KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Clearly, NASCAR’s firm stance against rules infractions is resonating in the Nextel Cup garage.
All day Friday at Kansas Speedway, where Jimmie Johnson won his second-straight pole and third in four races, opinions were aired on this week’s 25-point penalty that dropped Carl Edwards from third to sixth in the Chase for the Nextel Cup standings.
Then, Ryan Newman’s second-best time in qualifying for Sunday’s LifeLock 400 was thrown out because Newman’s No. 12 Dodge failed post-qualifying inspection.
That moved Newman to the back of the starting lineup and Chase driver Matt Kenseth up to the outside of Row 1 alongside Johnson for Sunday’s race.
Johnson ran 175.063 mph to earn the top spot despite saying he didn’t think much of his lap.
“I thought I was going to knock the wall down in (turns) two and four,” he said. “I thought we were in big trouble.”
Actually, it was Newman who was in trouble. His lap at 174.893 mph was disallowed because the roof of his car was too low.
Last weekend, Edwards’ No. 99 Ford was too low on the right-rear corner after his Dover victory. His team continues to contend that it should not have been penalized because the infraction clearly – at least in their view – provided no advantage.
“It’s a lot like if you had a basketball team and went out and scored a certain number of points and then they penalized you after the game (because) all of our guys were a little bit shorter than the other team,” Edwards said.
Team owner Jack Roush, who feels that NASCAR penalties have been costly to his team’s title hopes before, didn’t sound Friday like a man who is confident of winning his pending appeal of the most recent sanction.
“If he (Edwards) loses it by less than 25 points, it’ll be another bitter pill,” Roush said.
“NASCAR, through their punitive actions that have been arguably ill-advised, has affected a number of outcomes and championships for my teams over the last 20 years. This’ll be one more.
"Every time they do that, it potentially causes that to happen, or becomes fact, it takes the edge off the excitement I have for coming to the races and being part of the show.”
As is usually the case, comparisons to other instances were in full swing Friday.
“There are other cars – there was one car, in particular, that was low after a qualifying race at Daytona in the rear, one of the only places that that would help you, and they didn’t receive any points,” Edwards said.
“I don’t really understand it.”
Edwards was referring to the No. 24 Chevrolet in which Gordon won his 150-mile qualifying race before the Daytona 500. Gordon was not penalized points because, NASCAR said, no points were paid in that event.
Gordon was sent to the rear of the starting field for the start of the 500.
Edwards wasn’t the only one confused, though. Gordon said he was surprised that Edwards’ penalty from a car of tomorrow race infraction wasn’t more.
“There has not been one penalty that I have seen with the new car that is under 100 points and $100,000,” Gordon said.
“To me, it doesn't matter what it is, it is $100,000 and 100 points. But, I think they took into consideration the fact that they are in the Chase and that is why it was less.”
Well, actually, no. Earlier this year at New Hampshire, Kyle Busch and Johnny Sauter were penalized $25,000 and 25 points for being too low on the front end.
And don’t think Busch has forgotten.
"That’s Roush Racing for you,” Busch said when asked about that team’s argument that penalties in the Chase should be proportionally less than in the regular season.
“It’s the same thing as any other time of the year. We got that penalty, so they can suck it up and deal with their penalty.”
Edwards’ qualifying lap at 171.467 mph Friday was only 27th-fastest overall and 11th among the 12 Chase drivers.
Only Jeff Burton, who’ll start 34th, was slower. Behind Johnson and Kenseth on Row 1, Gordon starts fourth, Denny Hamlin fifth, Kyle Busch eighth, Martin Truex Jr. ninth, Clint Bowyer 10th, Kurt Busch 12th, Kevin Harvick 17th and Tony Stewart 19th.
Michael Waltrip matched his best qualifying run of the year with the 11th-best lap on a day where all three of the Toyotas he owns made the race. Dale Jarrett will start 13th and David Reutimann starts 25th.
A.J. Allmendinger, Ward Burton, Brian Vickers and Jon Wood failed to make the race.