NASCAR announced Tuesday they have suspended
Chad Knaus, crew chief on Jimmie Johnsonís Daytona 500
winning team, for an additional three races for an illegal
modification found on the no. 48 Loweís Chevrolet following
qualifying on Feb. 12.
The team was not docked any points, and will
retain the points lead going into this Sundayís race at Fontana,
Hendrick Motorsports, owner of Johnsonís car,
said they would not appeal the penalty.
And why should they?
The penalty, while consistent with similar
punishments NASCAR has handed out in the past, is seen by many
as nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
On the other side of the coin, NASCAR also announced a penalty
against the Terry Labonteís no. 96 team, which was caught using
an unapproved carburetor on their car during qualifying.
NASCAR took away 25 points from the no. 96 team and fined crew
chief Philippe Lopez $25,000, all for a technical infraction
they had no part in Ė Joe Gibbs Racing supplies the engines to
the team, and they were responsible for the illegal part.
Unfair? NASCAR doesnít seem to think so. As far as the
sanctioning body is concerned, not having their crew chief
around is punishment enough for Johnsonís team.
Sure, not having Knaus at the track could have a negative
effect on the team psychologically, but as far as day-to-day
operations, itíll be business as usual.
The penalty doesnít prevent Knaus from going to the race shop
and prepping the cars for this weekend. The penalty doesnít even
forbid him from going to California. He just canít be at the
But he doesnít have to.
Computer telemetry, radio link-ups, real-time scoring Ė thanks
to the wonders of technology, Knaus doesnít even need to be at
the racetrack, he can get it all while sitting on his sofa at
Donít believe it? Try it yourself Ė itís available at NASCARís
official website. Itís called ďTrackpassĒ, and with it, anyone
can be an armchair crew chief.
Considering the effort NASCAR puts forth to police cheating, the
punishment doesnít fit the crime, especially considering the
fact this isnít the first time Knaus has thumbed his nose at the
Since becoming crew chief on the no. 48 car, Knaus has been
penalized by NASCAR six times and has been fined over $93,000.
Besides their Daytona 500 win, two of Johnsonís victories last
season were also clouded by controversy.
In March of last year, Knaus was fined $35,000 and suspended for
two races and the team was docked 25 points after their car was
found to be too low in post race inspection following Johnsonís
victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Knausí suspension was
successfully appealed, but the fine and points penalty stood.
Then, last September at Dover, Johnsonís winning car was found
to have some modifications made to the shock absorbers.
Johnsonís win stood, and no penalty was assessed, but NASCAR
re-wrote the rules to prevent such tampering in the future.
While Knausí rap sheet is longer than most, there have been
several blatant examples of cheating that have been discovered
over the years as team get more inventive, turning the act of
cheating into almost an art form.
As the famous expression among NASCAR teams go Ė ďItís our job
to cheat Ė itís their job to catch us.Ē
But NASCAR contends that the penalties they assess are supposed
to deter competitors from trying to cheat to gain an advantage.
Clearly, Knaus has not gotten the message.
And unless the penalties for cheating come with sharper teeth,
he never will.
Officials went over Johnsonís car with a fine-toothed comb
following the race Ė the car was found to be legit and therefore
so is the victory, but Johnson should never have been allowed to
race that car to begin with; NASCAR should have confiscated the
car as soon as the infraction was found and forced Johnson to
use his back-up car.
And a $25,000 fine? Chicken scratch for a team that just
pocketed well over $1 million for winning the Daytona 500.
Hendrick Motorsports probably spent more than that on food and
lodging for the team during Speedweeks.
NASCAR needs to penalize teams where is hurts Ė in the point
standings. $25,000 wonít amount to a hill of beans when it comes
down to the final race of the season.
But taking away points might.
And is 25 points really enough when it comes to blatant
cheating? 25 points might be OK if itís a technical infraction
like Labonteís Ė an unapproved part or a part that was
But when a part is machined or built specifically to circumvent
the rules, perhaps a harsher punishment like 200 or even 500
points, virtually eliminating a team from championship
Maybe then, teams will listen.
Until then, itís their job to cheat, and NASCARís job to catch
them, but when the penalty doesnít fit the crime, who is really
going to be afraid of getting caught?
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