CONCORD, N.C. – An apparent strong night for Jimmie Johnson at Charlotte Motor Speedway turned sour in the early hours of Monday morning, after his runner-up finish in the Coca-Cola 600 was stripped in post-race technical inspection.
Johnson’s No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE failed rear alignment numbers at the optical scanning station, according to NASCAR Cup Series managing director Jay Fabian.
As a result of that issue, Johnson was disqualified, lost all stage points earned during the 61st edition of NASCAR’s longest race, and was relegated to last in the 40-car field, instead of second behind race winner Brad Keselowski.
Fabian joined reporters for an impromptu teleconference immediately after the news of Johnson’s DQ was made public to paint a clearer picture of the situation.
“The failure was rear alignment. It’s the same thing that we check at least a handful of cars for post‑race after every event,” Fabian explained. “I can’t really give specifics on the numbers, but there is a pre‑race number and a post‑race number that gives a pretty decent tolerance. (Johnson’s car) was outside of those post‑race numbers.”
While Fabian wouldn’t give the exact numbers relating to Johnson’s violation, he did note that alignment issues at the OSS are black and white in the eyes of the NASCAR inspectors.
“In the OSS, once that box turns red, it’s exactly like a speeding penalty. There is no turning back from that,” Fabian said.
Johnson’s DQ comes after he led six laps in Sunday night’s race and lined up on the front row for the last two restarts, seemingly with a shot to snap a 101-race winless drought.
Crew chief Cliff Daniels took to Twitter to explain his view on what led to the disqualification after the news became public knowledge.
“I’m disappointed about our post-race OSS (issue),” Daniels wrote. “We think something must have broken, but won’t know until we get it back to the shop tomorrow and can diagnose. (It’s) tough news after a strong night. This team is getting stronger (and) we are focused forward. We’ll be back Wednesday with another great car.”
Fabian noted his disappointment for the No. 48 team after their solid effort, but stood true to the guidelines laid out in the NASCAR rulebook, despite the potential of a broken part leading to the misalignment.
“The 48 ran strong tonight all night. I hate it for them,” said Fabian. “They had a good car, performed well. The allowance is built in for parts that move. There’s an allowance for that. But if parts break, the number is the number. There is no real parameter outside of that.
“There’s parts in the past that have been designed to fail or break,” Fabian added. “Certainly not suggesting that’s the case here, but that’s what’s gotten us to this hard line of this being a post‑race number and having a fair tolerance from pre‑race numbers to post.”
By virtue of Johnson’s drop from the runner-up position, he leaves the Coca-Cola 600 tied for 15th in points instead of 11th, just four points clear of the provisional playoff cut line.
The change in the final results also elevates William Byron, who would have finished 21st if not for Johnson’s DQ, to the pole for Wednesday night’s 500-km Cup Series race at Charlotte thanks to an inversion of the top 20 finishers setting the starting lineup.
Johnson and his team have the option for an expedited appeal, should they choose to do so, but it is unclear as of press time whether they will pursue that or not.