Johnson says appeal proves car was legal, disagrees with NASCAR
Jimmie Johnson is pleased to get his 25 points back and that he didn’t lose crew chief Chad Knaus for six weeks after Hendrick Motorsports won its appeal Tuesday. But pleased is as far as Johnson will go. Not ecstatic. Not vindicated.
“I don’t feel vindicated because I feel like everything should have been overturned,” Johnson said Friday at Auto Club Speedway in California.
Knaus and car chief Ron Malec were suspended for six weeks and Johnson docked 25 points after NASCAR officials found what it said were illegal C-posts on Johnson’s car at Daytona Feb. 17. Knaus also was fined $100,000.
But NASCAR Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook rescinded all of the penalties but Knaus’ fine after a final appeal hearing Tuesday. All of the penalties had previously been upheld by a three-member appeals panel.
Johnson said he respectfully disagreed with NASCAR President Mike Helton, who said Friday that the fact that the fine was upheld proves that the C-posts were illegal when NASCAR officials confiscated them. NASCAR issued the penalties for an unapproved aerodynamic modification to the C-posts, which run from the roof of the car to the rear quarter panel.
“This is one of those positions where we agree to disagree,” Johnson said. “Through the appeal process, we proved those C-posts were legal. … I can’t explain anything [on the decision], but I can tell you the reason we won the appeal is we proved those C-posts were legal.
“We are agreeing to disagree, respectfully. NASCAR has their side and we have our side. If we didn’t prove those C-posts were legal, we wouldn’t have won the appeal.”
Middlebrook did not provide an explanation when he announced his decision, which has led to confusion and speculation about the ruling.
“I’m not totally happy with the decision,” the five-time Cup champion Johnson said. “I’m pleased the big issues came down, but I share confusion as well. … We didn’t feel a penalty was warranted in the first place. We’re just as curious.”
After getting 25 points back, Johnson climbed from 17th to 11th in the Sprint Cup points standings. He has rallied from a 42nd-place finish at Daytona with three straight top-10 finishes. Johnson said his approach on the track won’t change now that the appeals process is over.
“We’re pleased we didn’t have the suspension and we got our points back,” Johnson said. “But again, we felt like there was no penalty warranted. It’s behind us, the decision has been made, there’s no more steps in the process and now it’s time to get on the track and get to work.” Scenedaily.com