HAMPTON, Ga. – NASCAR has clarified its policy for teams that miss qualifying today at Atlanta Motor Speedway because of inspection problems.
After initially telling teams they would be required to start on scuffed tires, NASCAR now will allow teams that miss qualifying to start Sunday’s 500-mile race on new tires (commonly referred to as “stickers” because the Goodyear sticker hasn’t been scuffed off yet).
The QuikTrip Folds of Honor 500 will be the last race run on the 1.54-mile oval before a repaving project that will begin in late March. The surface has been in place for nearly 20 years, making fresh tires extremely advantageous for turning fast laps on the abrasive track.
NASCAR made the change after receiving feedback from crew chiefs during a monthly competition conference call Tuesday.
Atlanta traditionally has been a tough track for teams to clear inspection because it’s the first unrestricted race of the season. Two years ago, 13 drivers didn’t make qualifying laps because their cars didn’t pass inspection (including an angry Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth).
Drivers who fail to make a qualifying attempt will start at the rear of the field and also forfeit their choice of pit stalls.
NASCAR has said it will be more stringent in prerace inspection this season and has abolished its warnings system in favor of at-track penalties.