By admin | May 6, 2013
By Richard Allen
Last year in preparation for the Daytona 500, the No. 48 team of Jimmie Johnson was caught with what NASCAR inspectors called unapproved modifications to the C-posts of their Chevrolet. Series officials came down hardÂ by levying a 25 point penalty for the driver and car owner(Hendrick Motorsports/Jeff Gordon) as well as a $100,000 fineÂ on crew chief Chad Knaus. Also,Â six week suspensions were handed down for Knaus and car chief Ron Malec.
However, the team went through the appeals process by arguing that the so-called infraction was actually not specifically addressed in the rule book. Thus, they argued, the modifications fit into the mysterious ‘gray area’ that lies somewhere outside the black and white written codes. ButÂ a three-member appeals commission did not see things Hendrick’s way and upheld the punishment.
The NASCAR appeals process allows for one more step. The sanctioning body’s ChiefÂ Appellate Officer can hear the case and rule on the penalties in whatever way he sees fit. Former General Motors executive John Middlebrook holds that position.
When the Johnson/Knaus case came to Middlebrook, he decided to overturn the two most crucial elements of the initial penalty. The suspensions of Knaus and Malec were lifted and the points reduction against the driver and team were taken away. The fine on Knaus was left in place in a seemingly two-sided ruling.
Now, Middlebrook appears to have a similar situation in front of him.
During a pre-race inspection for the Sprint Cup race at the Texas Motor Speedway, the Penske Racing cars for drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano were found to have unapproved rear suspension components. Specifically, the rear end housing of those cars allowed for a “skew” and was called into question.
NASCAR vice-president of competition Robin Pemberton said thatÂ inspectors confiscated a group of pieces that surround the rear suspension. “It’s something that’s not in the spirit of the rules,” he declared of the components.
The phrasing “spirit of the rules” seems to indicate that NASCAR and Middlebrook have found themselves on the same slippery slope as in the Johnson/Knaus case. Again, it appears as if the Chief Appellate Officer will hear and decide on a situation in which an offending part, or parts, is not specifically addressed in the rule book but did not meet the liking of the technical inspectors in the garage area at TMS.
So, will Middlebrook make the same ruling as he did with the Hendrick Motorsports team? When that judgement was handed down, there was no shortage of critics who claimed that favoritism was being played between two men with General Motors ties- Rick Hendrick and John Middlebrook.
This time, the car to have failed was a Ford. And further, Keselowski had been quite outspoken regarding the “skew” of the Hendrick cars just before his own machine was ruled against.
Middlebrook will hear the caseÂ regarding the Penske infractions on Tuesday, May 7th.
Should the CAO rule against the team and in favor of NASCAR on this occasion, it will surely stir up controversy among those who accused him of playing favorites for Hendrick earlier. Should he rule in favor of the team and against NASCAR, it will surely cause some to question the sanctioning body’s rules and inspection process.
Either way, it ought to be interesting. And it would seem to be a no lose situation for NASCAR bloggers.
Topics: Articles |