Kyle Larson and crew chief Chad Johnston did not understand the one-lap penalty they received at Charlotte.
Larson finished 13th and advanced into the Round of 12, but may have had a car capable of challenging up front if given a chance. After winning Stage 1 of the Bank of America Roval 400, the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing team was penalized for pitting outside the box. Larson had to come back down pit road and sit in his pit stall as the rest of the field ran the 2.28-mile course without him.
NASCAR officials called the penalty because Larson was leaving his stall and was already over the designated line of his pit box while a crew member was still touching the front of his Chevrolet.
“I guess I need to go back and look at the rules,” Johnston told RACER. “Obviously, they should know the rules better than I do. We didn’t remove equipment, but I need to get more clarification on a situation like adding or removing tape and if a crew member crosses the line, which seems to happen. I’ll just have to freshen up and see what that rule is no matter what. He bounced back and did a good job and obviously not the day we wanted, but we lost the battle and won the war type thing.”
Larson was as equally surprised by the call.
“I saw that I drug the pit crew guy out of the box, I didn’t really know that was a penalty,” Larson said. “I just almost hurt him, so I thought that’s enough of a penalty. A one-lap penalty sucks. I guess at least it happened on a road course where not a lot of people are going a lap down, and I could get the lucky dog at the next caution. But yeah, it’s a pretty stiff penalty for something very minor.”
Larson did get the free pass under the caution on Lap 43, but was never able to regain the lost ground.
“It changed everything,” Johnston said of the penalty. “It changes your approach. You end up sacrificing stage points and then end up with no track position at the beginning at Stage 3, which is not what you want with 59 laps to go. So it pretty much changed everything.
“We had a good first stage and got stage points and could have got a handful of stage points there in the second one and had decent track position for the final one, and ended up giving it all away.”
While disappointed in his finish with a fast car, Larson understood his team was trying to be cautious at the end of the race as they stayed out on older tires trying to remain ahead of “the craziness that was getting ready to happen.” The good news is Larson is onto the second round of the postseason and feels his team will continue to be contenders.
“We didn’t make any mistakes, we had two top-10s out of three races and pretty comfortably made it,” Larson said. “You may be able to even do that in the next round, but once you get in the third round, you got to start winning.”
Johnston was optimistic – to a point – of his team’s outlook for the upcoming races.
“Some strong tracks there for us,” Johnston said. “Obviously, Talladega is a toss-up for everybody, but it’s been the one we’ve had the most trouble getting through. We always seem to have something happen at Dover and get wrecked at Talladega and then have to win going into Kansas, and run second there last year. It’s kind of our Achilles heel, so that’ll be our goal to get through.”