DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Report by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Getty Images North America photos —
How quickly fortunes can change during Daytona Speedweeks.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin, who both advanced to the final round of Daytona 500 Coors Light Pole Qualifying on Sunday afternoon, have had their times from all three rounds of knockout qualifying disallowed after failing post-qualifying inspection.
Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Nationwide Insurance Chevrolet did not meet the minimum ride-height requirements (one-eighth inch too low on the left front). While NASCAR eliminated the ride height rules for the Sprint Cup Series at all intermediate tracks, short tracks and road courses, the height regulations remain in place for the restrictor-plate tracks (Daytona and Talladega).
“An eighth of an inch; that’s a shame,” Junior said on Twitter after the news broke. “The boys will figure out why. Makes the duels a lot more interesting.”
Earnhardt Jr. will start 25th in the first Budweiser Duel on Thursday, but says that ultimately means nothing in the scope of making the Daytona 500.
“Ain’t nothing but a thing,” Junior added. “Starting last in the Duels makes the challenge of winning steeper and also more enjoyable.”
Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx Toyota was found with a trackbar split that was too large (3.75 inches; maximum permitted is 3 inches). The Joe Gibbs Racing driver topped Group A in the first round of qualifying earlier this afternoon with a lap of just over 199 mph.
Hamlin will now start 24th in the second Budweiser Duel Thursday night.
Incidentally, Earnhardt Jr. and Hamlin finished first and second in the 2014 edition of the Great American Race (photo above).
NASCAR officials have also confirmed that no further penalties will be issued outside of the loss of Duel starting position for either Earnhardt Jr. or Hamlin.
The Budweiser Duels at Daytona, the qualifying races to make the Daytona 500, take place Thursday night under-the-lights in primetime, beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern time live on FOX Sports 1 and the Motor Racing Network.