Johnson's time disallowed, will start at rear
July 12, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
Related: CAMPING WORLD RV SALES 301 LINEUP
LOUDON, N.H. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader Jimmie Johnson will be starting from the rear of the field Sunday after the No. 48 Chevrolet failed post-qualifying inspection.
According to NASCAR officials, the front of the car measured too low on both sides. Johnson was the second-fastest qualifier for Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301 (1 p.m. ET, TNT), one of 10 drivers to eclipse the track qualifying record.
Defending series champion Brad Keselowski will start on the pole, setting a fast time with a record run of 135.922 mph on the flat 1.058-mile oval. Johnson will line up 43rd.
The infraction didn’t appear to come as a complete surprise to Johnson's crew chief Chad Knaus, who said the Hendrick Motorsports team had issues in pre-qualifying inspection. Those problems nearly kept Johnson off the track for qualifying altogether.
“We were able to get the car right, but it just wasn’t exactly right; we weren’t going to know (what the problem was) until after qualifying and we started tearing it apart,” Knaus said.
The problem, he said, was a “mis-assembly issue with the left-front, and that’s why the heights were so messed up when we were going through initial inspection. That came back to bite us there in the end.”
The team had to trim 1/16th of an inch off a side skirt and make a minor weight change to the right-side of the car before Johnson was cleared to make his qualifying attempt. The changes meant an additional pass through inspection, and Johnson was already in the car when crew members pushed him off the scales and out onto pit road.
In addition to losing its No. 2 starting position, the team also won’t have one of the better pit box selections on pit road for Sunday’s race, something that Knaus said would hurt “tremendously.”
“But the good thing about Loudon (is) if you’ve got a good race car, you can pass.”
And the 48, he said, is good.
“The car is fast. The car is fine,” he said.
Pit stall selections are determined by qualifying position, with the fastest qualifiers allowed to make their pit selections first.
Knaus said he had no issues with the inspection process, adding that “NASCAR does a really good job of making sure the cars are right going through pre-qualifying inspection, and we knew there was something that wasn’t … right.
“We were able to get through, but then afterward the cars settled a little bit. … It takes a little bit for the cars to come up…. You really don’t have a lot of room for error and we just had a little error.”