Staff Report | NASCAR.com
Post-qualifying tech dealt a Saturday shake-up to the starting lineup for Sunday’s Gander Outdoors 400 after the cars driven by the five of the top six qualifiers — including the initial front row of Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch — failed inspection at Pocono Raceway.
Harvick was fastest in the first and final round of Busch Pole Qualifying, but his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford did not pass the body scan portion post-qualifying inspection. The same fate occurred with the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of second-fastest qualifier Kyle Busch, but his car failed at the chassis station of the inspection process.
The ruling elevated Daniel Suarez, third on the original unofficial speed chart, to a first-time pole winner in the Monster Energy Series. His speed of 176.988 mph in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota stands as the pole-winning lap of record.
A total of 13 cars failed the inspection process the first time through. Scott Miller, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition, explained the process in a media gathering as inspection was nearing its conclusion.
“It’s pretty obvious what’s happened here. There was 13 cars that didn’t pass the post-qualifying inspection,” Miller said. “Most of the problems were centered around the body scan, but not all. Some were mechanical measurements with the rear toe. But quite heavy on the body scans, 13 cars. We’re disappointed in this, but we’re certainly confident in our process and the teams didn’t do a real good job here today.”
In addition to Harvick and Busch, the qualifying speeds for Kyle Larson (initially the fourth-fastest qualifier), Joey Logano (fifth) and rookie William Byron (sixth) were disallowed. Others further back in the field with qualifying speeds thrown out: Clint Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford, Ryan Blaney’s No. 12 Ford, Aric Almirola’s No. 10 Ford, Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet, Paul Menard’s No. 21 Ford, Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet, Bubba Wallace’s No. 43 Chevrolet, Kasey Kahne’s No. 95 Chevrolet.
All 13 will start from the rear of the 40-car field in Sunday’s 400-miler (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM), ranked in order of their rank in the Monster Energy Series standings.
Both Harvick and Kahne’s car failed three times and the penalty for that is the loss of their car chiefs — Robert Smith (No. 4 team) and Ben Leslie (No. 95 team) — and a 10-point penalty in the driver and owner championship standings. Logano and Menard’s cars failed twice and both of their respective car chiefs — Raymond Fox (No. 22 team) and William Curwood (No. 21 team) were ejected as well.
It’s the first season for the new inspection process and NASCAR’s Optical Scanning Station, which maps and checks vehicle bodies for conformance to the rules. It’s also the second time this season that the Monster Energy Series has been subject to inspection immediately after qualifying under the enhanced weekend schedule. The other occurrence was at Chicagoland Speedway, where only four cars lost their starting spots.
“This is only the second time we’ve done this and I don’t think the teams want to be sitting here in this situation, either,” Miller said when asked if the severity of the penalties might change after Saturday’s issues. “But I think they tested the waters and it didn’t work out too good for them today. So, hopefully, the next time we have one of these inspections, they’ll be able to get closer to right and we won’t have this.”
RELATED: Starting lineup
Contributing: Jessica Ruffin from Pocono