Following the qualifying debacle last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, NASCAR mandated the following changes to the procedure that sets the field for the next three Sprint Cup Series events.
The first practice session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was shortened by 10 minutes with NASCAR also pushing back qualifying five minutes to 4:50 p.m. on Friday — providing teams an additional 15 minutes of preparation time before hitting the track.
There are no immediate plans to change the qualifying-inspection schedules beyond the Fontana race weekend.
“We have a good track record of making adjustments that are in the best interests of the teams and the garage area and the revisions in these upcoming weekend schedules are an example of that,” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series managing director Richard Buck said in a statement.
The changes were seemingly made in response to the events that unfolded before and during qualifying at Atlanta last Friday when several major teams and drivers — a list that included Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth — all failed to get through pre-qualifying inspection and were unable to turn a single lap.
As a result, all four had to start the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at the back of the field. Four others that failed to turn a lap missed the race as a result. Despite the lack of track position at the start of the race, Jimmie Johnson went on the win the race regardless.
In the immediate aftermath of the controversy, Buck faced the media and suggested that NASCAR officials would explore ways to prevent a similar outcome from playing out in the future.
“We’ll look at the process and try to understand it,” Buck said. “We put more cars through (inspection) today than normal, and in a timely fashion.
“Last year about four races into it, we were putting a lot of pressure on the crew chiefs, we had a lot of work for them to get — it was new. We had the ride-height rules, and we could see that process was strained, if you will, so we worked with the teams to adjust that, and … I think it was the third or fourth race in, we were able to work with our tracks and our partners and be able to extend that inspection time to allow them more time to get through there. But it’s tough.”
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