HAMPTON, Ga. — Though he was the king of mile-and-a-half race tracks one year ago, defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr.’s quest to retain that title got off to a rocky start on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Truex, who finished two laps down in 18th during the season-opening Daytona 500 last weekend after being involved in a late-race accident, was unable to post a qualifying time Friday evening after his No. 78 Bass Pro Shops Toyota failed pre-qualifying inspection three times.
The issue in question was at the new optical scanning station (or Hawkeye system), where Truex’s car struggled with both rear wheel alignment and body scan issues around the rear wheel openings, as explained by NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller.
“It’s unfortunate that we had a situation where we had multiple failures in what was otherwise a very successful debut for the Optical Scanning Station [at] a downforce track,” said Miller. “We had rear-wheel alignment problems and we had body scan problems and we just weren’t able to get all of the things legal in those attempts. We had body scan problems for the rear-wheel openings and we had rear-toe failures, as well.”
“Between the combination of those things, we just didn’t get a green light by the third time.”
As a result of the inspection issues, Truex will start 35th in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, as well as lose 30 minutes of practice time on Saturday when Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams return to the track.
In addition, by the NASCAR Rule Book, car chief Blake Harris was ejected from the race track and will be suspended for the remainder of the weekend because the team failed inspection three times.
“It’s a new process and we’re working hard – collectively, the whole garage is – to figure it out, to figure the boundaries out and how to get through and NASCAR is working with their equipment the same way and it’s tough,” admitted Furniture Row Racing President Joe Garone. “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.”
Garone also said that “it changes every time you go through,” something that Miller shot down when asked about the comment afterwards.
“Of course they are going to say that,” Miller said. “We had 20 people make it through on their first attempt and multiple people saying how consistent their rear wheel alignment was versus our equipment last year.”
“The only comments I had on rear wheel alignment was positive comments, and all we had was one negative, so I feel like we (NASCAR) did our job.”
Truex’s team ran out of time to make a fourth pass through the inspection line on Friday before qualifying.
Had they failed again, another crew member (chosen at NASCAR’s discretion) would have been suspended per the rule book, and Truex’s team would have also faced the possibility of a 10-point deduction as well.
“We were out of time. That wasn’t a decision other than a timing decision,” said Garone. “You know what happens when you rush – a driver goes out amped up, and then it’s not worth doing.”
“It’s just a weird set of circumstances. The tolerances are very tight. It’s difficult to get through and push when you need to and be conservative when you need to … and still figure it all out.”
The inspection attempt counter for Truex’s team will reset for pre-race inspection on Sunday.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 24-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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