News & Media


Appeal rejection leaves Hendrick with final plea

March 13, 2012, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

CONCORD, N.C. -- Team has one last move and will appeal to chief appellate officer

Rick Hendrick's appeal of penalties levied against his No. 48 team for infractions discovered prior to the Daytona 500 was denied Tuesday, setting up one last-ditch plea to prevent crew chief Chad Knaus from having to sit out six races and driver Jimmie Johnson from losing 25 points.

A three-person group from the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel heard arguments at the NASCAR Research and Development Center involving the penalties levied against the No. 48 team March 1 for alleged body modifications found in initial inspection for the Daytona 500. Officials then deemed that the C-pillars, posts that connect the vehicle's roof to the rear deck lid, did not meet specifications. They confiscated them from the car, and Hendrick Motorsports was forced to fly in new parts that had to be affixed before the Chevy could go back through inspection again.

"It was a lot of conversation [Tuesday], and of course we're disappointed that the outcome was the way it was. But we're going to go ahead to the next level and present our case one last time."

--RICK HENDRICK

For those violations NASCAR eventually docked Johnson 25 championship points, fined Knaus $100,000, and suspended Knaus and car chief Ron Malec each for six Sprint Cup events. Hendrick has argued the car in question had competed in other restrictor-plate races, and passed inspection those weekends without incident.

The appeals panel did not agree, unanimously upholding that part of the car had been modified to increase aerodynamic performance. "The panel heard from both sides," NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said, "and based on those discussions, the panel has unanimously decided to uphold the original penalties that were assessed by NASCAR."

Related: Board upholds penalties to No. 48 team

Clearly, Hendrick did not feel the same way. Why not just accept the penalties? "I don't accept it. Period," he said.

Hendrick said he will now make one final appeal to John Middlebrook, a former General Motors executive who serves as chief appellate officer on the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel. Middlebrook and Hendrick, who fields Chevrolets in NASCAR, have a long relationship. In 2010, Middlebrook reduced a monetary fine and a suspension levied against Clint Bowyer's team at Richard Childress Racing, but upheld a points deduction. Hendrick said Knaus would work this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway pending that appeal, though he was unsure Tuesday when it would be heard.

"I appreciate the process," Hendrick said. "It was a lot of conversation [Tuesday], and of course we're disappointed that the outcome was the way it was. But we're going to go ahead to the next level and present our case one last time. I stand firmly behind our guys, but I do applaud NASCAR in giving us a process that we can present our side of things and try to come to a conclusion. For that, I'm very appreciative of the system that NASCAR has in place. We're just onward and upward. We'll go to Bristol and try to get No. 200, and we'll deal with this when the time comes."

Hendrick's organization has won 199 races at NASCAR's national level. He appeared at the Research and Development Center Tuesday with Ken Howes, the team's vice president of competition. He declined to provide detail about his argument, citing the final appeal yet to come, but at one point a small Hendrick Motorsports transporter did enter through the facility's secured rear gate.

To hear each NASCAR appeal, the appeals panel pulls three members from a 44-person pool of track promoters, former competitors and motorsports experts. The three-person committee that heard Tuesday's appeal was comprised of Leo Mehl, a former executive at Goodyear and the Indy Racing League; Dale Pinilis, operator of Bowman Gray Stadium, a short track in Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Jon Capels, former chairman of the United States Auto Club.

"I think it's a good process, and I'd say these guys were very capable people," Hendrick said. "It's just hard to have someone try to digest everything that you have to digest in this situation. But again, from the days I started in this sport, from what I had to deal with until today, NASCAR has made tremendous strides. None of us want to have to go through this, but sometimes you just disagree, and this is one of those cases."