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FORT WORTH, Texas – Prior to the start of Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, the No. 48 team failed inspection twice, but passed on the third attempt.

Still, Jimmie Johnson was sent to the rear of the field before Sunday’s green flag.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said after the race that the penalty was a mistake.

“First, you talk to the team and you apologize to the 48 for what happened,” O’Donnell said. “It's unacceptable on our part.”

He described the incident as a “communication breakdown” and reiterated that the rule puts teams that fail inspection three times at the rear of the field, while failing inspection twice doesn’t carry that punishment.

“The 48 shouldn't have started in the back,” he said. “At this point what we can do is put processes in place to fix that so it never happens again.”

Johnson said the No. 48 team was dubious about being sent to the rear, and it turned out the group’s concern was warranted.

But the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion was quick to point out that NASCAR is in a tough spot when everything happens so quickly just prior to the start of a race.

“I don’t think it’s a perfect environment for them to get it right all the time,” the driver said. “Stuff happens.”

On Twitter, Johnson wrote that he appreciated O’Donnell’s “honesty and apology.”

Because of the early adversity, No. 48 team crew chief Chad Knaus was even more pleased with the hard work the entire team put in to battle back for a 15th-place finish.

“I’m really proud of the guys on the 48 team,” he said. “We came back strong. We had another penalty later, a spin on the racetrack and still finished reasonably well.”

Now, the team’s focus is on the next race on the schedule, this weekend at ISM Raceway.

And O’Donnell said he has assured the No. 48 team that NASCAR is looking into “any and all things we can put into place” to ensure such a mistake doesn’t occur in the future.

“It’s disappointing,” O’Donnell said. “All we can do is own up to it and fix it.”