The No. 20 of Erik Jones failed post-race inspection at Richmond Raceway. Jones had finished fourth in Saturday‘s Federated Auto Parts 400, the second race in the 2019 NASCAR Playoffs‘ Round of 16, but the disqualification bumped him to last-place 38th.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver‘s Toyota will go back to the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, North Carolina.
Team Penske‘s Brad Keselowski, who was fifth, is now credited with the fourth-place finish.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series director Jay Fabian said the No. 20 entry failed its pass through the Optical Scanning Station and the issue dealt with the car’s rear-wheel alignment. He indicated inspectors did not find a part designed to fail to gain an advantage during the race.
“At the end of the day, the result is the same — it failed,” Fabian said.
Jones receives just one point rather than the 42 he would have earned had he passed inspection and is now 45 points under the playoff cutline with one race left (Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval) before four drivers are cut from the postseason field.
This means, instead of claiming the top four spots in the race, Joe Gibbs Racing holds just the top three spots at Richmond: Martin Truex Jr. won, Kyle Busch finished second and Denny Hamlin came in third. Jimmy Makar, Senior Vice President of Racing Operations at Joe Gibbs Racing, told reporters the organization did not have immediate plans to appeal the penalty.
The disqualification is the first in NASCAR’s top series since tougher post-race penalties and a new, expedited inspection process were installed this season. Four Xfinity Series teams have been disqualified this year, and one Gander Trucks team has been sent to the end of the finishing order.
“We’ve set the standard early in the year in what we expect, and teams have done a good job reacting to that,” Fabian said when asked if he was surprised the series’ first disqualification came in its 28th race of the year. “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.”