Hendrick defends Knaus, calls NASCAR out UPDATE
Hendrick Motorsports is not satisfied with the process that resulted in Jimmie Johnson’s Daytona 500 car failing inspection, and if a penalty is handed down – as NASCAR president Mike Helton has intimated – team owner Rick Hendrick would appeal.
At issue is how NASCAR deemed Johnson’s car to be “outside of what [its] tolerances are.” NASCAR’s determination Friday that the “C-posts” (the area under repair in the picture to the right) on Johnson’s No. 48 were incorrect came via a visual inspection, not by using a metal template or “claw” placed on top of the car.
This raised a red flag in the Hendrick camp.
“We’re confused. We’re puzzled,” said Ken Howes, Hendrick’s vice president of competition. “Most of the time, we’re comfortable [with the inspection process]. NASCAR works hard; their officials work hard to make things fair – 99.9 percent of the time it works. And every now and then something happens to confuse you, and here we are.”
NASCAR’s inspection process is a slow and meticulous one that can take 10 hours and more than 80 officials to complete. Teams prepare the cars, present them to NASCAR for inspection, then watch as every nook and cranny is measured, using very precise tools, down to the tiniest fraction of an inch. Even slightly wrong is wrong.
With measurements this small, how can a car be determined out of tolerance with nothing more than a visual inspection? That’s a question Rick Hendrick is asking. 02/19/12 [Editor's Note: Assuming what Rick Hendrick says is true, then NASCAR appears on a witch hunt against Knaus and no one wins an appeal in NASCAR's Kangaroo Court. Having had the car through tech inspection before, and even in their R&D center for weeks, and not saying the C pillars were illegal, yet to call the team on it now, underscores NASCAR's inconsistent rule book officiating. It makes them look plain bad. On a witch hunt.]
The owner of Hendrick Motorsports disputes NASCAR's claim that Jimmie Johnson's Daytona 500 car was illegal and plans to appeal any penalty the governing body issues.
NASCAR on Friday confiscated the C-posts -- pillars that come down from the roof to the quarter panel -- from Johnson's car during the initial inspection process. Officials said the pieces were so obviously altered to create an aerodynamic advantage that they could be seen by the naked eye.
Sprint Cup series director John Darby said it was a major offense and could result in a suspension for crew chief Chad Knaus and others involved.
HMS owner Rick Hendrick said before Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout that the car is the same one that Johnson ran in all four restrictor plate races last season, including the Daytona 500, and the roof had not been altered.
He added that the car went to NASCAR's Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., for inspection and was returned without any notification of being outside the lines.
"That car, we've run it four times,'' Hendrick said. "It was built for this place and they never touched the roof, and it's been to the Tech Center after they won Talladega (in the spring). All that's been done is paint it, so I don't get it.''
Hendrick acknowledged that this is the same car Knaus was caught on film prior to the October Talladega race telling Johnson to damage the rear end if he won. Johnson's car was taken back to the R&D center after that race and the remaining races in 2011.
Asked if this was in response to that incident, for which Knaus received a reprimand from NASCAR, Hendrick said, "Maybe you can put it together.
"I don't understand," Hendrick continued. "They know the serial numbers of the cars. Our guys swear they have not touched the roof on the car."
Hendrick said he plans to meet with NASCAR to discuss the matter. NASCAR said a decision on penalties wouldn't come until after the February 26 Daytona 500.
"When you take it to the Tech Center, you would think they could see it if they have a problem," he said.
Knaus' only comment on the issue was, "They found some things they didn't like and they asked us to remove them.''