A week after Kyle Larson couldn’t get on the track to qualify and later incurred a stiff mid-week penalty for a different rules violation, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver seemingly answered his critics Friday by winning the pole for the Overton’s 301 Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
However, more trouble awaited Larson and the No. 42 CGR team in post-qualifying technical inspection on Friday. Officials disallowed Larson’s pole-winning lap due to an unapproved rear deck fin lid, thereby giving the top starting position to Monster Energy Cup Series points leader Martin Truex Jr., who earned his first pole of the season.
Defending series champion Jimmie Johnson qualified second, followed by defending race winner Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and Kasey Kahne.
“Not the way we wanted to get our first pole of the year,” Truex said. “But looking forward to starting front and having a good pit selection.”
Larson will start last in the 39-car field, the second race in a row he’s had to do so after failing inspection. Last week, Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet failed to pass pre-qualifying inspection at Kentucky Speedway. He would then go on to finish second to Truex in the Quaker State 400. Larson also didn’t pass pre-qualifying inspection at Texas Motor Speedway in April and at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May.
And on Wednesday, NASCAR penalized Larson 35 points with crew chief Chad Johnston handed a three-race suspension and $75,000 fine for a rear brake cooling assembly that didn’t meet standards. The violation was found during a thorough inspection by officials Tuesday at the NASCAR research and development center in Concord, N.C.
The points deduction cost Larson the series points lead. He fell to second, trailing Truex by 34 points with eight regular season races remaining. CGR is not appealing the penalties.
Larson will not be subject to additional penalties for the unapproved rear deck fin lid. NASCAR considers the forfeiture of starting position suffice.
Rookie Erik Jones, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski completed the top 10 in qualifying Friday. Hamlin was in a backup car after damaging his primary in a crash during practice earlier Friday.
Matt DiBenedetto starts a season-best 17th. His previous best was 22nd at Atlanta Motor Speedway in February.
All three Richard Childress Racing cars failed to advance past the first round. Ryan Newman in 25th is the top-starting RCR driver, with teammates Austin Dillon 27th and Paul Menard 30th.
The session was stopped once for David Ragan spin exiting pit road in the opening minutes of Round 1. He did not damage his No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford and continued on to qualify 33rd.