News & Media

Knaus responds to team's penalties, suspensions

March 02, 2012, Joe Menzer,

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Chad Knaus, crew chief for the No. 48 Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson, said he was "deeply saddened" -- and surprised -- that the car he helped prepare for the Daytona 500 was found by NASCAR officials to be illegally modified.

Knaus met with the media prior to Friday's practice sessions for this Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. It was the first time he's publicly discussed the penalties he and his team were assessed for the alleged violation.

"I really didn't expect any of this, to be quite honest with you. We do everything we can to build the best possible race cars we can to bring to the race track. That's what we do, and unfortunately they didn't like something and they addressed that. "


"Obviously I'm deeply saddened, of course," Knaus said. "We didn't expect this."

Knaus and Ron Malec, the No. 48 car chief, were each issued a six-week suspension penalty after NASCAR found the "C-posts" in Johnson's car to be illegally modified during a visual inspection in Daytona on Feb. 17, one day prior to the running of the Bud Shootout non-points event and a full nine days before the scheduled running of the Daytona 500. Knaus also was fined $100,000 and the 48 team was docked 25 driver points and 25 owner points.

But Knaus will remain on Johnson's pit box for this Sunday's race, as all of the above is under appeal. Officials from NASCAR said no date has yet been set for the appeals hearing.

Knaus said he looked forward to the appeals process, insisting the car that failed the visual inspection in Daytona was the same one that passed repeated inspections in four previous restrictor-plate races at Daytona and Talladega last season.

"We're very fortunate to have the ability to go through this appeals process that NASCAR put in place a long time ago. I'm glad they did," Knaus said. "It's unfortunate that I have to keep taking advantage of the process from time to time, but it's good that it's there. We've seen some things changed or reversed or even maximized through that process."

Indeed, this is hardly Knaus' first brush with NASCAR over interpretation of rules. In his 11-year career as crew chief, he's won five Sprint Cup championships with Johnson but also has been penalized by NASCAR nine times and suspended three times. He has won one appeal.

Video: Johnson, Gordon, others react to No. 48 penalties

Modification of the C-posts -- the body panel of the car that runs from the rear of the roof to the deck lid -- could result in an aerodynamic advantage. Knaus said he was especially surprised that the penalties were handed down after only a visual inspection.

"It was all visual. The templates were never actually put on the car," Knaus said. "We never even got the opportunity to present that car to the template. So it was unfortunate. There was some subjectivity to it."

Knaus said he respected the inspection processes NASCAR has in place, but that he hoped to make that point during his appeal.

"When we know more details, we'll maybe talk about it more at that point," Knaus said. "NASCAR does a good job. They have a good set of structure, a good set of standards, that provide for a wide set of scenarios.

"I really didn't expect any of this, to be quite honest with you. We do everything we can to build the best possible race cars we can to bring to the race track. That's what we do, and unfortunately they didn't like something and they addressed that. But it definitely was unfortunate and not something we expected at all."

Asked if he thought perhaps NASCAR placed more scrutiny on him because of his checkered past -- both in getting to Victory Lane and in getting in front of the appeals board -- Knaus replied: "I don't know. That's difficult for me to say. You'd have to go ask NASCAR about that."

Knaus said he isn't certain yet who will replace him when and if he loses his appeal and has to serve the six-week suspension. He also admitted that the penalties and Johnson's race-ending wreck on the second lap of the Daytona 500 have put the No. 48 team in a deep but not entirely unusual hole.

"It's not the way we wanted to start the season -- but it's good to have the support of everyone at Hendrick Motorsports," Knaus said. "We're very fortunate at HMS. We've got a lot of depth in the organization. So I'm not really too concerned about that.

"I think it's going to make it exciting, and that's one thing we typically like to do with the 48 team. Somehow or another we seem to get through adversity pretty well. I'm not going to say we like a challenge like this, but I'm pretty sure we'll rise to the occasion."

Johnson's 42nd-place finish in the Daytona 500 after just one completed lap left him technically 49th in the Sprint Cup point standings heading into this Sunday, when there were only 38 drivers entered in the race who have declared themselves eligible to run for this year's Cup championship.

That's because Johnson is at minus-23 points entering the PIR event, placing him at least temporarily behind drivers who ran in the race and didn't even declare themselves eligible for the Cup championship, thereby earning them zero points. The 25 driver and owner points lost through penalty could be returned to him and the No. 48 team if an appeal is won -- but for now, they have been applied to his meager point total. He earned only two Sprint Cup points at Daytona.

So for the time being, Johnson said it's about what's ahead this weekend in Phoenix, not what transpired in Daytona or immediately thereafter. Johnson has had much success at PIR and the driver predicted the team would indeed put the Daytona fiasco squarely in the rear-view mirror.

"I am a leader of this race team along with Chad," Johnson said. "Ron Malec is in charge of the mechanical side and the guys there. We are a very tight unit. ... The good thing is that when you go racing, your focus is solely on the job at hand."