By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
The Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway saw the first disqualification in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series since the policy was instated prior to the season.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones earned the dubious honor after he finished fourth, part of an initial sweep by JGR of the top-four positions. The No. 20 Craftsman Toyota Camry is now credited with a 38th-place finish. Jones also loses his stage finishes, ninth and fourth.
Post-race, Jones’ No. 20, along with the other Playoff Grid cars all went through the OSS inspection station. The car’s rear toe was beyond the tolerance NASCAR provides teams and failed for that reason.
Managing Director of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Jay Fabian explained that Jones failed technical inspection at the OSS station.
“Standard procedure post-race in the playoffs, we run every car through the OSS and then we do a post-race inspection on first, second, and then generally a random. The 20 car failed the OSS on the run-through on the standard post-race inspection.”
The disqualification moves Kurt Busch into 10th in stage one, earning the Chip Ganassi Racing driver an additional point. Six playoff drivers earned an additional point in stage two including Kyle Larson who was moved into the top-10.
Jones became just the sixth driver to be disqualified in a NASCAR National Series event this season. He joined fellow JGR drivers Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin who were disqualified in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Iowa Speedway and Darlington Raceway respectively.
AJ Allmendinger (twice in Xfinity), Ross Chastain (NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series), and Ryan Sieg (Xfinity) have also been disqualified this season.
While disqualifications have taken place in the other two NASCAR National Series, the Cup Series did not see one until the 28th race of the season. With pressure mounting, teams are pushing the limits of the tolerances.
Fabian stated that teams have done a good job reacting to the new policy.
“We’ve set the standard early in the year in what we expect, and teams have done a good job reacting to that. I think obviously as the pressure mounts and the season goes on, it doesn’t surprise me to see them pushing a little further and trying to get a little more out of their stuff, and like I say, sometimes it just crosses that line a little bit, and that’s all you need to fail.”
The disqualification leaves Jones 16th on the playoff grid, 45-points behind the cutoff for the Round of 12, held by William Byron. With just the Roval at the Charlotte Motor Speedway left in the Round of 16, Jones is now in a ‘must win’ situation to keep his championship hopes alive.