At the end of qualifying for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, it’d be Joey Logano capturing his eighth career pole.
“Hopefully, we’ll finish where we start,” he commented. “It’s been an amazing few weeks if you think about the Daytona 500 and everything that comes along with that, and then coming down here to Atlanta and starting first is special, especially for me here at this race track. I remember sitting in the corner and watching drivers up here talking about their qualifying run and racing Legends cars out front here for years, so there are a lot of memories here. You guys see the picture over there when you walk in with David and Reed when were young and racing here.
“Obviously, anything to be in victory lane here is a very special place for me. I don’t know what’s going on lately. Everything is going well and we’re just trying to keep the old train rolling here. It’s going great and we’ll see what happens on Sunday.”
Logano had all the pieces come together at Daytona International Speedway, holding off Kevin Harvick to win the Daytona 500. Harvick would qualify second, two tenths off of Logano.
“I think Joey (Logano) has had the fastest one-lap car from what we watched in practice and I thought our car was okay,” Harvick commented. “And we probably had a shot at it; I just didn’t line everything up to hit all the marks there in the last run. So, I did a somewhat bad job in the last run and a really bad job on the first run. So far my scorecard is one in three (laughs). It’s a challenging race track to get it all right. I feel good about where our car is for the long run and look forward to the race.”
Jamie McMurray qualified third, followed by Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards. Kyle Larson qualified sixth, followed by Ryan Newman, Sam Hornish Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne.
Meanwhile, 13 drivers – highlighted by Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Regan Smith, Tony Stewart – would miss qualifying as a result of not getting through pre-qualifying technical inspection in time.
“There is something wrong,” Gordon said. “Or there is something wrong with the system. Or there is something wrong with the amount of time they allot to get through. There is no way this many good cars, talented people that they can’t figure out how to get these cars through inspection. These guys are too smart. Yes we are pushing limits, but there is something wrong here. I’m embarrassed; I’m embarrassed for our series right now that this just happened. I’m really upset for my sponsor 3M that just came on for this weekend where we didn’t even get a chance to qualify.
“We are just fortunate – I’m assuming we aren’t going home because of points from last year. I know there are a lot of teams out here that aren’t going to be that fortunate. I hate it for these guys that work so hard. We were excited about qualifying today. I thought we had a great shot at being up front. This is absolutely ridiculous.”
“Obviously, they weren’t organized enough to get everybody through tech it appears, so I don’t know,” Kenseth commented. “We’ve got all the people up there to watch qualifying and they don’t really get top watch everybody qualify, so it’s kind of confusing and disappointing for sure.”
The situation caused Mike Wallace, Matt DiBenedetto, Reed Sorenson and Michael Annett to miss the race.
” I feel bad for whoever didn’t get through there and didn’t make the race,” Kenseth added. “I’m glad they’re still on last year’s points instead of this year’s points or probably we wouldn’t have made the race either, so I’m not really sure what the issue was, but when I walked up 10 minutes before qualifying was scheduled to start and it was only 14 cars on pit road, so I have a hard time believing it was the teams.”
Sprint Cup Series Competition Director Richard Buck addressed the media following qualifying, saying that they made sure to allow each team to cross the inspection at least once and were able to do that.
“I think we saw different areas where the teams were pushing the limits to get through it,” he commented. “We’ve got a new rules package here, and obviously the history of Atlanta and the grip is so important here, I think we’ve seen that with the test yesterday, teams getting to the limits, and we were open yesterday for all day on the laser inspection station and templates and such, and we had quite a few cars that came through. We did see the area of the laser inspection station where teams were pushing it, and that’s their job. They’re trying to get every bit that they can.”
Buck added that they tried to give enough time despite the issues, by pushing qualifying back 15 minutes. However, they couldn’t continue to simply wait with the TV parameters and the rules they’ve set in place. For the order that they go through, Buck stated that’s a random draw and the first car goes through 55 minutes following final practice.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re last in line or first in line, at 55 minutes, to be fair to everybody, all work stops on the cars, we push them to the back of the garage, and inspection starts,” he explained. “They may sit there for a while but they’re not having that opportunity to continue to work on the car which makes it unfair. That’s how the process works.
“We have each station that’s timed. It’s about two and a half minutes per station, and we try to manage that dynamic, and if a car comes through there, the incentive today, unlike years ago where you could cut the line and keep the incentive, today it’s to come through right because everybody gets one opportunity to come through the entire inspection process, and their job is to be right, and if they’re not right at that inspection station, that’s when they go in a holding pen if you will or a holding pattern and have to stay there until everybody else has the opportunity to come through to be fair to everybody. Once that’s through, then we allow them in the order that they were received to begin with, that’s the order that they go back through inspection.
“We had some cars that went through twice today and we had some that went through three times, but everybody was able to get through inspection. I think we had 17 minutes left before we went green flag when everybody had had a chance to go through inspection.”
Buck said that NASCAR will be looking over things to try and “how to be as far as we can through the inspection process”.