Jimmie Johnson’s team might have had his 25-point penalty and six-week suspensions for crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec overturned last week by sport’s chief appellate officer, but it won’t change the way NASCAR patrols the garage area.
John Middleton upheld the team’s $100,000 fine, but threw out the rest of the penalty without an explanation. NASCAR found C-posts, the area between the roof and the trunk deck, which appeared to be altered during inspection before the Daytona 500.
NASCAR president Mike Helton said his organization accepted Middleton’s decision, but defended the way they do their work.
“We take, obviously, very seriously our responsibility to regulate the sport,” Helton said. “But if you’re going to regulate it, you also have to enforce it. Every rule in the rule book has a story behind it or an experience to it. That’s how the rule book has been developed over the years, and it will continue to do it that way. We’ll learn every week something that will be applied to us being more relevant and more precise and more accurate.”
Helton also said NASCAR would confiscate and issue sanctions if Johnson’s car has the same C-posts in the future.
“We defend our actions,” he said. “We’re proud of our inspectors. But we’re also proud of our professionalism when it comes to having a due process system that acts as a check-and-balance. That process and that whole activity is now complete and we’re ready to move on.”
BRISTOL CHANGES: Bristol Motor Speedway owner Bruton Smith said Wednesday he’ll make changes to the track after spending a week reviewing input from fans.
Smith did not reveal what exactly he’ll do to the track, but said in a statement an announcement could come in about two weeks.
“The race fans have spoken,” Smith said. “We had input that included a wide range of opinions. But the majority we heard from said they wanted to see changes made. The question we wanted to answer as quickly as possible was ‘Is something going to be done?’ The answer to that is ‘yes.’ We will have the details in two weeks as to what that ‘something’ is.”
Fans have clamored for him to return it to how it was before a 2007 reconfiguration added variable banking in the corners. It opened up lanes for two-and-three wide racing, and fans preferred tight lines that lent to bumping and banging.
Smith became open to changes after poor attendance at the March 18 race. The speedway says it seats 160,000, and the grandstands appeared half empty during that race.
Smith said any changes will be completed before NASCAR returns to Bristol in August.