By admin | February 29, 2012
By Richard Allen
As they promised they would do after the completion of the Daytona 500, NASCAR announced on Wednesday afternoon that it had levied penalties against crew chief Chad Knaus, car chief Ron Malec, driver Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports for body pieces on the #48 car that were found to be outside the sanctioning body’s liking during an inspection at the Daytona International Speedway.
Knaus and Malec were hit with a six week suspension. Also, Knaus was ordered to pay a fine of $100,000. Johnson was docked 25 driver points in the Sprint Cup Series standings and Hendrick Motorsports(Jeff Gordon listed as car owner) lost 25 owner points.
The reason for this stern action was a pair of C-posts that were deemed to have been altered in order to improve the car’s aerodynamics. The C-post is a body piece that extends down from the roof of the car to the rear quarter panels.
Specifically from the NASCAR press release, “The No. 48 car was found to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4J (any determination by NASCAR officials that race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the rule book or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the event); and 20-2.1E (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).”
Two parts of that release seem to be the most open to debate. The section that declares, “any determination by NASCAR officials that race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the rule book or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the event” was called into question by team owner Rick Hendrick immediately after the initial ruling was made.
According to Hendrick, that particular car had been used multiple times last season after having been approved by the NASCAR Tech Center and was no different in Daytona than it had been last year.
However, it must be noted that this is the same car that Knaus was caught on camera during a pre-race chat telling Johnson to bang against the wall in his victory celebration should he win in Talladega.
Also worthy of question is the section that says, “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 very fact that the word judgment is used in this part of the rule book is open to speculation.
The car either fit’s the template or it doesn’t. Judgment should not play a role in this ruling. Apparently this car had fit the templates but the offending parts did not look right to the on-site inspectors and drew further scrutiny.
Shortly after the ‘infractions’ were announced, I wrote a piece questioning whether there should be any penalty at all for a team working in a so called gray area. If it’s not specifically addressed in the rule book(or on the body template) then how can there be a violation? And more, how can points be taken away for something found on a car that never got on the track, and thus, no advantage was ever gained?
I said earlier that this was not an issue worthy of a severe penalty and I am not backing off of that now. Perhaps a fine might have been in order to serve as a warning not to go too far with the modifications but points should have never been taken away, in my opinion. And further, crew chiefs should have some leeway in working on their cars rather than having every minute piece and part handed to them for use as is.
NASCAR spends too much time sapping the sport of the ingenuity it was originally built around.
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