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NASCAR never forgets a rules infraction
Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus talk in the Daytona Garage Wednesday.  Look for NASCAR to lower the boom on the No. 48 team, who regularly make our weekly NASCAR cheaters report
Getty Images for NASCAR
I expect that there will be a whopper of a penalty imposed against Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet and crew chief Chad Knaus.

Why? NASCAR never forgets a rules infraction.

That's why I expect the penalty for failing Friday's pre-Daytona 500 qualifying inspection to be very punitive.

For many years the sanctioning body's policy of penalties seemed virtually ineffective, as a $5,000 fine against a multimillion-dollar driver, crew chief or owner was like trying to shovel waves back into the surf.

A few years ago, NASCAR officials began to keep a cumulative record of infractions by whom and where. Also, the sanctioning body started to escalate penalties.

Reports in 2010 said that Richard Childress Racing was informed that officials were taking a closer look at Clint Bowyer's car after the second Richmond race that season. After the next race, Bowyer's New Hampshire-winning car failed a postrace inspection at NASCAR's R&D center in Concord, N.C. NASCAR suspended crew chief Shane Wilson for six races and fined him $150,000. Although Bowyer's win was allowed to stand, the 150-point penalty virtually knocked him out of the Chase for the Championship

Now let's consider the situation with Johnson's team. My media colleagues at Daytona International Speedway over the weekend estimated that there were seven penalties issued to Johnson's team before the 2006 Daytona 500. When his car failed the postqualifying inspection back then, NASCAR lowered the hammer and handed Knaus a six-race suspension and fined him $25,000.

Another penalty was imposed in 2007, at Infineon Raceway, when Johnson's (and teammate Jeff Gordon's) car didn't quite fit the template. The two drivers were not permitted to practice that day. And Knaus faced another six-race suspension.

Since then, and until last year, relations between NASCAR and Johnson's team seemed fine, until a radio transmission—which could be heard by anybody on NASCAR.com's RaceBuddy—from Knaus to Johnson at the fall Talladega race. You remember: Knaus told Johnson to back his car into a wall if he won the race, apparently to give Knaus an excuse if postrace inspectors found anything to be out of spec. As it turned out, Johnson didn't win. But NASCAR officials weren't thrilled.

Could it be a coincidence that the No. 48 was called as the “random” car for postrace inspection after every race thereafter?

I don't think so.

Now comes prequalifying inspection for this year's Daytona 500. The C-pillars which connect the roof of Johnson's Chevrolet to the trunk were found to be out of spec. NASCAR cut them off the car and confiscated them. More at AutoWeek

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