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Head2Head: Does No. 48 team need to win appeal?

March 14, 2012, ,

After being hit with a penalty that included a 25-point deduction in driver and owner points and a six-week suspension to crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec for an illegally modified C-pillar on the No. 48 team's Daytona 500 car, Hendrick Motorsports went before the appeals board for an opportunity to explain what happened and to get the penalty overturned. NASCAR's ruling was upheld Tuesday, but owner Rick Hendrick will have one final appeal to the chief appellate officer.

Does Jimmie Johnson need to win appeal to have chance at title?


If Jimmie Johnson is to have any realistic chance at his sixth Cup Series championship, the appeal of his Daytona punishment will need to end up as a victory for the No. 48 team.

Make no mistake, Johnson has been on a nice tear the past two weeks thanks to consecutive top-fives at Phoenix and Las Vegas. Johnson now sits 23rd, 64 points behind leader Greg Biffle and 36 points behind 10th-place Mark Martin -- the cutoff for the Chase. While he has made a huge jump the past two weeks, he is still nearly a full race out of a Chase spot.

And these fantastic runs have come when the team is at full strength. Chad Knaus has been on the box and Ron Malec has overseen every inch of the car. If both of those guys have their suspensions upheld, it could spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E for Johnson. Knaus and Malec are a dream team -- you don't lose those guys for a month-and-a-half at the track and not suffer some.

I know there are those who say I'm crazy. They point to 2006 and 2007, when Knaus was suspended for four races each season and Johnson still went on to win the championship. It sounds miniscule, but there is a big difference between four and six. And the back-up crew chiefs at the time: Darian Grubb and Ron Malec. Not too shabby.

Johnson has survived two of these penalties, but when does his luck run out? Johnson had his worst season last year so there is no guarantee the magic is still there. Will the third suspension be the one the No. 48 just can't overcome? If I'm Johnson, I don't really want to find out.


The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

While Johnson currently sits mired at 23rd in the driver point standings, let's not forget that last Sunday's second-place run in the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway jumped him 14 places.

It certainly will help if he can return the 25 driver points he was docked to the positive side of his ledger by winning his appeal. And it certainly will hurt going forward if the six-week suspensions of crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec are upheld along with the 25-point penalty, all of which were assessed because allegedly illegal modifications were made to Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet prior to Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway.

But this is Five Time we're talking about. The driver who won an unprecedented five consecutive championships from 2005 through 2010 and his No. 48 team always have thrived on adversity.

When someone says he -- or they -- cannot do something, they nearly always have responded with a resounding example of why they can. Even if Knaus and Malec are sidelined for six weeks, the roster at Hendrick Motorsports is deep enough that others will step forward to fill the void.

Whether they win this appeal or not, the No. 48 guys are coming. They are determined to make another strong run at yet another championship, and nothing -- not even a stiff penalty right out of the box -- is going to stop them from getting there to at least contend.

Joe Menzer, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

Knaus missed four races in both 2006 and 2007 due to suspension, but the No. 48 team went on to win the championship each year. But will the third time continue to be the charm? Can the No. 48 team overcome this penalty if it is upheld? Bill Kimm and Joe Menzer debate. Read their thoughts and weigh in with your own in the comments below.