Johnson returning to scene of June restart controversy

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Jimmie Johnson believes that NASCAR’s recent tweaks to its restart rule were helped along by what occurred to him on the final restart of the Sprint Cup Series’ first 2013 visit to Dover International Speedway back in June.

Johnson was penalized by NASCAR for jumping that restart, which caused him to be relegated to a 17th place finish after pacing 143 laps on the afternoon.

He insisted that second-place Juan Pablo Montoya was going too slow coming out of the restart zone, but in his own explanation of the matter, NASCAR senior vice president Robin Pemberton said at the time that the penalty was “cut and dry.”

On Friday at Dover, where the Chase for the Sprint Cup will continue this weekend with the AAA 400, Johnson looked back on the incident and noted what he sees as its later impact.

“Oh yeah, it definitely had a role in [the restart changes],” Johnson said. “I think it was three or four restarts I was a part of that helped shaped the rule that we have now.

“I think it’s a good fix. I think it’s a good compromise between protecting second on a lot of these mile and a half [tracks] where we have an apron that drivers can shoot down onto and make a pass. I think it’s protecting second place from that situation.

“At other race tracks and like what happened to me here, where the leader doesn’t go, it takes that away from the leader. So I think it’s good. I think it’s a good compromise for what the drivers and the front row have to manage…I hate that it took so long, but I think it’s a good change.”

With that matter settled, Johnson is focusing in on an eighth career win at the “Monster Mile” after starting the Chase with back-to-back Top-5 finishes. But after Matt Kenseth’s hot start to the post-season with two consecutive victories, Johnson knows he can’t expect an easy drive on Sunday.

“I know it’s a good track for the No. 18 [Kenseth’s car] and historically, Matt has been strong here when I think back to some of the Roush [Fenway] days years ago, they are not too far back,” he said.

“I think with how he has been running this year, he’s going to be tough to beat and we will just get out there and race hard and get every point we can.”

Johnson enters Dover third in the championship, 18 points behind Kenseth.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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