NASCAR EVP: “First you talk to the team and apologize to the #48 for what happened. It’s unacceptable on our part.”
Jimmie Johnson was incorrectly penalized and sent to the back of the field for the start of the race on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway
The #24 of William Byron failed pre-race inspection three times. As a result, his car chief was ejected from the speedway and the driver was sent to the back of the field for the start of the race. That’s the correct call.
The #48 of Jimmie Johnson failed pre-race just two times. He was also sent to the back of the field at the start of the event. However, that’s the incorrect call. The correct call is a loss of practice time in the next event at ISM Raceway.
Cars are only suppose to be sent to the back of the field after three pre-race inspection failures. Johnson only had two. This is different than post-qualifying inspection. If a driver fails post-qualifying inspection, on the first pass, their time is disallowed and the driver is sent to the back with no time set.
Pre-race inspection is not post qualifying inspection. As a result, teams get multiple attempts to roll through and pass the new optical scanning station. A lot of teams will fail on their first pass through the room of doom, they’re pushing every centimeter of all the rules in the rule book.
But, as the field lined up to take the green, it was radioed to Johnson that he needed to go to the back. Johnson was scheduled to start inside the top-20.
“First you talk to the team and apologize to the #48 for what happened,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer addressed the media after the race.
“It’s unacceptable on our part. There was a communication breakdown that happened right before the start of the race between our inspection area on ground and race control. Where I think there was an assumption there was a third failure. There wasn’t, there were only two. In that case, the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) shouldn’t have started in the back.”
“So, at this point, what we can do is put processes in place to fix that so it never happens again. It’s disappointing. It’s not something you can fix during the race, unfortunately. So all we can do is own up to it and fix it.”
“There was an assumption that he failed three times. There’s usually checks and balances where the call is going up to the tower. When everybody goes out, we didn’t hear from the team or maybe we missed it. Once we recognized it, we had already started the race. It’s one of the things we gotta go back and review.”
After inspection, officials mark down failures in an iPad. That information is then seen up in the tower. As the race began, the tower assumed all the officials on the infield were aware of three failures. However, it was a written error. So, none of the infield officials informed the team they would be going to the back, which is how it usually works.
“It was written down as a third failure. So, that’s where it broke down,” O’Donnell said.
“At that point, no one in the garage is assuming that the #48 car is going to the back. The inspector is not telling the crew chief that he’s going to the back because he’s not aware of a penalty. A lot of those processes in place, were missed along the way.”
As a result, the penalty for Johnson to go to the back came as a surprise to the team once they rolled onto the race track. There wasn’t enough time for them to plead their case.
“It really should have only been a 15-minute penalty at the next practice session, at the next event,” Chad Knaus voices after the race. “It didn’t get communicated well, unfortunately.”
“NASCAR sees the error and mistake, and they’re going to work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
“As an industry, we need to try to figure out a way to make that happen a little bit better,” Knaus said. “[NASCAR is] working on looking into a way to try to make it where we have a direct line of communication.”
“It’s very difficult,” Knaus continued. “We had some communication with one of our officials. He didn’t think that was the case, so that’s why I kept Jimmie in his position with one lap to go before we took the green flag. At that point, NASCAR was very adamant that we needed to go to the rear. Which, with the information the race director had at that point, we needed to go to the rear.
“So, it was just a miscommunication,” Knaus concluded.
I appreciate your honesty and apology. This was just one issue of many we had today. https://t.co/J6BzrJECrD
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) November 5, 2018
Chad Knaus sat on top of the pit box for the 600th time on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Jimmie Johnson got loose and nearly ended his race in turn three, early in the event. However, he was able to save the car and battle to a 15th place finish.
Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus have won a record tying seven championships together. For 2019, Johnson and Knaus will part ways. Chad Knaus will sit atop the pit box for William Byron.
Also for 2019, Jimmie Johnson will have a new sponsor. For the first time in his NASCAR Cup Series career, the #48 of Jimmie Johnson won’t pilot a Lowe’s sponsored machine. Instead, Ally Financial has stepped in as the primary sponsor going forward.