Kyle Larson specifically and Hendrick Motorsports overall added to their victory haul in the NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday, padding their recent win streaks at Nashville Superspeedway. Dominance is often cyclical in motorsports, and the advantage is now evident in team owner Rick Hendrick’s four-car fleet.
NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller addressed that competitive edge a day after Larson’s Nashville rout in the Ally 400, making one of his regular Monday morning appearances on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. With Larson notching his third consecutive victory in points races and Hendrick tallying its fifth straight points win, Miller was asked if the inspection process becomes any more rigorous for a team on such a roll.
“It does, both externally and internally,” Miller told SiriusXM. “We certainly want to make sure we’re not missing something in our process, so not that we don’t look hard at every single car that comes through there, but when you start to have a dominant team, definitely the lens gets focused a little bit more on the microscope. You think back to a year ago, or even two years ago, I mean we had a run there where nobody could come close to JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and they finished with all cars in the top five many, many times. Same kind of thing, right?
“I don’t know what it is in racing, but it seems to go in cycles with these teams, but really to answer your question: Yes, certainly we look hard at all the cars, but when you start to have a team being very dominant, certainly it’s just natural to make sure that you aren’t missing anything there.”
While Larson’s winning No. 5 Chevrolet cleared Sunday’s post-race inspection without issue, some of the post-race scrutiny on Hendrick’s four-car effort focused on the No. 9 Chevy of defending series champion Chase Elliott. The No. 9 entry was found with five unsecured lug nuts in a post-race check, leading to a disqualification that demoted Elliott from an apparent 13th-place result to last in the 39-car finishing order.
Miller indicated that no further penalties were forthcoming and that the ruling was clear-cut. The NASCAR Rule Book outlines the penalty structure in Section 220.127.116.11.4 (“Minimum Safety Penalty Options”), stating that discovery of three or more unsecured lug nuts in a post-race check will result in disqualification.
“It was a DQ, and it’s spelled out well in the rule book. There were five lug nuts on the car loose, and that’s a safety infraction,” Miller said. “How that happened is always a debate, but it’s really in the rule book to make sure that all the lug nuts get hit on pit road, because we did a couple of years ago go through a rash of people purposely not hitting all the lug nuts, which was very, very unsafe. So the rule’s in there for that, and they just had too many lug nuts loose at the end of the race. Unfortunate situation for everyone, but very, very clear and very well spelled out.”