Johnson Fails Inspection

Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson helps push his car during the team's second attempt at pre-qualifying inspection. It passed but failed post-qualifying inspection, and Johnson will start last on Sunday. (Photo Dustin Long)

LOUDON, N.H. - Jimmie Johnson will start last in Sunday’s race after failing post-qualifying inspection Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Johnson’s car was too low. His penalty moves Kurt Busch to second, joining pole-sitter Brad Keselowski on the front row.

Crew chief Chad Knaus said it was a mistake by the team that puts Johnson 43rd in the lineup. Knaus called it a mis-assembly with the left front.

“We just had a small problem,’’ Knaus said. “It happens. There’s a lot of things that you’re trying to do in a brief amount of time when you’re changing springs and you’re changing shocks and sway bars. You don’t have a whole lot of time to get through your final assembly.’’

The team had issues before Johnson qualified, going through inspection twice and having to rush to get the car on the grid.

“We were able to get the car right, but it wasn’t exactly right,’’ Knaus said. “We weren’t going to know until after qualifying ... what the problem was. That’s why the heights were so messed up as we were going through initial inspection. That came to bite us in the end.’’

“The left side was real high, the right side was real low. We knew that there was something that wasn’t jiving right. We were able to get through (pre-qualifying inspection), but then the car settled a little bit. You run a lot of shock and a lot of front rebound and it takes a little bit for the cars to come up. The way we’re measuring the heights now, you don’t have a lot of room for error and we just had a little error.’’

By having his qualifying time disallowed, Johnson’s team also will pick last for pit stalls.

“It’s going to hurt us tremendously with the pit selection,’’ Knaus said. “The good thing about Loudon is if you’ve got a good race car, you can pass. It’s actually kind of a funny race the way the ebb and flow of the event goes. The guys in the back typically get an opportunity to get to the front through some form of pit strategy.’’

“We’ll have to be aggressive. I look forward to the challenge. I think it’s going to be a lot of fine.’’

Denny Hamlin won at this track last fall after starting 32nd. That’s one of six times in 36 previous races at New Hampshire that the winner started 30th or worse. The deepest a winner has started was 38th in 1999 by Jeff Burton.

The worst Johnson had started at New Hampshire was in this race in 2011. He started 28th and finished fifth.

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