With the stroke of a pen, Jimmie Johnson jumped six spots to 11th in the Sprint Cup Series standings.
The majority of the penalties his team faced for unapproved modifications at the Daytona 500 were reduced by NASCAR’s Chief Appellate Officer on Tuesday.
John Middlebrook, who retired after 49 years as the vice president from General Motors, also dropped the six-week suspensions for crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec and rescinded Johnson’s 25-point penalty. The team’s $100,000 fine was upheld, however.
Middlebrook didn’t offer any explanation as to why he reversed the decision.
Johnson is 36 points behind series leader Greg Biffle.
Hendrick Motorsports lost its appeal last week of sanctions placed against them after NASCAR found altered C-posts – the area on the side of the car beside the door window and between the trunk and the roof – before qualifying at Daytona International Speedway. The sanctioning body said the side of the car was pushed out, presumably to deflect air from the rear spoiler to reduce drag.
Car owner Rick Hendrick, Knaus and Malec argued in their final appeal Tuesday the same car was used in all four races at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway. They also said other teams were allowed to repair C-posts during the inspection process.
Last year at Talladega, Knaus was seen on an in-car camera telling Johnson to “crack” the back end of the same car if he won.
There have been 14 cases sent to the Chief Appellate Office for a final appeal since 1999. Only one penalty has been completely overturned. Tuesday’s ruling was the fifth time a sanction has been reduced.
Although Knaus will be allowed to accompany the team for Sunday’s race in California, he still wasn’t happy about paying a fine.
“But it’s not about vindication,” he told reporters after the hearing. “It’s over with. It’s time to move on.”