Three of the four Joe Gibbs Racing cars had issues clearing NASCAR technical inspection prior to Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The issues stemmed from the splitters being too thick, and NASCAR made the teams of Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin change the splitters before going through the inspection process again. Busch and Edwards are among the eight remaining drivers competing in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Unlike the other three JGR cars, the No. 20 of Erik Jones did not have any issues.
By 1:45 p.m. ET all three cars had changed splitters, cleared tech and were pushed to the starting grid.
A NASCAR official told FOXSports.com the issue was similar to the one the Team Penske cars had at Michigan International Speedway in August, but not exactly the same. The sanctioning body confiscated the splitters and the teams will not be allowed to run them again.
Many of the Joe Gibbs Racing crew members were adamant there was nothing wrong with the splitters and they had cleared the inspection process on Friday.
That had Adam Stevens, crew chief on the No. 18 Toyota, scratching his head.
“Opening and qualifying inspection it was fine and then today it wasn’t fine. That’s the way I understand it,” Stevens told FOXSports.com after his car cleared tech. “So I don’t know if they changed the way they’re inspecting, but it’s not fine today and we had to change it.”
Stevens said he did not have “the intimate details” of what happened with the Team Penske cars at Michigan, but believed it could be similar. With the Team Penske cars not receiving any penalty from their splitter issues, Stevens said he would be surprised if the three JGR teams are hit with a penalty from Sunday’s incident.
“Nobody likes to have tech issues,” he said. “We don’t show up here to have problems. It gets you out of your routine for sure. Instead of thinking about race strategy I’m worried about this. That’s not good, but other than that I don’t think it will affect our performance.”
Frustrated with the splitters passing inspection on Friday but having problems on Sunday, Stevens said anytime you have a human element involved in the inspection process there would be inconsistencies.
“In general, I have a lot of respect for what (the officials) do,” he said. “It’s a difficult job. We all have to work together in that aspect. When I’m 100 percent clear about what they didn’t like, I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again. But I can’t tell you why it was OK for two days and it’s not OK today.”
The splitter issue did not seem to affect the three cars during Sunday’s race, as Busch finished fourth, Edwards was fifth and Hamlin struggled with fuel pump issues and finished 38th, 30 laps down.
After the race, Busch said he did not expect any penalties later this week stemming from the issue.
“I mean, we’ve seen splitter issues change before,” he said. “The Penske cars had theirs changed once. I think a Hendrick car or something like that earlier this year.
“I don’t foresee there being any penalties from NASCAR on that. But anything’s possible. I could be wrong. I have no idea what the infraction was or what they were upset about. But we changed it and apparently met their expectations after we changed it and were able to go out there and race today.”
Team owner Joe Gibbs agreed with his driver, saying NASCAR simply saw something they did not like and wanted the team to change it.
“We went through all the other inspections and everything before qualifying, but I think there was something there that we wanted changed and we changed it,” said team owner Joe Gibbs. “I don’t think that’s going to be a points penalty.”