Friday, March 2, 2012
Updated: March 3, 12:41 PM ET
Chad Knaus hopes to win appeal
By Terry Blount
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Chad Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Chevrolet, said he is "deeply" saddened and "disappointed" by the severe penalties NASCAR announced against the team Wednesday.
NASCAR suspended Knaus for six races and fined him $100,000 for the body of the car being out of alignment at the C-post above the rear windows. The issues were found during an initial inspection at Daytona.
Johnson, meanwhile, was penalized 25 championship points, and car chief Ron Malec also was suspended for six weeks.
Knaus spoke to reporters at the No. 48 hauler Friday morning at Phoenix International Raceway. He is allowed to continue his crew chief duties while Hendrick Motorsports appeals NASCAR's decision. An appeal date hasn't been announced.
"This is not what I expected at all," Knaus said. "It deeply saddens me and I'm disappointed we're in this situation. Hopefully we will get this resolved."
Knaus wouldn't go into many details about the team's arguments for the appeal, but he did confirm that the car never was measured to see if it fit the templates when it failed the initial inspection at Daytona.
"It was all visual," Knaus said. "The templates never were actually put on the car. We never got the opportunity to present it on the templates. That definitely will come up during the appeal and we'll talk about it. NASCAR has a good set of standards that are black and white and other that are not."
Knaus said team owner Rick Hendrick will lead the appeal process.
"Mr. Hendrick has taken a special interest in this," Knaus said, "so he'll be pretty heavily ingrained in it. We do a really good job of documenting what we do to these race cars and how they've been changed and what's been done. We document everything just so we don't get ourselves in this position.
"We feel like we have a pretty good jump on what we have to discuss. But look, all that stuff is going to come up on the appeal. You guys will hear about it then."
Johnson also wouldn't get specific on the appeal arguments, but he believes they have a case.
"Through the (appeal) process, a lot of facts will come out on our behalf," Johnson said Friday, "but I can't share what those are. Once it's over, we can talk about it.
"Right now I'm focused on this weekend. Certainly, it's not a position we want to be in, but I have all the confidence in the world in everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and the 48 team. I believe in the system. I believe in my team and our guys. It is what it is."
Knaus was asked if he believed the team was pushing the limits of the rules with the car's body.
"Not at all," he said. "It raced all four (restrictor-plate) races last year. We do everything we can to build the best race cars we can bring to the racetrack. Unfortunately, (NASCAR inspectors) didn't like something and we have to address that."
But it was the same car the team used when Knaus was overheard telling Johnson something unusual before a race last October at Talladega: He told Johnson to wreck the back end of the car if they won the race.
Driver Denny Hamlin said he believes that comment was a factor in NASCAR's actions when the same car was brought to Daytona.
"NASCAR does not like the wool to be pulled over its eyes," Hamlin said Friday. "That could have happened at Talladega last year. This was the first opportunity to inspect things real closely. NASCAR had heavy eyes for that car."
|Crew chief Chad Knaus argues that Jimmie Johnson's Chevy never was measured to see if it fit NASCAR's templates when it failed an inspection at Daytona.|
Knaus has been down this road before. He was suspended before the 2006 Daytona 500 (which Johnson won) and sent home before the race. He also was suspended in 2007 for violations to the car body found before the road race at Sonoma, Calif.
Knaus was asked if he is concerned about his reputation.
"I'm here to do the best I can for the 48 team," Knaus said. "That's all that really matters to me. As far as my reputation goes, I'm not too concerned about that.
"Honestly, I love my job, every aspect of it. This is an unfortunate part of the job that you have to be ready for as a leader of a team. You get somewhat numbed to it, but it's definitely not the way we wanted to start the season."
Knaus also was asked whether he thought NASCAR was singling him out because of his history.
"You would have to ask NASCAR that," he said. "As successful as our car has been over the years, obviously, it goes through a little more scrutiny. It's inspected more and goes to the R&D Center (NASCAR Research and Development Center, in Concord, N.C.) more because we win more races."
Knaus said the team has not chosen who will replace him on the pit box if the appeal process fails.
"We're fortunate that we have a lot of depth," he said. "Somehow or another, we seem to get through adversity pretty well. We didn't want a challenge like this, but I'm pretty sure we'll rise to the occasion."
Knaus remains hopeful that the appeal will be successful.
"We're fortunate to have this ability to go through the appeal process," he said. "We've seen some things changed through it and hopefully it will turn out in our favor. We'll have to wait and see how it all comes to fruition."
Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
NASCAR does not like the wool to be pulled over its eyes. That could have happened at Talladega last year. This was the first opportunity to inspect things real closely. NASCAR had heavy eyes for that car.
-- Denny Hamlin