Chase Elliott’s car went through NASCAR’s laser inspection platform for a third time with just minutes remaining in the first round of qualifying. He was so sure his car had passed, Elliott immediately put on his HANS device and helmet and prepared to get in the car.
But as his team started backing up the car toward the garage instead of pushing it toward pit road, Elliott realized he wasn’t going to get to qualify on Friday. He slowly unbuckled his helmet and followed the car toward his team’s garage stall.
Elliott, 26 points below the cutoff line with two races to go, will now start 34th Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.
“As you all know, I think qualifying well is important for stage points, so I think it puts even more emphasis for us on having to go compete for a win,” Elliott told a small group of reporters afterward. “It keeps it simple. Jimmie (Johnson) did it in the spring (after starting from the back), and if we get our car driving good (Saturday) afternoon, it’s definitely doable.”
Elliott was puzzled as to why teams seem to struggle with inspection at Texas. His No. 24 was one of seven cars that did not make a lap — Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano were other notables — and Elliott also had to start from the back in the spring race.
The 24 team, knowing how important qualifying was, apparently took a big swing at fixing the area in question after its first failed inspection attempt. Team members, including crew chief Alan Gustafson, appeared surprised and frustrated when it did not pass on the second attempt.
“You’re kidding me,” Gustafson said.
And when the car came through a third time, the team seemed absolutely certain it would get Elliott on the track with a minute or so remaining in qualifying.
Instead, the car didn’t pass yet again.
“We got caught ‘cheating’ when we were trying to pass,” Elliott said. “I don’t know why that was. We were fixing our area of failure in a way larger area than what we failed by. I don’t know why we couldn’t get the (laser) to produce the green light.”