|AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 02: Crew chief Chad Knaus of the #48 Lowe's/ Kobalt Tools Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson, speaks to the media prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 2, 2012 in Avondale, Arizona. NASCAR suspended Knaus for six races and fined him $100,000 for failing an inspection last week in Daytona. Knaus will continue his crew chief duties while Hendrick Motorsports appeals NASCAR's decision. An appeal date hasn't been announced. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)|
I have lots of conflicting feelings about the alleged infraction and the process that recently reversed the penalties against Hendrick Motor Sports over modifications in the C-Post of the #48 car prior to the Daytona 500. I have to say though, that I can't shake the one overriding thought.
I am elated that NASCAR finally got its hand slapped for its outrageous, high-handed behavior regarding control of the sport through the use of arbitrary and inconsistent behavior.
Following what NASCAR deemed an unapproved change to the body of the car, the #48 Crew Chief Chad Knaus and Car Chief Ron Malec were suspended for six races. Driver Jimmy Johnson was docked 25 points. Knaus was also fined $100,000. Car owner Rick Hendrick appealed the decision. Last week it was upheld.
A final appeal was heard by one man--John Middlebrook, a former General Motors Executive who has been hired by NASCAR to arbitrate final appeals. Middlebrook, on Tuesday, overturned the previous decision and the appeal. Knaus and Malec, whose suspension was postponed during the appeals process never missed a race. Johnson will get his points back--a big plus for him, giving him an automatic boost of 12 spots in the standings.
Some are bothered by a relationship/friendship between Middlebrook and Rick Hendrick, while others say Middlebrook is an upstanding professional, who would put his personal feelings on the back burner in the decision-making process. I'm sure that will remain a source of speculation.
In what NASCAR talking heads are saying is that they are shocked that Middlebrook overturned NASCAR's decision. SPEED TV Analyst Bob Dillner said the rumor in the garage area is that John Darby, Managing Director of Competition for NASCAR looked at the #48 car in the garage prior to the race at Daytona and remarked that the C-Post didn't look right. Dillner alleged that according to the rumors, that is how the whole thing got started. NASCAR had apparently not put the template on the car prior to that point.
If that is the case, NASCAR way overstepped its bounds by making allegations without proof, possibly based on Chad Knaus' rich history with car modifications.
Now I don't know if Chad Knaus was just doing his job or if he was trying to take unfair advantage. My gut tells me the latter. I don't know if all the crew chiefs do it too or if NASCAR has an issue with Knaus and want to make an example of him. That is pretty believable, given NASCAR's track record--no pun intended.
Is this considered cheating? I don't know that either.
What I do know is that NASCAR hired Middlebrook for $1 per year to make these decisions. They made the rules and now it seems their own rules finally bit them in the ass. 'Bout time!