Originally created 02/22/06

NASCAR suspends Johnson's chief



CHARLOTTE, N.C. - NASCAR suspended crew chief Chad Knaus for three more races Tuesday and fined him $25,000 for making an illegal modification to Jimmie Johnson's car during preparation for the Daytona 500.

Knaus was ejected from Daytona after the cheating scandal, and Johnson went on to win the race in a legal car.

Now Johnson must compete in the next three events without his crew chief. Knaus won't be eligible to return to a race track until the March 26 race in Bristol, Tenn.

NASCAR, without comment, also placed Knaus on probation for the rest of the year. It means the crew chief won't be able to push the limits the way he's done for much of the past four seasons.

Knaus has been fined numerous times for various infractions, and was suspended two races last season when Johnson's car failed inspection after a victory in Las Vegas. Knaus appealed, and the suspension was reduced to probation.

"There's no doubt that Chad has been aggressive and walks a fine line," Johnson said Tuesday. "He stepped over the line, and he's living with the consequences right now."

Knaus' latest infraction came during time trials for the Daytona 500. The Chevrolet passed its initial inspection. But sometime before Johnson went out and posted the fifth-fastest time, the rear window of the car was altered to change its aerodynamics.

The car failed postrace inspection, and Knaus was kicked out of Daytona the next day. Johnson's time was thrown out, and the team had to rebuild the car to make it fit NASCAR's templates.

The car passed at least three more inspections before Sunday's main event. His Chevy also passed an intensive postrace inspection.

Knaus, meanwhile, has been humbled by the experience. He had to watch the team he built from the ground up win the 500 on television and has been unable to participate in any of the postrace parties and celebrations.

"If he was doing well I'd be concerned," Johnson said. "The fact that it's so hard on him, it's obvious where his heart is and how much he cares for this race team. Every time I talk to him, he says, 'Dude I'm so sorry.' Every time he answers the phone, that's what he says."

Johnson will compete in the next three events with lead engineer Darian Grubb calling the shots. Grubb also filled in for Knaus at Daytona.