When the green flag flew at 5:45 pm for the opening round of qualifying, nearly half of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series machines were not on the starting grid due to issues going through qualifying tech. Ultimately, five drivers – Derrike Cope, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Michael McDowell, Cody Ware and Cole Whitt– were unable to register a lap during Friday’s qualifying for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 due to inspection issues.
Due to not posting an official lap during the 20-minute opening session, the five drivers will start based on 2016 championship Owner Points. Earnhardt will start 35th Sunday, while McDowell will roll off 36, followed by Whitt (37), Cope (38) and Ware (39).
Elton Sawyer, vice president, officiating and technical inspection for the sanctioning body, noted that template inspection was there more teams had issues. Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway is the first race of the season utilizing the lower downforce aero package.
“I know they’re pushing it,” Sawyer said. “This is the first downforce race so we understand that. But again, the thing that’s really encouraging is the garage has asked us to stay consistent, stay the course and they’ll get it fixed so that’s what we’re going to do.
Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer, both Ford drivers, barely made it on track during the opening 20-minute session. Logano made it through to the final round of qualifying and untimely will start 6th while Bowyer didn’t make it out of the first round. He’ll start 25th.
As teams get more acquainted to the new aero package and the season progresses, Sawyer believes the issues going through tech will diminish. Sawyer also noted that NASCAR officials didn’t plan on delaying the start of qualifying due to the number of cars on the grid.