After Jimmie Johnson’s best run of 2020, NASCAR disqualified the seven-time champion's No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the wee hours of Monday following post-race inspection at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Johnson qualified second, led six laps and maintained a presence at the front of the field throughout the night.
He crossed the line second, but during a trip through the optical scanning station, inspectors discovered alignment issues in the rear of the car. Johnson was scored 40th.
“The failure was rear alignment,” said NASCAR Cup Series managing director Jay Fabian. “It's the same thing that we check at least a handful of cars for post‑race after every event. I can't really give specifics on the numbers.
“There is a pre‑race number and a post‑race number that does give a pretty decent tolerance. It was outside of those post‑race numbers.”
Johnson set a torrid pace early in qualifying and sat on the provisional pole for most of Sunday's session until Kurt Busch topped the seven-time champion. Still, Johnson—along with teammates Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott and William Byron--showed speed throughout the contest, something Hendrick Motorsports has lacked over the last few years.
“I’m very proud of my team, very proud of everybody on this Ally Chevrolet,” Johnson said in his post-race interview. “Second is OK – I’m very proud of the effort we’re putting in. But second, stinks. It’s tough being this close to victory lane, but we’re knocking on the door and we’ll get there.”
Bowman led a race-high 164 laps on Sunday night. His 318 laps led in the first seven races of 2020 are more than he amassed in any previous year of Cup competition. Elliott led 38 laps at Charlotte and was en route to the win before Byron spun as the No. 9 Chevrolet approached the start/finish line to complete Lap 398 of a scheduled 400.
And Johnson, who is in his final season of full-time Cup competition, led early in the Coke 600 and took the point again in the last stage after the No. 48 pit crew completed a solid stop with 49 laps remaining. Initially, Johnson scored a season-best second-place finish, and his best since winning the 13th race of 2017 at Dover, before NASCAR disqualified his run.
“Disappointed about our post-race OSS,” tweeted crew chief Cliff Daniels. “We think something must've broken but won't know until we get it back to the shop tomorrow and can diagnose.
“Tough news after a strong night. This team is getting stronger. We are focused forward. We’ll be back Wednesday with another great car.”
Fabian added that Hendrick has the right to appeal the infraction, despite the necessity for teams and NASCAR to prepare for Wednesday night’s Cup return at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“They do have a standard right to appeal, just like any penalty,” Fabian said. “I would have to follow up…with the rule book to see exactly when that deadline is because it's 2 in the morning eastern time. I would have to verify when that appeal deadline is.
“The 48 ran strong tonight all night. I hate it for them. They had a good car, performed well. But, yeah, the allowance is built in for parts that move. There's an allowance for that. But if parts break, you know, the number is the number. There is no real parameter outside of that.”
Brad Keselowski won the Coca-Cola 600. Johnson dropped from 12th to 15th in the standings following the infraction. His losing streak was extended to 102 races.