NASCAR has modified a procedure to prevent the repeat of a snafu it made when it sent Jimmie Johnson to the back of the starting grid for Sunday's AAA Texas 500 Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Johnson was penalized because NASCAR incorrectly noted that his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet failed pre-race inspection three times, but the car actually failed only twice, passing on its third trip through the inspection process.
NASCAR Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell referred to the error as “unacceptable” Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. He said Cup Series officials met with Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus, former HMS driver and team consultant Jeff Gordon, and others with Hendrick Motorsports after the race and apologized for the error.
“We’ll certainly put procedures in place prior to Phoenix to ensure that just can’t happen going forward,” O’Donnell said. “It was one of those things, again, a human error that we’ve really got to look at and look at some additional procedures we can have in place prior to Phoenix. We’ll have those done today, and we’ll be communicating those first and foremost to the team that was affected and then to the industry as well.”
Johnson thanked O’Donnell for an apology he issued via Twitter.
The procedural changes include the number of NASCAR officials required to "confirm a call prior to the race.”
The No. 48 was one of two HMS cars sent to the back for inspection issues at Texas. The No. 24 of William Byron also had to start from the rear, but that call was correct, as Byron’s car did fail pre-race inspection three times.
NASCAR has gone to a two-day schedule for some race weekends during which qualifying is held on Saturday before a Sunday race, with no practice between qualifying and the race. In these cases, only one inspection is performed between qualifying and racing and a single failed inspection negates a qualifying attempt while the failed car starts the race in the back. But the Texas race weekend included a regular schedule in which qualifying was held Friday and practice sessions were hosted between qualifying and racing. That schedule format includes an inspection after qualifying and another before the race. Johnson’s car passed the post-qualifying inspection without incident.
Johnson was 23rd in qualifying and finished 15th in the race. He was correctly issued a penalty for a pit-road violation later in the race.