Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus are off the Hook

By Brian Berg Jr.

The final day of reckoning with NASCAR has arrived.  Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus’s final appeal has been heard and a verdict has been rendered.  The verdict is not guilty sort of.  Huh? What?  Let’s go back some.  Jimmie Johnsons No. 48 NASCAR Sprint Cup car prepared by Crew Chief Chad Knaus was found during the first inspection prior to first practice at Daytona International Speedway for the Daytona 500 to have “C” posts that were improper.  NASCAR officials noted it and told them to fix them to their liking.  Penalties and fines would be assessed after the race, typically this happens on Tuesday but due to the rain delay it happened on Wednesday.  The penalty was 25 driver points, 25 owner points, six race suspensions for Crew Chief Chad Knaus and Car Chief Ron Malec.  There was also a $100,000.00 fine for Chad Knaus.

Regardless of what you think of Jimmie Johnson and/or Chad Knaus the penalties and fines kind of make sense.  Chad Knaus has taken liberties with the NASCAR rule book before so it would only make sense that the penalties would be severe.  Rick Hendrick, the owner of the Team, did not think so and appealed the penalties and fines to NASCAR through their appeal process.  That appeal took place last Tuesday to a panel of independent judges.  Both sides presented their case separately.  The panel of judges upheld the penalties and fines assessed by NASCAR.

NASCAR allows one final appeal which gets heard by NASCAR’s Chief Appellate Officer. That hearing was today almost a full month from the date of the infraction.  Here is the official statement:

On March 20, 2012, the Chief Appellate Officer heard and considered the appeal of the penalties resulting from the #48 Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team.  This stemmed from an opening day inspection for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2012.

The penalties concern Section 12-1 of the NASCAR Rule Book “Actions detrimental to stock car racing;” Section 12-4(J): “Any determination by NASCAR Officials that the Race Equipment used in the Event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the NASCAR Rule Book, or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the Event;” and Section 20-2.1(E): “If in the judgment of NASCAR Officials, any part or component of the car not previously approved by NASCAR that has been installed or modified to enhance aerodynamic performance, will not be permitted: Unapproved car body modifications.”

The results of the appeal hearing were as follows:

– Rescinding the loss of 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Car Owner points (for Jeff Gordon).
– Rescinding the loss of 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Driver points (for Jimmie Johnson).
– Rescinding the six (6) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Events suspension for the Crew Chief (Chad Knaus) and Car Chief (Ron Malec), however both will remain on NASCAR probation until May 9, 2012.
– $100,000 fine remains in place for the Crew Chief (Chad Knaus).

John Middlebrook – Chief Appellate Officer

The only thing that remains is questions.
1. If there was no infraction then why the fine and probation?
2. If it was a minor infraction why couldn’t they simply fix the car without a fine and probation?
3. If the car was truly the way it was after inspection after Jimmie Johnson’s win at Talladega last spring why didn’t NASCAR save face and just have them fix it?
4. If this car was brought back to the NASCAR research center and checked prior to it showing up at Daytona what did they do with it there?

If all of these things are true then it makes perfect sense for Rick Hendrick and Hendrick motorsports to be upset.  The rest of us will probably never know what really was going on but there is definitely enough doubt for there to be some reduction of the penalties.

If you disagree or simply have something to add please “Rant” in the space provided below:

Note the cover picture is the rear window of the No. 48 car after winning at Talladega in April of 2011.

Follow me on Twitter @brian_jr1 for more race analysis.

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