|Mike Helton President of NASCAR|
Following rules is a part of every aspect of life. In NASCAR, breaking the rules warrants punishment. Sometimes the punishment is simple with a small fine, a small points penalty and probation. The more severe the infraction, the harder the punishment handed down. The most severe punishment handed down in recent years was handed to the #55 of Michael Waltrip Racing.
During the opening weekend of Speedweeks in February of 2007, Michael Waltrip’s car failed post-qualifying inspection and was found to be in violation of three rules: 12- 4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing), 12-4-Q (car, car parts components and/or equipment not conforming to NASCAR rules) and 20-15.2C (gasoline must not be blended with alcohols, ethers or other oxygenates). The car was impounded and taken by NASCAR to be gone over further at their R&D center. As a result of the infractions, Bobby Kennedy, MWR’s VP of Communication, and David Hyder, the #55 crew chief, were both ejected from Daytona and suspended indefinitely. Hyder was also fined $100,000. Michael Waltrip was docked 100 driver points, his wife Buffy, listed as the owner of the car, was docked 100 owner points, and Waltrip’s qualifying time was disallowed.
|#48 during Daytona opening day inspection|
This year at Daytona, one of the infractions found involved the C-posts on Jimmie Johnson’s #48 car. The issue was discovered during opening day inspections and because this issue was discovered prior to any track time, the team was allowed to make corrections and move forward. No penalties have been announced yet and none are expected to be announced until after the Daytona 500. Rick Hendrick has already said that he will appeal if there are any penalties announced for the team. According to the team, these same posts have passed previous inspections repeatedly without any infractions cited by NASCAR.
This is not the first time that the 48 team has been caught with parts not conforming to the templates. In 2006, the team was found to have infractions involving unapproved modifications to the rear window area of the car during post-qualifying inspection for the Daytona 500. Because the car had track time posted, Chad Knaus, Johnson’s crew chief, was ejected from Daytona, suspended for four races, put on probation until the end of the season, and fined $25,000. The team was not assessed a points penalty for this infraction.
|Chad Knaus, #48 Crew Chief|
One other time the team was caught with a major infraction involving unapproved body modification was in July of 2007 at Sonoma. The front fender on the front of the car was too wide. Johnson was not allowed to practice or qualify the car and had to start at the rear of the field for the race. Knaus was fined $100,000, suspended for the next six races following Sonoma, and placed on probation until the end of the season. Johnson was penalized 100 driver points and his car owner Jeff Gordon was penalized 100 owner points.
Given NASCAR’s history with doling out penalties and fines, I would anticipate that the team could see a points deduction, a monetary fine, and some sort of probation for this latest infraction. Since they didn’t act as they did with other infractions from this team, it seem unlikely there will be any suspensions doled out this time. If this does happen and Hendrick appeals as he has said he will, whether or not it will be overturned is another story. The Appeals committee has a long history of upholding penalties, only reducing a few penalties in recent history but not overturning any.
What do you think should happen to Chad Knaus for this latest infraction?