Knaus is pushing the limit

Crew chief faces daunting task in appeal of penalty

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Chad Knaus will have an opportunity to plead his case to a three-man appeals committee, but few believe it will change NASCAR’s mind – and watchful eye.

Chad Knaus, the crew chief for Jimmie Johnson, was suspended for six races and fined $100,000 after the No. 48 Chevrolet failed a pre-qualifying inspection at Daytona. It's the fourth time he's been penalized by NASCAR.  FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Chad Knaus, the crew chief for Jimmie Johnson, was suspended for six races and fined $100,000 after the No. 48 Chevrolet failed a pre-qualifying inspection at Daytona. It's the fourth time he's been penalized by NASCAR.

Knaus was suspended for six races, fined $100,000 and his driver, Jimmie Johnson, was docked 25 points after their No. 48 Chevrolet failed pre-qualifying inspection at Daytona International Speedway.

At issue was the side panel behind the back door, between the roof and trunk deck. NASCAR said it had been pushed out to deflect air off the rear spoiler to reduce drag.

Knaus faces a daunting task to change everyone’s mind that he’s willing to work in the gray area . Regardless of his appeal, it will be difficult for Knaus to change his reputation.

“I think NASCAR does not like the wool to be pulled over their eyes,” Denny Hamlin said.

This is the fourth time Knaus has been penalized by NASCAR. Johnson’s winning car was too low following his victory at Las Vegas in 2005. The appeals committee overturned his two-race suspension, but it upheld a $35,000 fine and 25-point penalty.

He was caught with special jack screws in the rear window at Daytona in 2006 that pushed the window up by three-quarters of an inch to block the air to the rear spoiler. He was suspended for four races and fined $25,000.

In 2007 Knaus was suspended for six races and fined $100,000 for pushing the front fenders out on Johnson’s road course car at Sears Point, Calif.

But nothing pushed NASCAR’s patience more than when an in-car camera broadcast Knaus telling Johnson to “crack” the car at Talladega, Ala., if he won. Since Johnson didn’t crash the car after the race, Knaus wasn’t penalized.

But his reputation was cemented.

“I feel like that possibly could have happened at Talladega last year and so it was the first real opportunity to inspect things pretty closely,” Hamlin said. “So, I think obviously when you do that you always want to try to stay in NASCAR’s good graces and I think that NASCAR has just had heavy eyes for those guys early in the season anyway.”

Johnson’s car was used four times last year – twice at Daytona and twice at Talladega. Knaus and car owner Rick Hendrick will base their argument in their appeal nothing’s been
changed since.

With five championships in the past six years, Knaus isn’t worried about what others think of him. So far the rewards have been worth the risk.

“Honestly, I’m here to do the best I can (for the) No. 48 team, and that is all that really matters to me,” he said. “As far as my reputation goes, I’m not too concerned about that. What we want to do is go out there and do the best thing we can for Hendrick Motorsports, the best thing for Lowe’s and try to win races and championships.”

Race teams have looked for shortcuts since NASCAR’s first lap in 1949, Kevin Harvick said. He doubts NASCAR will be able to make Knaus and other crew chiefs play by the rules.

“You know, that’s a fine line to balance
there because I’m one of those guys that thinks innovation is what has made this sport what it is,” he said. “And there’s a fine balance between where you cross the line and where you don’t. The only way to find out is to push things to the limit and see if you get away with it.

“They make the rules. They make the law, and everybody has to abide by it. But the crew chiefs, that’s their job. And sometimes they cross the line and you’ve got to find that line. So, it’s part of it.”


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