Martin Truex Jr., the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry driver, is headed to Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday to win the Autotraders EchoPark Automotive 500. Doing so would put him in Phoenix's championship race, but now Truex is facing a significant hurdle. The No. 19 team violated a major rule, resulting in a large fine and an ejection.
FOX Sports' Bob Pockrass reported that NASCAR confiscated the No. 19's spoiler after it went through tech. According to NASCAR, the No. 19 team violated a major rule concerning car parts. Section 20.4.12.b in the NASCAR Rule Book states that: "except as specified, spoilers must be used exactly as supplied from the manufacturer."
The No. 19 team violated this rule and received significant punishment in the form of a $35,000 fine, the loss of 20 driver and owner points, and the ejection of crew chief James Small for the race. Car chief Blake Harris will replace him during Sunday's race. In addition to the fines, Truex will have to move to the pack's rear for the pace laps.
Truex was originally sixth in the starting lineup and only 31 points below the cutline for the championship race heading into Sunday's race. The penalty dropped him to 51 points below the cutline, just ahead of Kurt Busch. Now he will have to win on Sunday or next week at Martinsville to reach Phoenix and the season's final race.
The veteran in Truex was not the only driver to move to the rear of the field on Sunday. Daniel Suarez and Chad Finchum both joined him after failing inspection. The two drivers are out of playoff contention and are simply looking for strong performances in the few remaining races.
While Truex will face a penalty, the regular-season champion will lead the field to the green flag. Kevin Harvick, the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang, has the pole position as he looks to reach the championship race and continue his year-long string of success.
Joey Logano, the only driver to secure his spot in the final four, joins Harvick on the front row while the other remaining competitors round out the top eight. Brad Keselowski starts next to Chase Elliott on the second row, which is critical considering that he currently sits just above the cutoff line and will need a strong performance to keep his championship hopes alive.