Jimmie Johnson was a position away from ending his 101-race winless streak with a second-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night. Yet that second-place finish quickly turned into a last-place finish in terms of points awarded.
NASCAR announced after the race that Johnson’s No. 48 car failed post-race inspection and was disqualified, meaning his team will get credit for a 40th-place finish. NASCAR Cup Series director Jay Fabien said early Monday that Johnson was disqualified after the rear alignment of his car did not meet post-race requirements.
Cliff Daniels, Johnson’s crew chief, claimed he thinks “something must’ve broken.”
Below is the transcript from Fabien’s media conference in which he explained why Johnson was disqualified:
FABIAN: Yeah, so tonight after the race, post-race inspection, going through the optical scanning station, the 48 car has failed the post-race alignment numbers in the rule book and will be DQ’d.
Q.: Can you be a little bit more specific in terms of what particular area? Obviously there’s a fudge factor for the car movement. More detail on this please, sir.
FABIAN: Yeah, the failure was rear alignment. It’s the same thing that we check at least a handful of cars for post-race after every event. I can’t really give specifics on the numbers. Yes, there is a pre-race number and a post-race number that does give a pretty decent tolerance. It was outside of those post-race numbers.
Q.: This is a speeded-up process with the crazy schedule. The team would still be allowed to potentially appeal by noon tomorrow?
FABIAN: So they do have a standard right to appeal, just like any penalty. I would have to follow up, with the crazy schedule, like you said, with the rule book to see exactly when that deadline is because it’s 2 in the morning Eastern time. I would have to verify when that appeal deadline is.
Q.: Cliff tweeted they think they broke something. Is there any sort of allowance for breaks or damages when deciding on this type of penalty?
FABIAN: The 48 ran strong tonight all night. I hate it for them. They had a good car, performed well. But, yeah, the allowance is built in for parts that move. There’s an allowance for that. But if parts break, you know, the number is the number. There is no real parameter outside of that. There’s parts in the past that have been designed to fail or break. Certainly not suggesting that’s the case here. But that’s what’s gotten us to this hardline of this is a post-race number and there is a fair tolerance from pre-race numbers to post.
Q.: Can you characterize it at all? Was it close or not close?
FABIAN: Yeah, I’m not going to characterize that. It was out of the box. In the OSS, once that box turns red, it’s exactly like a speeding penalty. There is no turning back from that.
Johnson, who had earned 46 points throughout Sunday night’s race, would have moved up to eighth in the Cup Series points standings. He instead earned zero points and sits 15th in points. The technical last-place finish also means Johnson will start Wednesday night’s race at Charlotte, for which there will be no qualifying, in last place.
Brad Keselowski, who took the lead in overtime Sunday night after Chase Elliott pitted during the final caution, won the Coca-Cola 600 by beating Johnson to the checkered flag.
“I feel sorry for Chase,” Johnson said of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate after the race, before the No. 48 car failed post-race tech. “Last week — Wednesday, it was — he had such a great car, and to be leading here and have the caution come out with a couple to go, I feel bad for him.
“But I’m very proud of my team, very proud of everybody. Second’s OK, but it’s tough being this close to victory lane. But we’ll get there.”
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