Jimmie Johnson's team hit with 25-point penalty, six-race ban for Knaus
By: NASCAR Wire Service, Superior Telegram
Jimmie Johnson's campaign for a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship will start in an unfamiliar place -- in the red.
NASCAR docked Johnson's team 25 points Wednesday for illegal modifications to the No. 48 Chevrolet before qualifying for the season-opening Daytona 500. The sanctioning body also suspended crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec for six races and slapped Knaus with a $100,000 fine.
Johnson finished 42nd at Daytona, earning just two points after a second-lap crash brought an early end to his night. The penalty, which also includes a 25-point penalty for team co-owner Jeff Gordon, leaves Johnson at minus-23 heading to the series' next race, Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.
Before the opening practice of Daytona's Speedweeks on Feb. 17, NASCAR confiscated the No. 48 car's C-posts, the bodywork that connects the roof to the rear quarter-panel. Officials determined that the bodywork measurements were too far "out of tolerance" to fit inspection templates.
Hendrick Motorsports promptly announced Wednesday afternoon that it plans to appeal the penalty.
"Our organization respects NASCAR and the way the sanctioning body governs our sport," said team owner Rick Hendrick. "In this case, though, the system broke down, and we will voice our concerns through the appeal process."
It isn't the first time the Hendrick Motorsports team has been hit hard by penalties at the season's first race. Knaus was suspended for the first four races and fined $25,000 for making illegal adjustments to his car's rear window before the 2006 Daytona 500, a race Johnson won with Darian Grubb calling the shots as a fill-in crew chief.
It also isn't the first time a high-profile Sprint Cup team has started with negative points. Michael Waltrip Racing's much-anticipated debut at the 2007 Daytona 500 was tainted by a fuel-tampering violation that resulted in a 100-point penalty, a $100,000 fine and indefinite suspensions for two team officials.