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Knaus, car chief suspended; will work through appeal

March 01, 2012, David Caraviello,

Knaus, No. 48 car chief hit with six-race suspensions; will work through appeal

Jimmie Johnson will head to Phoenix International Raceway with a negative point total after NASCAR dropped a massive penalty on the No. 48 team Wednesday that also includes six-race suspensions to the program's crew chief and car chief.

"We will voice our concerns through the appeal process."


NASCAR penalized Johnson 25 points for modifications to car body pieces that it deemed illegal Feb. 17 in opening inspection for the Daytona 500. In addition, crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec have each been suspended from the next six Sprint Cup events, and Knaus also was fined $100,000. Johnson's team, Hendrick Motorsports, immediately announced it would appeal the penalty, and planned no personnel modifications for Phoenix -- meaning that Knaus and Malec would work until the appeal is held.

"Our organization respects NASCAR and the way the sanctioning body governs our sport," car owner Rick Hendrick said in a statement. "In this case, though, the system broke down, and we will voice our concerns through the appeal process."

Johnson crashed in the opening laps of Monday night's season-opening Daytona 500 (watch), and finished the event with only two points. The point penalty, which unlike the suspensions goes into effect immediately despite the appeal, means Johnson will go to Phoenix with negative-23 points in the Sprint Cup standings, and be 70 points behind series leader Matt Kenseth (Standings).

According to NASCAR, the key rule the No. 48 team was found to be in violation of was Section 20-2.1E -- unapproved car body modifications, specifically any part of the car modified to enhance aerodynamic performance.

* 48 car violations according to the NASCAR rule book

Inspectors found issue with the car's C pillars, the posts that connect the roof to the rear deck lid, which they deemed had been illegally modified. The posts were cut from the vehicle and confiscated by NASCAR, while Hendrick flew in new car parts that were welded on so the car could go through inspection again the next day, when it passed.

"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 when the violation was discovered. "So they were removed from the car."

It was not the first time that Knaus had run afoul of NASCAR at Daytona. He was ejected from Speedweeks -- and suspended for the following three Cup 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.

Check out Johnson's highlights from the Daytona 500 and Speedweeks: