The Hendrick Organization Play their Cards & Win

Rick Hendrick held his cards close to his vest
throughout the Appeal process

There are a lot of smiles at the Hendrick organization and from the fans of the 48 Team. Hendrick and Knaus have played their cards perfectly within the appeal process and apparently within the NASCAR organization. 

The wild card mentioned in yesterday’s blog , did indeed surprise many on Tuesday, March 20th when National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer, John Middlebrook, reduced the Daytona penalties after presentations from the Hendrick organization and NASCAR. 

Gone are the 25 point penalties to driver, Jimmie Johnson and owner, Jeff Gordon. Johnson who was 17th in the point standings is now 11th, only 36 points away from the points leader Greg Biffle. 

Gone are the six-week suspensions for crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec.  Although both will remain on NASCAR probation until May 9, 2012.

Equally surprising, however, the $100,000 fine for Chad Knaus remains. 

The fine to Chad Knaus creates many questions following the unexpected decision by Middlebrook.  However, the questions leave no answers because Middlebrook has not yet provided an explanation for his decision. So many are left with piecing together the comments from both sides. 

Yesterday’s blog mentions the Ace up Hendrick’s sleeve being their knowledge of Middlebrook’s record of appeals since taking his position in 2010. In all of the appeals he’s heard, his decisions have reduced the penalties with only one involving a points penalty which he did not reduce. Yesterday’s blog also acknowledges there may be some unknowns that could put a wild card into play on the final day of this particular appeal. 

Rick Hendrick said his company brought with them “about 20 photos” and “10-15 pages” of detailed documentation used in their presentation to the Chief Appellate Officer. Included in their documentation were three affidavits which are key to the Hendrick defense and reveals some contradiction within the officials network of NASCAR.  

Hendrick says one of those affidavits gives permission for them to work within the gray area of the template used by NASCAR in their inspection process. The gray area in this case is the surface of the car that does not touch the template.  

This particular affidavit directly contradicts previous statements from series director John Darby. Last month, Darby said that teams know they can’t mess with the areas outside of the templates. “Since the inception of the new car, the templates are a guide that we use in the field. The difference between this car and the old car, all of the teams have been given (rules for) the entire surface of the car. In the old days, teams used to work in between the templates and that all stopped in 2007 and that’s ultimately where the violation of this one lies.”

The most obvious question with this new information – which official signed that affidavit telling Chad Knaus he had permission to do something that is specifically outside the stated rules provided to every other team within NASCAR? 

That affidavit gives Chad Knaus the golden ticket to work outside of NASCAR’s stated rules. That’s exactly why Hendrick kept his cards so close to his vest and didn’t want to give details of their defense strategy. That affidavit gives Hendrick exactly what NASCAR was trying to prevent – an unfair advantage over every other team in the garage. 

So there you have it – Chad Knaus knowingly out-foxed the officials network within the NASCAR organization and in the process, created the advantage for his team. Fair or unfair…it appears, he meticulously worked within the officials network to weave his web for success.  

The next question on everyone’s mind – How will NASCAR respond?

Yesterday, Kerry Tharp of NASCAR said, “We think the process speaks for itself, and we think it’s a good, fair process. I think there is still evidence that there was a rules infraction. The $100,000 fine is intact, so there was a rules infraction committed.” 

Tharp continued, “I think we take on the responsibility of regulating that garage, and we take that very, very seriously. The ability for us to regulate the sport is paramount. We’ve got to be able to do that, and we will continue to do that, and we think the sport is better off for it.”

Well Mr. Tharp, the sponsors, owners, drivers, crews and fans of all the other teams within NASCAR expect every single official to take that responsibility seriously as well. There is some strong evidence here that more than one official let us and NASCAR as an organization down. 

There’s little doubt, there will be more response from the executives at NASCAR in the days to come. And as said before, time has it’s way of revealing the rest of this on-going story.