Edging out Ryan Newman by just over one mile an hour, Kevin Harvick landed his #4 SHR Ford on pole position at Atlanta for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. Newman followed close behind, followed in turn by Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, and Brad Keselowski.
Qualifying was exciting, with the new aerodynamic package keeping the cars loose and the drivers on their toes. David Ragan had a moment early on in the session, clipping the wall as his #38 Front Row Motorsports Ford went sideways. The impact left the right rear of his car damaged, putting his team “behind the eight ball” and putting him back in 34th place.
The five drivers starting behind Ragan—Michael McDowell, Cole Whitt, Jeffery Earnhardt, Derrike Cope, and Cody Ware—are only starting there because they didn’t run at all. Why? They failed to pass inspection in time. Although all 39 cars were eventually cleared to race in Friday, the new inspection procedure mandating that cars who fail inspection must repeat the entire process over again proved to be very time-consuming. Those five drivers couldn’t get out at all, and many more were must under the wire. This raises some definite doubts about the new format, although it’s still not clear how much of the issue is about NASCAR being strict and how much is about teams trying to push the envelope. In an interview, Elton Sawyer— Vice President of Officiating and Technical Inspection—defended the sanctioning body’s decision to keep the procedure going as planned: “The teams asked for this . . . In the offseason we worked with them, we told them what we were going to do, they’ve asked us to stay consistent and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”
What are your thoughts on the new procedures? What car do you think will be in Victory Lane on Sunday?
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