LAS VEGAS--Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell will start from the rear of the field in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400, thanks to L1 penalties issued to their teams after pre-qualifying inspection at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
NASCAR initially busted all five Toyota factory teams--including those of Martin Truex Jr. and Erik Jones--on Friday after discovering the front fenders of the Camrys had been altered with Bondo—an automotive body filler. The teams of Busch, Hamlin and Bell then attempted to alter the shape of the noses with extra-thick decals.
According to the penalty report, the Toyotas failed Sections 20.20 Assembled Vehicle Overall Rules; 20.4 Body; 20.4.2 Surface Conformance. The teams were docked 10 NASCAR Cup driver and owner points.
After NASCAR canceled qualifying on Saturday due to run, Kyle Busch was slotted to roll off first on Sunday based on points from 2019. Now, he’ll drop to the rear with Hamlin and Bell.
“I think I knocked the wall down about lap 11 last time here starting in the middle of the pack,” Busch said. “Maybe I’ll just start half a lap down and be clean air and run the pack down and catch them and blow by them one at a time, I don’t know. I’ll strategize that overnight.”
Busch won this race in 2009. However, the driver of the No. 18 Snickers White Toyota wasn’t happy with how his car performed in practice. He ran 28th in single-lap runs in Happy Hour and was 15th in Best 10 Consecutive Lap Averages.
“It is kind of concerning,” Busch said. “We rolled out there first in final practice and I was wide open for 15, 16 straight laps. 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, too.”
NASCAR Cup drivers were up on the chip during Friday’s practice. Not only was there ample pack racing, in the closing laps cars were crossing the start/finish three and four-wide.
“Everybody is trying to get a sense of how these cars drive in traffic," Busch said. "It’s smart, actually. The Trucks kind of do the same thing sometimes where they’ll all practice single-file and get their stuff tuned in and where it feels good and then you’ll try to get back out there and try to get into a pack of trucks – two, three or however many you can get into and see how your stuff drives in traffic. That’s what a lot of guys were doing. We did the same thing.
"We were out front for the start of final practice by ourselves, car drove pretty good, came in and made a couple changes to it and went back out and tried to find a group of traffic every time after that and just found out how bad traffic was for us. It’s a good sense of what do you need to do to work on to make your car good for the race because when you’re by yourself, it’s not even close to the situations you’ll have for most of the race.”