LOUDON, N.H. — Kyle Larson has made a habit of flunking NASCAR inspection.
Knocked from the top of the points standings this week because of an inspection failure, Larson was stripped of his pole Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and had his winning time tossed out for yet another infraction. He will start at the rear of the field in Sunday’s Cup race.
Martin Truex Jr. will lead the field to green for the first time this season.
“Not the way we wanted to get our first pole of the year but looking forward to starting up front,” Truex said.
Larson’s time was disallowed because of an unapproved rear deck fin lid. NASCAR said there would be no additional penalties.
He had raced to the top of the field without his suspended crew chief, turning a lap of 133.324 mph to win his fourth pole of the season. Larson’s team was penalized 35 points this week by NASCAR, erasing what had been a one-point advantage over Truex in the driver standings. Crew chief Chad Johnston was suspended for three races because of a rear brake cooling assembly that did not meet standards.
“I wish I could have him on the box on Sunday, but we will be strong these next few weeks,” Larson said.
Team owner Chip Ganassi did not appeal the penalty issued for failing post-race inspection at Kentucky. Tony Lunders served as the interim crew chief.
“I know nothing about race cars,” Larson said. “I don’t honestly know what it was that got us in trouble. Yeah, a big penalty so it must have been something important in their eyes.”
NASCAR’s eyes got bigger at New Hampshire — though Larson did pass pre-qualifying inspection.
Larson also started in the rear because of inspection issues at Kentucky Speedway.
“It’s really cool to get the pole the first week back after the penalty,” he said.
No so fast.
Truex has the pole and the rest of the field moved up a spot. Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and Kasey Kahne completed the top five.
Johnson, the seven-time Cup champion, starts in the top five for the first time this season.
“Well damn, we’re starting second now. I should close my eyes in Q more often,” Johnson tweeted.
Kenseth had a solid round just days after it was announced he would be out at Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the season. Furniture Row Racing driver Erik Jones, who will replace Kenseth, starts seventh. Kyle Busch starts eighth and Denny Hamlin ninth to give JGR three drivers in the top 10.
Kenseth, Busch and Hamlin are again all chasing Truex. Truex has three of wins driving for Furniture Row — which shares a technical alliance with JGR — while the Gibbs drivers remain winless.
“It’s the biggest question of the universe right now, probably, which is why the 78 is outperforming the house cars, so we’re just as confused and disgruntled by it as probably others,” Busch said. “I wish I had a theory. I’ve had probably 10 theories since they’ve joined us and none of them are true, so I’m done with theories.”
With Jones moving on, Furniture Row owner Barney Visser has not decided if it will field two cars next season.
“I know his plans originally were not for this team to be a one-year deal,” Truex said. “We’ll just have to see how it all pans out, but I’ve enjoyed working with Erik. He’s been a good teammate. He’s a great kid. Love talking to him and hearing his point of view and things, so it would have been nice to have him for a couple years.”