By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
It’s been a rough afternoon for Martin Truex, Jr. and his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team, the defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champions, as pre-qualifying inspection at Atlanta Motor Speedway went from bad to worse for the Denver, Colorado based team.
Failing inspection after three separate trips through NASCAR’s new Optical Scanning Station, the team was penalized with the loss of car chief Blake Harris for the weekend, as well as being docked 30 minutes of practice time.
Fearing a fourth failure and crew chief Cole Pearn joining Harris on the sidelines, the team elected not to make a qualifying lap, relegating Truex to a 35th place start in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
“It’s a new process and we’re working hard collectively, the whole garage is, to figure the boundaries out and try to get through,” said Joe Garone, Furniture Row Racing General Manager. “And, NASCAR is working through the equipment the same way and it’s just tough. One time you go through and the next time you don’t. You go through again and some things pass that didn’t pass the time before. It’s just frustrating. But we’ll get it all worked out. It’s just a matter of time.
“It’s just volatile at the moment. Because you’re trying to figure out what you actually did. When you feel like maybe the equipment itself is off a little bit. But it’s also on ourselves a bit as well. It’s just a weird set of circumstances. The tolerances are very tight, it’s difficult to get through and push where you need to and be conservative where you need to and figure that out. It does change every time you go through.”
While Furniture Row Racing will be left scrambling for the remainder of the weekend as they try to resolve the issues from Friday, they now turn their attention to getting their car legal in time for the green flag on Sunday.
In 19 starts at Atlanta, Truex has finished in the top-five twice, along with seven top-10 finishes, one pole, 281 laps led, and an average finish of 18.3.
“It’s unfortunate that we had a situation where we had multiple failures in what was otherwise a very successful debut of the Optical Scanning Station here for a downforce track,” said NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller. “We had rear wheel alignment problems and we had body scan problems and we just weren’t able to get all of the things legal in those attempts and here we are.”
“We have the option to suspend a crew member. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the car chief, but that’s at our discretion. We’ve kind of tabbed the car chief as an important individual, so that’s likely what we’re going to do, but by rule it’s a crew member ejection and 30-minute practice hold. So, that’s where we sit right now.”