As a result of the pre-qualifying inspection issues over the past two weeks for drivers and teams, NASCAR announced a tweak to the format on Thursday, March 12th. Beginning this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, if you fail qualifying inspection twice, you will be subject to the loss of 15 minutes of on-track practice time.
The past two weeks, teams have failed inspection two or more times, therefore causing delays across the board for all of the teams involved.
At Atlanta Motor Speedway, issues caused 13 drivers – highlighted by Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Regan Smith, Tony Stewart – to miss qualifying as a result of not getting through pre-qualifying technical inspection in time.
When it came to race time, the race scheduled to start at 1:16 pm EST, though would start at 2:13 pm EST due to rain. If the race had started on time, though, there would have been drivers that would’ve missed the start of the race. AJ Allmendinger, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, JJ Yeley, Josh Wise and Kevin Harvick were still going through inspection. By the time the race started, though, all of the drivers were through inspection.
“NASCAR right now, they’ve got a group of officials,” crew chief Chad Knaus commented after winning the race with Jimmie Johnson. “Once the inspection process begins, they kind of separate. We have some in the Nationwide garage, some in the Cup garage. Maybe they’re a pinch understaffed in getting their rhythm figured out. I think our wheel offset was off a little bit. Maybe our skew was off a little bit with the alignment of the rear-end housing.
“When we rolled out of the garage for qualifying inspection, there was really only an hour left before qualifying was to begin. The whole day was kind of slow. I think once everybody gets familiar with what their jobs are, I think that will start to get faster, go faster, where we won’t have this much of a backlog. It’s difficult to do that. NASCAR is trying to provide a level playing field for everybody, but it’s something that needs to be addressed.”
As a result, NASCAR announced on Thursday, March 5th an adjustment to the opening day schedules for Las Vegas, Phoenix and Auto Club Speedway as a result of issues with pre-qualifying inspection a week ago. Sprint Cup Series practice was scheduled to last an hour and 25 minutes, but now will last an hour and 15 minutes, while qualifying for the three events will take place five minutes later. As a result, it would allow 15 more minutes of time for teams to get ready for inspection and for officials to get the cars through inspection.
However, there were still issues at Las Vegas, with all the drivers barely getting through inspection in time for a qualifying attempt.
Sprint Cup Series Competition Director Richard Buck addressed the media following qualifying at Atlanta, saying that the issues have been brought forth by teams pushing the limits.
“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,” he added. “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.”