Drivers cry foul over Atlanta qualifying debacle; Logano wins pole
NASCAR’s technical inspection drew the ire of many drivers and crew chiefs Friday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway, when 13 of the 47 cars entered in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 failed to make it out of inspection in time to post a qualifying lap.
Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson — four drivers who have combined to win 14 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships — were among those failed to get out of tech.
With time running out before the 5:45 p.m. ET scheduled start of the first round of qualifying and most of the cars still waiting on tech, NASCAR delayed the start of the session by 15 minutes, but it wasn’t enough for the entire field to make it through.
"There is something wrong with this system, or there is something wrong with the time on the clock to get through," said four-time champion Gordon. "There’s no way this many good cars, talented people, that they can’t figure out how to get these cars through inspection. These guys are too smart. Yeah, we’re pushing limits, but there’s something wrong here.
"I’m embarrassed," said Gordon. "I’m embarrassed for this series right now that this just happened. … This is just absolutely ridiculous."
For many, the details from NASCAR were few and far between, most simply saying they had issues in tech and were forced to go through the line again.
Kenseth pointed out with so many cars failing NASCAR’s technical inspection, it is hard to believe the teams were at fault.
"When I walked up 10 minutes before qualifying was scheduled to start there were only 14 cars on pit road, so I have a hard time believing it was the teams," said Kenseth. "They should really figure out how to get everyone through tech before qualifying starts, first of all. But if they can’t do that they probably should have postponed qualifying until they could get everyone through tech."
Johnson blamed the allotted time NASCAR gives teams to get the cars through the inspection line after practice.
"I would say one of the largest factors is we have an hour less time this year to get the cars through tech, and an hour would have gotten everybody through," Johnson told FOXSports.com. "The other piece of it is, only 15 of the 49 cars made it through (tech) on the first trip. We all shared the same issue."
The issue the teams faced was getting through the laser level that measures the cars. While NASCAR has reduced the number of officials on site each weekend, Johnson does not believe that contributed to the issue.
"The machine takes 80 to 90 seconds for each car to go through that machine," he said. "When you have 49 cars, it’s just a time factor."
Team owner and driver Stewart spent nearly 20 minutes in the NASCAR inspection area talking with officials. After the session, Stewart and Johnson both took to Twitter to express their frustration with the situation.
Meanwhile, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series managing director Richard Buck said the sanctioning body did its best to provide a level playing field for everyone, but teams were "pushing the limits" in the search for more mechanical grip.
@TonyStewart start 39 now because of this crap. Now I'm pissed off
— Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) February 27, 2015
There's a first time for everything I guess…
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) February 28, 2015
"That’s their job. It’s their job to push it to the very limit," said Buck. "Our job is to treat everybody fairly and give everybody an opportunity to go through that inspection room, but their responsibility is to come through there right, but to the very limit. I think that’s what you saw today, was everybody pushing the limits."
Despite the logjam as qualifying officially started, Buck said all cars had made it through NASCAR technical inspection, at least once, 17 minutes before the drop of the green flag for Round One. The 13 cars that didn’t make qualifying attempts all had issues, according to Buck.
"We treat everyone the same," he said. "There were cars that came through two, and even cars that came through three times, so everybody got a fair shot at going through there in a timely manner."
Buck said NASCAR would "look at the process and try to understand it," but also said it was on the teams to arrive at technical inspection with the proper and legal setup in the car.
"We’ll look at it, as we always do, with a fine microscope, and get input from the teams and if, down the road we have to and see the need, we’ll make an adjustment," he said.