By admin | December 12, 2012
By Richard Allen
Prior to qualifying for the 2012 Daytona 500, NASCAR officials announced that they did not like the look of Jimmie Johnson’s #48 car and had required his team to replace one of the body pieces that seemed to have been “massaged” a bit more than they would have liked. The offending part, known as the C-post, was replaced and the car was then approved for competition.
The C-posts are the body pieces that extend down from the roof of the car to the rear quarter panels.
Although the car was approved to race after the change, NASCAR intended to issue penalties to the Hendrick Motorsports team for the “violation” on the car. Granted, there was no template at the time for that particular piece, but the sanctioning body believed there had been intent on the team’s part to get an unfair aerodynamic advantage over the competition.
As a result, the Daytona Beach, Florida based organization levied strong sanctions against HMS, driver Jimmie Johnson, car chief Ron Malec, and perhaps most significantly, crew chief Chad Knaus. A reduction of 25 points was handed down against the team and driver and a fine of $100,000 was issued to Knaus. Additionally, Knaus and Malec were to be suspended for six races.
HMS immediately announced they would appeal the stiff sanctions, and thus, keep Knaus and Malec on the job until that appeal could be heard. Finally, on March 20th, NASCAR Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook overturned the points reductions and the suspensions.
Strangely, the $100,000 to Knaus was left in place.
Immediately, cries of a conspiracy rang out from fans and even some media members. Middlebrook had been a former executive with General Motors and was believed to have a longstanding friendship with HMS team owner Rick Hendrick. Of course, HMS uses GM(Chevrolet) cars.
It was difficult to ignore those cries as Middlebrook’s ruling seemed rather odd at the least and contrived at the worst. Either there had been an infraction or there hadn’t. Why leave the fine in place when the rest of the initial penalties were taken away?
In the end, many came to see the ruling as an instance in which a repeat offender, Knaus, had gotten away with breaking the rules because of his ties to powerful Hendrick Motorsports. Others saw it as an example of the ambiguity in the sanctioning body’s rule book and a rightful decision based on that lack of clarity.
Either way, Chad Knaus came very close to being suspended for six weeks as Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief but ultimately did not have to serve that penalty. Johnson went on to qualify for the Chase for the Championship but lost out in a close battle with Brad Keselowski after mechanical issues in the season finale at Homestead ended all hopes of a sixth Sprint Cup title.
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