Chad Knaus on NASCAR penalty: 'We didn't expect this'
By: By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, Superior Telegram
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Chad Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson, said he was surprised at the severity of the penalties NASCAR levied on his team on Wednesday.
Furthermore, Knaus was surprised the "C" Posts on the No. 48 Chevrolet he brought to Daytona caused the car to fail inspection in the first place. After all, according to Knaus, cars with "C" Posts in the same configuration had gotten through the inspection process before.
"Multiple times," Knaus told reporters Friday at Phoenix International Raceway during a question-and-answer session behind the No. 48 transporter.
Knaus was fined $100,000 and suspended for six weeks. Car chief Ron Malec also drew a six-week suspension. Johnson and car-owner-of-record Jeff Gordon were docked 25 points each, putting Johnson 23 points to the negative heading to Phoenix after a Lap 2 crash and a 42nd-place finish in the Daytona 500.
"Really didn't expect any of it, to be quite honest with you," Knaus said. "We do everything we can to bring the best racecars we possibly can to the racetrack. That's what we do. Unfortunately, they didn't like something, and we have to address that. It definitely was not foreseen."
Hendrick Motorsports, which fields Johnson's cars, is appealing the penalties. Knaus said the No. 48 car had not even gone through the inspection line before NASCAR rejected the "C" Posts, saying they were flared in such a manner as to give the car an aerodynamic advantage by taking air off the rear spoiler.
"It was all visual," Knaus said. "The templates were never actually put on the car. We never even got the opportunity to actually present that under templates. It's unfortunate. There is a bit of subjectiveness to it, and that is why we are going through the appeal."
In talking about the offending parts, which were discovered on Feb. 17 as cars were going through opening-day inspection at Daytona, Sprint Cup Series director John Darby indicated the body modifications of the No. 48 car constituted work between the templates, the so-called "golden area" of the car.
Knaus drew a six-week suspension and a fine in 2007 for another golden-area violation involving a 10-inch area of the front fenders not covered by NASCAR's templates.
Asked whether the Daytona infraction involved work in a forbidden zone, Knaus replied, "We are just going to have to wait and see how this all comes to fruition from the appeal."
If Knaus was surprised by the severity of the sanctions, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin wasn't.
"I think NASCAR does not like the wool to be pulled over their eyes," Hamlin said Friday at Phoenix. "I feel like that possibly could have happened at Talladega last year (at the most recent superspeedway race before Daytona), and so it was the first real opportunity to inspect things pretty closely."
Knaus wouldn't speculate on the prospects of having the penalties reduced or overturned on appeal to the National Stock Car Racing Commission, the date for which has not been set. Pending the appeal, both Knaus and Malec are allowed to perform their duties at the racetrack.
"We're very fortunate to have this ability to go through the appeal process," Knaus said. " . . . It's unfortunate that teams have to take advantage of the appeal process from time to time, but it's good that it's there.
"We have seen some things changed, reversed, minimized and maximized at different times. Hopefully, we will get it going in our favor."