HAMPTON, Ga. – A new procedure used for inspecting Sprint Cup cars helped cost Kyle Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing team the pole position Friday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The defending series champion’s speed was disallowed after the No. 18 failed inspection because its rear toe that exceeded the allowable amount. The violation was discovered by the use of a laser inspection system that is being used to measure cars at the track after Sprint Cup qualifying and races this season.
NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller said the change was made because teams requested it. Miller said altering the rear toe, which was out of bounds despite an extra tolerance of 0.15 degrees, would help improve rear-end skew – a practice that many teams used four years ago before NASCAR tried to ban it with the new Gen 6 car.
“Teams asked for it because you have all heard the word skew and everybody talking about that,” Miller said. “This is a way to police that. Teams asked for it. We instituted it, and they didn’t pass. The others passed.”
Miller said Busch’s team passed the same inspection before qualifying. He said there would be no further punishment for the team and crew chief Adam Stevens.
“Just qualifying time disallowed,” Miller said. “It would be a different scenario if they should fail postrace. There probably would be penalties involved in that.”
Miller said the penalties were unrelated to the new low downforce package that makes its debut with Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
The violation puts Busch’s older brother, Kurt, on the pole position and sends Kyle to the back of 39-car field.
“We start in the back, but I don’t have to pay a fine and I’m not going to jail,” said Stevens, who guided Busch to the championship last year in his first season as a Sprint Cup crew chief. “If I’m going to be made an example out of, I’d definitely rather it be qualifying than the race.”
Stevens said the new inspection wrinkle would be a learning process for his peers.
“Nobody in this garage knows what it’s going to do until you roll across (the laser platform) afterward,” he said. “It just so happened our time to gather information was game time, and we were too much. We’re going to have to undershoot the rule and be way to the good and cross our fingers it’s not too much after.”