slow for the rest of the race in an attempt to guess what the pit road speed should be in the final segment, but the race outcome didn't hinge on a pit stop.
What would have happened if the race came down to a late caution where everyone pitted and the event was won on pit road? It would have been a shame to see a race decided by the drivers' mistrust of the system.
NASCAR needs to understand that sometimes it's OK to admit a mistake. And if officials truly felt the drivers were the ones making the error, then why not prove it by pausing the race to show everyone the system was working?
Here's a look at every race this season and the number of speeding penalties assessed:
• Dover: 2
• Coke 600: 5
• Darlington: 1
• Talladega: 3
• Richmond: 1
• Kansas: 1
• Texas: 4
• Martinsville: 4
• Fontana: 5
• Bristol: 7
• Las Vegas: 6
• Phoenix: 1
• Daytona: 3
PRE-POCONO SEASON TOTAL: 43