Did teams miss qualifying on purpose at Auto Club Speedway?

13 cars failed to make it through pre-qualifying inspection – They start the race on Sunday with new tires which would have been an advantage if NASCAR didn’t adjust the rules on them

As the light switched to green in the first round of qualifying, Jimmie Johnson was walking back to the garage area. Johnson and twelve other drivers would not make an attempt to qualify in Auto Club Speedway.

Those 13 drivers will now start the race on Sunday with brand new tires. All 24 cars ahead of them would have been sitting on tires that are 1-6 laps older. The back of the field would have drove right through the middle of the pack.

“I’m watching those guys in the garage, kinda drooling a little bit. Because they’re in a really, a great position by not qualifying with the tires wearing out like they do. They’re going to drop the green for the race and drive right to the front,” Brad Keselowski told Fox Sports ahead of his 11th place qualifying effort.

“But, our guys want to qualify. So, we’re out here. We’re going to go do it.” Brad Keselowski concluded.

Could it be possible this was planned? Kevin Harvick turned a 38.147 in round 1 to set quick time. Martin Truex Jr took the pole with a 38.592 in round 3.

Three qualifying laps and the times fell by nearly a 1/2 second. Those thirteen cars that failed to make it through inspection will start at the tail of the field with brand new tires. They would have been running faster than the leader when the green drops.

It’s an interesting scenario when 25th is running quicker than the leader. But was this planned? Keselowski certainly hinted that it was. Exactly 24 cars made it through pre-qualifying inspection. The cut off line in round 1 is 24. All a car had to do was turn a lap, it could have been a 5 minutes lap, he still would have advanced to round 2.

“Failing tech isn’t new. Cars being refused an opportunity to compete is not new. With that said, the repercussions for missing qualifying need to be so severe that you’d want to avoid them at all cost. Currently those types of repercussions aren’t in place,” Dale Earnhardt Jr stated via twitter.

Dale Jr also hints that the qualifying blunder at Auto Club Speedway may have been a deliberate one. His idea is to place a stiff penalty in place for missing qualifying.

The drivers who failed pre-qualfying inspection: Denny Hamlin; Clint Bowyer; Aric Almirola; Alex Bowman; William Byron; Daniel Suarez; Chase Elliott; AJ Allmendinger; Jimmie Johnson; Kasey Kahne; Timmy Hill; Ross Chastain; Cole Whitt;

“Done it deliberate,” as Harry Hogge says.

I don’t think they all did it on purpose. Clint Bowyer was 2nd fastest in opening practice. It wouldn’t make much sense for him to start 25th on new tires. However, I think a lot of teams had this plan all along, then they backed up the line and trapped some cars who did have this as the plan.

Will it work? Nope. Late last night, NASCAR changed the rules.

Now, every team that ran a qualifying lap will have the option to purchases a brand new set to start the race on Sunday. It’s not an advantage, it’s not an extra set. If the teams from 1st-24th elect to purchase a new set they will have to turn in their used qualifying tires.

In other words, due to the rule change most every team in the field will now start the race on new tires. This rule adjustment, is exclusive to this weekends event.

Would it have worked? Maybe. A 1/2 second is a huge amount of lap time. It certainly would have made lap 1 very exciting.


Related: Teams will be allowed a new set of tires after 13 cars fail inspection

Related: Scott Miller discusses teams the missed qualifying due to inspection

Related: Auto Club Speedway – Starting Lineup


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