They knew it was coming. NASCAR vowed last week to review the violations found during initial inspection of the number 48 car owned by Hendrick Motorsports and driven by Jimmie Johnson.
Officials have attempted to make an example of Chad Knaus and Ron Malek, the crew chief and car chief for the Lowe's 48 team. Among the penalties levied yesterday is a six-race suspension for both Chad and Ron, meaning that they will not be allowed near the garage areas for the next month and a half of racing. If that's not painful enough, each of their wallets are $100,000 lighter after fines were imposed as well.
Jimmie Johnson did not come out unscathed. A 25-point penalty puts the former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion into negative territory going into the Phoenix race this coming weekend after only gaining 2 points from the Daytona 500. The Race for the Chase may remain the dangling carrot that he just cannot reach this season after this setback.
Although the team has appealed the rulings, officials aren't likely to give in. Chad Knaus has a sordid history of rules violations and conflicts with the sport's sanctioning body. Knaus was ejected from Speedweeks and suspended for three races after Johnson's car failed post-qualifying inspection for rear window area modifications in 2006.
In 2007, seemingly failing to learn his lesson, Knaus was suspended again at Infineon for questionable gaps between the fenders and the template on the new COT body style. Jimmie Johnson was not allowed to qualify that car, and Knaus was suspended for 6 races with a $100,000 fine.
At what stage should NASCAR say enough is enough with Chad Knaus? Should Jimmie be shopping for a new crew chief? It certainly brings many questions about the successes and the championships this team has brought home.