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November 4, 2018

O’Donnell, Knaus discuss errant penalty to No. 48 team

FORT WORTH, Texas — Crew chief Chad Knaus and other Hendrick Motorsports personnel visited the NASCAR hauler following Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway to meet with NASCAR officials after the No. 48 team was mistakenly sent to the rear of the field pre-race for failing inspection.

NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell issued an apology to the No. 48 team and said league officials would work to better the communication in the future.

RELATED: Complete race results

“It’s unacceptable on our part,” O’Donnell said. “There was a communication breakdown that happened right before the start of the race between the ground and race control, where I think there was an assumption there was a third failure. There wasn’t, there were only two. In that case, the 48 (of driver Jimmie Johnson) shouldn’t have started in the back.

“So, at this point, what we can do is put processes in place to fix that so it never happens again. It’s disappointing. It’s not something you can fix during the race, unfortunately. So all we can do is own up to it and fix it.”

Johnson had qualified 23rd for Sunday’s event in the Lone Star State. His No. 48 Chevrolet failed pre-race inspection two times, which calls for a loss of practice time.

NASCAR officials announced over the radio that the No. 48 was to drop to the rear after it was recorded as three failures.

“It’s very difficult,” said Knaus, who was atop the pit box calling the race for Johnson for the 600th time Sunday. “We had some communication with one of our officials. He didn’t think that was the case, so that’s why I kept Jimmie in his position with one lap to go before we took the green flag. At that point, NASCAR was very adamant that we needed to go to the rear. Which, with the information the race director had at that point, we needed to go to the rear.

“So, it was just a miscommunication.”

O’Donnell said by the time they’d realized the mistake, the race already had begun.

“It was written down as a third failure. So, that’s where it broke down,” O’Donnell said. “When it goes out and it’s during the parade laps and there’s a lot going on … we didn’t hear from the team at that point, or maybe we missed it. So, at that point once we recognized in race control a mistake had happened, we already started the race.”

Hendrick Motorsports Vice President of Competition Jeff Andrews and No. 48 team co-owner Jeff Gordon also visited the NASCAR hauler with Knaus, who spoke to the group’s conversation on how to remedy the situation moving forward.

“As an industry, we need to try to figure out a way to make that happen a little bit better,” Knaus said. “(NASCAR is) working on looking into a way to try to make it where we have a direct line of communication.

“NASCAR sees the error and mistake, and they’re going to work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”