Rain Cancels Vegas Qualifying; Inspection Issue Sends Kyle Busch from Pole to Rear

LAS VEGAS, NV – FEBRUARY 22: The crew of NASCAR Cup Series driver Erik Jones (20) Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) Toyota Camry wait in the rain to get their race car through tech inspection Saturday, February 22, 2020, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Will Lester/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

LAS VEGAS – A persistent drizzle at Las Vegas Motor Speedway forced the cancellation of Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series qualifying session for Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Accordingly, the starting field has been set according to the rule book, with the cars set to line up according to the final 2019 owner points. That puts Kyle Busch on the pole, with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. on the outside of the front row.

Because of inspection issues, however, Busch will drop to the rear for the start of the race. Racing to the front could be a huge issue for the reigning series champion, given handling issues that plagued the No. 18 Toyota during Friday’s practice sessions.

Joining Busch at the rear of the field will be his teammate and Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin, as well as Christopher Bell of Leavine Family Racing. The Toyotas of those three drivers failed pre-qualifying inspection for attempting to manipulate the noses of the cars, which did not fit specifications.

NASCAR levied L1 penalties on the three teams, resulting in the loss of ten owner and driver points for each.

The Camrys of Busch, Hamlin, and Bell, along with those of JGR teammates Truex and Erik Jones, were docked practice time on Friday for attempting to change the shape of the front fenders with Bondo.

Truex’s car failed inspection once on Saturday because of what the driver termed an issue with the “toe” (tire angle) but passed on the second attempt. Truex will retain his second-place starting spot on Sunday. 

Kevin Harvick will inherit the pole position when Busch drops to the rear. Hamlin would have started fourth but for his infraction. Bell was slated to start in 22nd-place.

The No. 9 Chevrolet of Chase Elliott failed pre-qualifying inspection twice, leading to the ejection from the track of car chief Matt Barndt. Elliott will retain his tenth-place starting spot but lose 15 minutes of practice time next weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

Busch said his team would try to incorporate aspects of Truex’s setup into the No. 18 car to try to improve the handling after the frustrating practice on Friday.

“We rolled out there first in final practice, and I was wide open for 15, 16 straight laps,” Busch said. “Kevin Harvick started probably a half straightaway behind me, and he ran me down, and he ran the fastest lap average in those laps he was running me down. My laps were only 15th on average, and he was first, but then he couldn’t pass me – he couldn’t do anything to pass me.

“I don’t know what that says for the race and what’s going to happen in the race. We were definitely not as fast as we wanted to be, and the car was not driving near what it needed to. When we got back in traffic, it was a real handful. We’re going to have our work cut out for us.”

NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying – 23rd Annual Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Las Vegas, Nevada

Saturday, February 22, 2020

               1. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, Charter Team Owner Points 1st.

               2. (19) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, Charter Team Owner Points 2nd.

               3. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, Charter Team Owner Points 3rd.

               4. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, Charter Team Owner Points 4th.

               5. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, Charter Team Owner Points 5th.

               6. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Charter Team Owner Points 6th.

               7. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, Charter Team Owner Points 7th.

               8. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, Charter Team Owner Points 8th.

               9. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, Charter Team Owner Points 9th.

               10. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, Charter Team Owner Points 10th.

               11. (24) William Byron, Chevrolet, Charter Team Owner Points 11th.

               12. (88) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, Charter Team Owner Points 12th.

               13. (1) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, Charter Team Owner Points 13th.

               14. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, Charter Team Owner Points 14th.

               15. (6) Ross Chastain(i), Ford, Charter Team Owner Points 15th.

               16. (20) Erik Jones, Toyota, Charter Team Owner Points 16th.

               17. (41) Cole Custer #, Ford, Charter Team Owner Points 17th.

               18. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Charter Team Owner Points 18th.

               19. (21) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, Charter Team Owner Points 19th.

               20. (37) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, Charter Team Owner Points 20th.

               21. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Charter Team Owner Points 21st.

               22. (95) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, Charter Team Owner Points 22nd.

               23. (17) Chris Buescher, Ford, Charter Team Owner Points 23rd.

               24. (13) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, Charter Team Owner Points 24th.

               25. (8) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, Charter Team Owner Points 25th.

               26. (47) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Charter Team Owner Points 26th.

               27. (43) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, Charter Team Owner Points 27th.

               28. (34) Michael McDowell, Ford, Charter Team Owner Points 28th.

               29. (38) John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, Charter Team Owner Points 29th.

               30. (32) Corey LaJoie, Ford, Charter Team Owner Points 30th.

               31. (53) Joey Gase(i), Ford, Charter Team Owner Points 31st.

               32. (00) Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, Charter Team Owner Points 32nd.

               33. (15) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, Charter Team Owner Points 33rd.

               34. (51) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, Charter Team Owner Points 34th.

               35. (96) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, Open Team Owner Points 35th.

               36. (77) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Charter Team Owner Points 36th.

               37. (52) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, Charter Team Owner Points 38th.

               38. (66) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Open Team Owner Points 42nd.

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