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Martin Truex Jr.’s car chief ejected after Atlanta inspection failures

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HAMPTON, Georgia – Defending series champion Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 78 Toyota was the first team to struggle with NASCAR’s new optical scan inspection, and the punishment was a key crew member.

Truex’s Camry failed to clear prequalifying inspection three times Friday, resulting in the ejection of car chief Blake Harris from Atlanta Motor Speedway. Truex will start 35th in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.

NASCAR vice president of competition Scott Miller said the car had multiple problems with body scans “for rear-wheel openings and rear-toe failures.”

Furniture Row Racing president Joe Garone said the team couldn’t get a handle on the new Optical Scanning Station. Many teams, including Furniture Row Racing, have replicas in their shops of the system, which relies on high-definition cameras and projectors.

“It’s a new process,” Garone said. “We’re working hard, collectively, the whole garage is to figure the boundaries out and how to get through, and NASCAR is working with their equipment the same way.

“It’s just tough. It’s tough. One time you go through, the next time you don’t. You go through again and some things pass that didn’t pass the time before. It’s just frustrating, but we’ll get it all worked out. It’s just a matter of time.

Crew chief Cole Pearn had a viscerally negative reaction at the station when told by NASCAR officials the car hadn’t passed on its third scan, seven minutes before qualifying was scheduled to begin.

Garone said the vibe within the team was “pretty volatile at the moment, because you’re trying to figure out what you actually did, especially when you feel like maybe the equipment itself is off a little bit. It’s also on our side as well. It’s just a weird set of circumstances. The tolerances are very tight. It’s difficult to get through and push where you need to and be conservative where you need to and figure it all out. It does change every time you go through.”

Miller took umbrage at the suggestion the new station wasn’t reliable (which was a frequent criticism of the previous Laser Inspection Station that the optical scan replaced).

“Of course they’re going to say that, but we had 20 people make it through on the first attempt and multiple people saying how consistent the rear-wheel alignment was vs. our equipment last year,” Miller said. “The only comments I had today on the rear-wheel alignment part was positive comments, not negative comments. We ended up with one (car failing to clear inspection). All I can say is I feel like we did our job.”

Miller said after the third failure, it’s NASCAR’s discretion to suspend a team member and the car chief was chosen because “we’ve tapped the car chief as an important individual.” Miller said if Truex had failed a fourth time, the team would have faced a 10-point deduction under a new penalty structure this season that is focused on race weekend punishments.

Miller implied the team had chosen to skip trying to clear inspection a fourth time to avoid risking further penalty, but Garone said the decision was made because “well, we’re out of time.

“That wasn’t a decision other than a timing decision,” he said. “You know what happens when you rush? The driver goes out, and he’s all amped up, and it’s just not worth doing.”

Truex, who will start 35th Sunday, also will serve a 30-minute practice hold Saturday.

Pole-sitter Kyle Busch, whose Joe Gibbs Racing team supplies Toyota chassis and has an alliance with Truex’s team, was surprised the No. 78 was the only inspection casualty Friday.

“I certainly would have guessed there would have been more; that they wouldn’t have been the only ones,’ Busch said. “I honestly have no clue on what happened to them. I don’t have that information from any of our guys. So I’ll have to figure out what they missed out on being able to get through the OSS.”

NASCAR explains Talladega penalty to Kyle Larson’s team

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Richard Buck, managing director for the Cup Series, talked to the media Saturday morning about the penalty to Kyle Larson’s team from Talladega.

Larson’s team lost both its appeals Friday and Larson is 36 points out of the cutoff spot after the 10-point penalty.

Here is what Buck said:

Q: Last weekend NASCAR told the media there were no issues after post-race inspection and Kyle Larson’s car was not taken back to the R&D Center, so how was the infraction discovered?

Buck: Generally, what we do is when we finish at-track inspection, we let you all know that it’s all clear for the at-track inspection part. Consistent with our process, we go back to the R&D Center and there may be developing issues or more inspection, etc. That’s what took place last week. We took the piece back to the R&D Center from the 42.

Q: What was wrong with the piece?

Buck: Our rules are very specific on the DVP (Damaged Vehicle Policy). The Damaged Vehicle Policy is a collective effort from the industry and it is was heavily weighed upon by all the teams and owners and developed as such and is very detailed and very strict rules. Those rules are very clear. One of the rules that was a part of this process was that on the Damaged Vehicle Policy if you have a panel or a piece, the piece can be replaced in its original position only and it can only be re-attached by bear bond, tape or fasteners, which is screws or rivets. So it’s very clear. We don’t allow any other brackets or panels or flanges or any of that type of stuff. On (Larson’s car), they had an issue with a tire, it damaged the fender, they proceeded to cut the fender off. They went back out, they met the minimum speed for the Damaged Vehicle Policy, so they weren’t on the clock. They decided to straighten the fender out, the piece that they had cut off. They straightened that out and then they re-attached it with two aluminum tabs, two tabs on each one. That’s where the infraction was, was attaching them with the tabs.

Q: What if an official sees something like that happen. Is it the responsibility of the official to stop the team or just let it go?

Buck: “As we always do, our officials are challenged with multiple tasks on pit road. It’s a very dynamic situation out there. If they do see something, they will try to help the teams out, they’ll try to inform the teams, but understand we’re not like other sports. We can’t call a timeout. The teams are on DVP, which is a six-minute clock, there are a limited number of team members over. The teams know the rule very clearly. In fact, the week prior to that, as I often do, I went ahead and sent out a memo, which was exactly that, a reminder of the DVP, we cut and pasted that right out of the rule book. That went to all the crew chiefs, all the car chiefs, team managers and technical directors just as a reminder.”

Q: Since they were no longer on the 6-minute clock, they would have had all the time to repair it?

Buck: Correct. But it says very clearly under the Damaged Vehicle Policy that you cannot replace a panel, you cannot add tabs, it can only be re-attached in its original location, the original part with bear bond, tape or fasteners. It’s very clearly stated.

Q: NASCAR saw the issue after the race and took the part to the R&D Center and the policy is pretty cut and dry, why wasn’t this settled after the race?

Buck: That’s our process. It’s been consistent.  We won’t make a decision on that immediately at the race track. We’ll take it back to the R&D Center and do the research on it. That’s our process.

Six Cup teams to be penalized practice time Saturday at Kansas

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Chase Elliott‘s team is among six that will be docked practice time Saturday at Kansas Speedway, NASCAR announced.

Four cars will be penalized 15 minutes of Saturday’s first practice session for being late to qualifying inspection. Docked practice time will be the teams of Landon Cassill, JJ Yeley, Timmy Hill and Kyle Weatherman.

Two cars will be penalized 15 minutes of Saturday’s final practice session for failing qualifying inspection twice Friday. Docked practice time will be the teams of Elliott and Matt DiBenedetto.

First Cup practice Saturday is from 10:30 – 11:20 a.m. ET on CNBC.

Final Cup practice Saturday is from 1:05 – 1:55 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

 

Saturday’s schedule at Kansas Speedway

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Cup teams will have two practice sessions today at Kansas Speedway, and the Xfinity Series opens the second round of its playoffs.

Here’s the day’s full schedule with TV and radio info:

(All times are Eastern)

8 a.m. – Xfinity garage opens

9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m – Cup garage open

10:30 – 11:20 a.m. – Cup practice (CNBC, MRN)

11:40 a.m. – Xfinity qualifying; multi-car/three rounds (CNBC)

12:45 a.m. – Xfinity driver-crew chief meeting

1:05 – 1:55 p.m. – Final Cup practice (NBCSN, MRN)

2:25 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

2:55 p.m. – Kansas Lottery 300; 200 laps/300 miles (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Kyle Larson’s team loses final appeal

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Kyle Larson’s team lost its final appeal Friday night and enters this weekend’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway 36 points out of the final transfer spot.

Larson’s team twice appealed the penalty — which included a 10-point deduction — NASCAR handed the team for improper repairs at Talladega Superspeedway.

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel ruled against Larson’s team on Friday morning. The team appealed to Bryan Moss, the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer, on Friday night. He affirmed NASCAR’s penalty. His decision is final.

Larson had a rough Friday. Along with losing both appeals, he hit the wall in practice and had to go to a backup car, meaning he will start Sunday’s race at the rear of the field.

NASCAR penalized the team for a violation from last weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway after Larson spun and had damage. NASCAR found an issue with the repairs Larson’s team made to the car.

NASCAR penalized the team for violating Section 10.9.9.d in the rulebook, which notes “Damaged vehicle repair, regardless of how the damage occurred, is permitted to have original body parts removed or reattached in their original location with fasteners and/or tape only.”

NASCAR penalized the team 10 points, fined crew chief Chad Johnston $25,000 and suspended car chief David Bryant one race for the L1 penalty.

Obviously a 10-point penalty doesn’t help but even with 26 points back we were going to have to go into this week and get a win to get to the next round,” Larson said Friday at Kansas Speedway.

Here is the statement on Moss’ decision Friday night:

The National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer, Mr. Bryan Moss, heard and considered the appeal of an L1 level penalty issued on Oct. 17 to Chad Johnston (crew chief), David Bryant (car chief), Kyle Larson (driver) and Chip Ganassi Racing (owner), relative to the No. 42 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team at Talladega Superspeedway.

The penalty concerns the following section in the 2018 NASCAR Rule Book: Section 10.9.9.d Damage Vehicle Policy/Mechanical Repair.

The original penalty assessed: Johnston was fined $25,000; Bryant was suspended from the next Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship Points Event; Chip Ganassi Racing was assessed with the loss of 10 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series owner points; Larson was assessed with the loss of 10 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver points.

Upon hearing the testimony, the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer made the following decisions:

  1. The Appellants violated the Rules set forth in the Penalty Notice;
  2. The decision of the National Motorsports Appeals Panel to uphold the original Penalty issued by NASCAR is affirmed and upheld.

The decision of the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer is final and binding on all parties.