Crew chief has good shot of winning at next level

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Jimmie Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus, is shown passing NASCAR officials prior to the race at Phoenix International Raceway. Knaus lost the appeal of his six-race suspension, but the case is not closed.  FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Jimmie Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus, is shown passing NASCAR officials prior to the race at Phoenix International Raceway. Knaus lost the appeal of his six-race suspension, but the case is not closed.

Five-time championship winning crew chief Chad Knaus has a decent chance of having his penalties reduced when he appears before NASCAR’s chief appellate officer.

A three-member appeals committee on Tuesday upheld the six-race suspension and $100,000 fine NASCAR levied against Knaus after the car he presented on opening day of the Daytona 500 failed inspection. NASCAR said the sheet metal between the roof and the side windows had been illegally modified on Jimmie Johnson’s car.

The penalties stretched to Johnson, who was docked 25 points, and car chief Ron Malec, who was also suspended six races.

Team owner Rick Hendrick said after the hearing the organization would appeal the penalties to the last level, chief appellate officer John Middlebrook.

“We feel strongly about this issue and will continue to pursue it at the next level,” Hendrick said.

Knaus can work this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway while awaiting his hearing before Middlebrook. Since taking over the job as NASCAR’s final arbitrator at the start of the 2010 season, Middlebrook has reduced the penalties in some form in all three of the appeals he’s heard.

Middlebrook has not rescinded an entire penalty in the three hearings:

• In 2010, Middlebrook ruled on the championship-crippling penalty against Clint Bowyer and Richard Childress Racing. He upheld the loss of 150 points for Bowyer, but reduced the suspensions of the crew chief and car chief from six weeks to four weeks. He also reduced crew chief Shane Wilson’s fine from $150,000 to $100,000.

• That same season, Middlebrook reduced a $5,000 fine against Nation­wide Series owner Johnny Davis to $2,500.

• Earlier this year, Middlebrook reinstated effective March 1 part-time Nationwide Series driver Peyton Sellers, who had been suspended indefinitely from all competition for an altercation with a NASCAR official at a short-track race.

Middlebrook retired in 2008 after 49 years with General Motors, and is paid $1 a year by NASCAR to be the chief appellate officer.

Hendrick Motorsports is likely hoping for a reduction in the number of races Knaus must sit out.

DRIVERS WANTED: Dodge has a new race car for the 2013 season. All it needs now are people to drive them.

The company unveiled a new racing version of the Charger at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last Sunday, although it doesn’t have a race team under contract to drive it.

Penske Racing announced two weeks ago it would switch from Dodge to Ford next year, leaving Dodge without a team for next year.

But according to Dodge Motorsports president Ralph Gilles, his company has been getting a lot of calls.

“With the way our phone is ringing, I’m not too worried,” he said. “It’s been a pretty positive thing.”

Robby Gordon currently drives a Dodge and he would like to become a factory team.


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