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Penalties against Knaus and 48 team were too severe

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.

Topics: Articles |

13 Responses to “Penalties against Knaus and 48 team were too severe”

  1. headstone Says:
    March 1st, 2012 at 7:18 am

    when you are a habitual offender finally someone is gonna do something it cheating is the hendricks way from top to bottom.

  2. Bill B Says:
    March 1st, 2012 at 8:13 am

    Ah, but the car did make it to the track, four times last year. So assuming that is what Knaus was trying to hide last year when he told JJ to “back it into the wall if he won” he had a pretty good idea that he didn’t want NASCAR to be able to detect the modifications and he knew that he was very, very far into the gray area.
    BTW, if my memory is correct, NASCAR never got to inspect that Talladega car last year. The reveal of the “back it into the wall” directive did not surface until a day or two after the race.
    I find myself conflicted with the thought that it isn’t possible in this sport to have success unless you continually go as far into the gray areas as you can. If a baseball player finds something that produces the same benefits as steroids but it isn’t being tested for and isn’t specifically banned, does that make it OK?

  3. Russ Says:
    March 1st, 2012 at 8:31 am

    If it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, and if it looks like a duck its probably a duck.

    The point to that nonsense is this: no matter how trendy nascar has gotten since it discovered social media, etc. given the chance it reverts to its natural form. Which is uneven and inconsistent enforcement of the rules and the sport in general.

    The basic problem is that Nascar itself has a dual philosophy. Some bending of the rules is OK, unless we dont like it.

    The only way to stop it is say these are the quidelines, zero tolerance.

    Barring that we will have this again when something “doesnt look right”.

  4. Charles Says:
    March 1st, 2012 at 8:40 am

    I agree that a car that is found to be illegal ‘before the race” should not be fined plan and simple!

    Also have you ever asked yourself.. when car tolerances are so close..that the winner will not ’stand on top of the car” after a win because it could lower it….but is allowed to spin donuts or burnouts …hit the grass tare off spoiliers, blow tires or engines, damage body panels after it wins a race???

    Nascar needs to put more into post race inspection, and if a team takes a chance on bending the rules..then they need to take the race win if infact it does win and points.. away! Something it does not do!

    And if for repeat offenders fines and penalies should be more severe..these crew chiefs and team owners alway look at the ‘cost and benefit’ of it..if they can win races which results in more points..sponsorship..etc and only get a small penalty then so be it!

    The penalty needs to be so severe the the benefit is not worth the chance!

  5. mr clause Says:
    March 1st, 2012 at 9:30 am

    It amazes me that people are attempting to link a “C” pillar to steroids and/or substance abuse.
    According to HMS this car has been through at least four inspections and a certification and nothing was found wrong. Now some inspector eyeballs it and it’s wrong but, never measured.
    HMS declares that the roof line has not been touched since the last inspection and has crew members swearing to that. The fly in that ointment is that the appeals board works for NASCAR and has seldom overturned a penalty. What the MO for them is, make a declaration of an enormous penalty and then reduce it after the appeal is heard, not listened to but, heard.
    This is the type of deal that makes NASCAR look bush league and continues to eat away any credibility. The determination has probably already been decided. It won’t matter what HMS produces to support their claims.

    Hey Brian, it’s 2012, how about having a real rulebook, for a spec car it shouldn’t be that difficult. This “detrimental to the sport” should not have anything to do with race cars. Use that for the drunks and druggies. Build a rule book that is a rulebook and make it available to anyone that wants a copy. Come out in the daylight and act major league.

  6. smoke01 Says:
    March 1st, 2012 at 11:04 am

    This has been compared to the JGR oilpans that truely didn’t see the track and got a fine. So a precedent has been set. NASCAR also said that they would keep tweeking up the punishments for habitual offenders. So..
    Precendent set…fact
    Car has been on the track…fact, according to Mr. H
    48 & Chad have been busted before….fact
    inspectors didn’t like what they saw…opinion, but in rule book

    Based on this I don’t think it looks good for the appeal, I thought the fine was on par, but suprised the suspension wasn’t longer based on past history. One writer mentioned they thought a 3 race suspension for the whole team was appropriate, but I think a 1 race would be a max penatly if history is really in the equation.

  7. Christian Budd Says:
    March 1st, 2012 at 11:10 am

    I don’t know why people think that this issue is any different from the Infineon incident in 2008 (I think) when the 24 and 48 were deemed illegal. They fit the templates, but the fenders were widened between the templates. Nascar has stated time and again that they don’t want the bodies to be messed with, in any way.

    If this car has been to the track four times, well, then that was four times that they 48 and crew got lucky. Luck runs out eventually, and if the car isn’t right, then the car isn’t right.

    As far as not penalizing for pre-race infractions… that is just an open door for teams to try and slip one past the goalie. The standard is correct. Bring it right, or don’t bring it at all. Nascar isn’t there to be playing Mom to a bunch of kids, these guys are adults and professionals and they know the rules (even if no one outside of Nascar does) well enough to make sure their cars are legal.

  8. Sue Rarick Says:
    March 1st, 2012 at 11:22 am

    This calls into question any penalties verified by the R&D center. They use a Romer scan to verify the legality of a car.

    With the #48 in question already passing 4 Romer scans (including after Talledega) and now being declared illegal, how accurate are the Romer scans?

    If they aren’t accurate (how can they be if a certified car is now illegal) can’t every fine verified by the R&D center be called into question. If they failed after being scaned.

    The big question however is can Nascar prove the car was modified since the scan. Or can Hendrick’s prove it wasn’t.

  9. Bill B Says:
    March 1st, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Mr clause,
    I can follow you around on the various websites and ask the same question. I have seen you dismiss my steroids comparison twice without offering any explanation as to why that isn’t a fair analogy, so here we go again…
    PLEASE mrclause (or anybody),
    Enlighten me. Explain to me how my steroids scenario differs. You all want to deal in absolutes - if it fits the templates it’s OK. How is that different then if it isn’t a banned substance it’s OK?

    Go ahead, I dare you!

  10. Russ Says:
    March 1st, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    Lets see if I understand this - the teams build a car, and pay nascar to inspect it and give it their blessing.

    Then they take the car away, and do whatever to it. Bring it to the track, where nascar inspects it again. (added cost I believe)

    Then there is a pre qualifying check I believe.

    After the race they inspect some of the cars again.

    Is it just me or is there something wrong here?

  11. Just Tim Says:
    March 1st, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    I have always wondered if toleerances in NASCAR are so frickin’ important, then why is each team still making their own panels and why is there not one or two suppliers of approved body parts stamping them out. In Late Model racing, the ABC (Approved Bofy Configuration) rulebook is king. You must purchase all body panels from ARP or FiveStar and all body parts must have the ABC sticker intact on the back of each part. NASCAR is strictly a spec body car now, having each team make their own seems senseless…

  12. Offkilter Says:
    March 1st, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    Mr. Clause… Ditto for me

  13. Owen Says:
    March 1st, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    Looks like the 48’s C pillars were on steroids. (good enough analogy for me) Anyone crying here is obviously a Jimmie Johnson fan. Cheat, get busted, pay for the crime, learn from it. Or not, Chad.