News & Media


Violation found on No. 48; Knaus faces penalty

February 18, 2012, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Jimmie Johnson's crew chief is facing potential penalties after body pieces on his Daytona 500 car were confiscated by NASCAR officials Friday in initial inspection for next weekend's season-opening event.

NASCAR officials said the No. 48 car's C pillars -- the posts that connect the roof to the rear-deck lid, in between the side and rear windows -- were found to be illegally modified, and removed from the vehicle. Hendrick Motorsports was flying replacement pieces down Friday afternoon from team's headquarters in North Carolina, with plans to weld them onto the car and go back through inspection again, likely Saturday.

"We allow crew chiefs to make decisions on parts of the car that they think will work. We trust that they'll make the right decision, and obviously in this case, they didn't."

--KEN HOWES

* Video: 48 team makes changes to Daytona 500 car

"There were some obvious modifications that the inspectors picked up on, and did some additional inspections with some gauges and stuff, and found that they were just too far out of tolerance to fix," Sprint Cup director John Darby said. "So they were removed from the car."

NASCAR won't determine any punishment for the violation until officials return to North Carolina following next weekend's Daytona 500. But Chad Knaus, crew chief on the No. 48 car, is clearly facing penalties.

"We'll go back, we'll review it, and we've been known to have reactions," series spokesman Kerry Tharp said.

The other three Hendrick cars -- those of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne -- passed inspection, Darby said. Since the violations were found on Johnson's Daytona 500 car, the infractions did not impact his participation in Budweiser Shootout practice later Friday, the first time NASCAR vehicles were on the track in these Speedweeks. Top teams like the No. 48 use a different car for that opening exhibition, which is slated for Saturday night.

"The car obviously failed inspection, and NASCAR have directed us how they want it fixed, and we're busy doing that," said Ken Howes, Hendrick's vice president for competition. "We're waiting on some parts to arrive, and we'll put it back together and run it back through inspection again."

Knaus, who was working inside a Hendrick hauler Friday afternoon and could not be located for comment, has dealt with inspection issues at Daytona before. He was ejected from Speedweeks -- and suspended for the following three events -- in 2006, after Johnson's car failed post-qualifying inspection because of a modification in the rear window area. He was later fined $25,000, although Johnson went on to win the Daytona 500 and again two weeks later at Las Vegas.

Howes admitted that modifications to any body areas can result in a vehicle gaining an aerodynamic advantage, particularly on a restrictor-plate track like Daytona where it's so crucial for a car to cut through the air. All teams work to find an edge in that department, he added, and the No. 48 just pushed it too far.

"We allow crew chiefs to make decisions on parts of the car that they think will work," Howes said. "... We trust that they'll make the right decision, and obviously in this case, they didn't."