Erik Jones’ No. 20 DQ’d by NASCAR

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA - SEPTEMBER 21: Erik Jones, driver of the #20 Craftsman Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway on September 21, 2019 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota No. 20 of Erik Jones failed post-race inspection at Richmond Raceway early Sunday morning. Jones had just finished fourth in Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400, the second race in the 2019 NASCAR Playoffs’ Round of 16; but the disqualification sent him to last place, 38th.

The disqualification is the first in NASCAR’s top touring series since the sanctioning body instituted tougher post-race penalties and a new, expedited inspection process this year. Under this new policy four Xfinity Series teams have been disqualified in 2019, and one Gander Trucks team has been sent to the back of the finishing order. The best known of these was the win that was taken from Truck series driver Ross Chastain at Iowa in June.  His truck failed post-race inspection and he became the first NASCAR driver in the modern era to have a win taken away.  He would go on to win the following week.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series director Jay Fabian said the No. 20 entry failed its pass through the Optical Scanning Station and the issue dealt with the car’s rear-wheel alignment. He said inspectors did not find a part designed to fail to gain an advantage during the race, however:

“At the end of the day, the result is the same — it failed,” Fabian said.

“We’ve set the standard early in the year in what we expect, and teams have done a good job reacting to that,” Fabian said when asked if he was surprised the series’ first disqualification came in its 28th race of the year. “I think obviously as the pressure mounts and the season goes on, it doesn’t surprise me to see them pushing a little further and trying to get a little more out of their stuff, and like I say, sometimes it just crosses that line a little bit, and that’s all you need to fail.”

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s Toyota will go back to the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, North Carolina.

Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski, who was fifth, is now credited with the fourth-place finish.

Jones receives just one point rather than the 42 he would have earned had he passed inspection and is now 45 points under the playoff cutline with one race left (Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval) before four drivers are cut from the postseason field.

This means, instead of claiming the top four spots in the race, Joe Gibbs Racing holds just the top three spots at Richmond: Martin Truex Jr. won, Kyle Busch finished second and Denny Hamlin came in third. Jimmy Makar, Senior Vice President of Racing Operations at Joe Gibbs Racing, told reporters the organization did not have immediate plans to appeal the penalty.

Greg Engle