The NASCAR research-and-development center in Concord, N.C., will have a regular customer for the rest of the season—and a familiar one.
There’s a high likelihood NASCAR will take the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson to its tech center after each of the remaining four races this season. NASCAR’s move is a reaction to crew chief Chad Knaus’ instructions before last Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Talladega, where Knaus told Johnson to make sure he damaged the rear of his car in a post race burnout, if he won the race.
In a conversation recorded on NASCAR.com’s RaceBuddy, Knaus told Johnson, “If we win the race, you have to crack the back of the car—got it?"
“Really?" Johnson replied.
Knaus later explained that the instructions weren’t meant to cover up an intentional violation of the rules but to account for the constant pushing and bump-drafting at Talladega that could knock the car out of tolerance.
Knaus, however, has been known to push the envelope when it comes to NASCAR’s tolerances. After the second Chase race in 2009, at Dover, NASCAR deemed the No. 48 of Johnson and the No. 5 of Mark Martin precariously close to the limits allowed for the position of the car body on the frame. For the rest of the season, the No. 48 and 5 were regular visitors to the tech center.
After NASCAR met with Johnson and Knaus on Friday morning at Martinsville Speedway, NASCAR spokesperson Kerry Tharp issued the following statement:" We had the opportunity to visit with Chad and Jimmie this morning at Martinsville. As the sport’s governing body, we were doing our due diligence to look into this and gain some insight into the comments Chad made before the race at Talladega.
“We have a responsibility to the rest of the garage area to ensure that everybody is competing on a level playing field with the inspection processes we have in place. The 48 organization knows that from this occurrence their car is likely to be a regular customer at the R&D center for post-race inspection the balance of the season."
Johnson came to Knaus’ defense on Friday morning.
“That car passed inspection multiple times throughout the course of the weekend," Johnson said. “At the end of the day, while Chad was trying to protect himself post race, he made a foolish statement. That’s truly it. At the end of the day, that car passed inspection multiple times at an impound race and was pushed out onto the grid.
“It was certainly something that we did not want to take place. You can tell from my reaction it was something I had never heard in the car from him before, and it is what it is. The car passed tech at the racetrack multiple times, and people have to build faith in that. Chad and I certainly respect NASCAR and their inspection process, and unfortunately it happened for really no reason at all, and now we have to put it behind us." SportingNews.com