The Car You Didn’t See at the “Big T”

My pathetic attempt to rhyme there.  I had been wondering why Ricky Stenhouse didn’t make the race at Talladega last weekend…which is a shame because he had a nice paint scheme.  Now NASCAR has explained the situation to us.

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Source: www.nascar.com

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Changes to NASCAR’s qualifying format for the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway produced a number of surprises, not the least of which was the failure of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to earn a starting berth in the 43-car field.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver was one of three that failed to earn a starting position based on his qualifying speed — Justin Allgaier and Reed Sorenson also failed to post times fast enough to crack the top 36 here Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Sorenson (Tommy Baldwin Racing), 36th fastest in the opening round, was eventually added to the lineup after Joe Nemechek‘s No. 29 Toyota failed post-qualifying inspection.

“I didn’t consider the fact that our position in points would leave us in jeopardy,” Roush Fenway Racing co-owner Jack Roush said afterward. “That was a blind side on my part. It’s unfortunate we weren’t in a better place in points, and that we had as many good cars as we did that didn’t qualify based on time. It’s just unbelievable that we didn’t get on the race track in time to get a lap there.”

Stenhouse has made 72 starts in Sprint Cup competition, including 67 in a row since moving up to the series full time a year ago. He made five starts between 2011-12 while winning back-to-back championships in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series.

His team’s DNQ was the result of several things, from Saturday’s slow qualifying speed to his team’s position in the owner points standings.

During the first round, Stenhouse posted a speed of 176.947 mph, just 43rd overall for the round. While unfortunate, under normal circumstances, he would have been one of several slotted into the field in one of the seven remaining positions available based on owner points.

But because seven drivers higher in owner points failed to crack the top 36 (Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson and Jeff Gordon), Stenhouse Jr. wasn’t able to secure one of those starting spots.

NASCAR determines its 43-car lineup based on the following: positions 1-36 are awarded based solely on lap times. Positions 37-43 are awarded based on a team’s rank in the owner standings, and assigned positions based on their lap times. (If a former champion fails to post a speed in the top 36, he may be assigned the 43rd position, if his team isn’t high enough in the owners’ points standings to receive one of those berths.)

NASCAR made changes to the qualifying format for Talladega, with teams split into two groups for the first round, and limiting the time of the round to five minutes. The latter change meant teams would likely get one opportunity to post a qualifying run with no time to return to pit road, allow their cars to cool and return to the track should it be necessary.

Stenhouse was last in line in a group of cars that included Gordon and Harvick making their qualifying laps in the first round. But when Gordon slowed (to create a gap between his group and another group ahead of the pack), it slowed those behind him. Because they didn’t get back to the start/finish line in time, they were unable to post another lap.

“I thought being the last car in line would be beneficial for us,” Stenhouse said. “We had Jeff Gordon leading the pack there; I thought we would have a good shot at putting a good lap in, but my spotter was telling me ‘‘hey, you have 30 seconds to get across the start/finish line’ as we were entering Turn 3.

“I don’t guess the 24’s (spotter) was giving him a lot of information. He kept slowing the pack down and we didn’t get a good lap and never got across the start/finish line in time.

“My spotter was giving me the information I needed and I wish the 24 would have been doing the same.”

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I don’t recall the last time a Roush car didn’t make a race.

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