NASCAR announced yesterday that Chad Knaus, crew chief of the #48 car for Hendrick Motorsports, is suspended for six races and owes $100,000 in fines in response to an infraction found on the car prior to Shootout practice almost two weeks ago. The driver of the #48, Jimmie Johnson, was docked 25 points, and the co-owner of the car, teammate Jeff Gordon, was penalized 25 owner’s points.
If you don’t know the story, which I covered back in February, Johnson’s Daytona 500 car was in line for inspection when NASCAR officials noticed his C-Post didn’t fit the certified template. Hendrick had to fly down an extra part, yet it already had people talking. As many of you know, Knaus has a history of ‘pushing the envelope.’ From rear windshields to backs that needed cracking, the crew chief has tried to exceed the limits too much. Given, everyone attempts it, but Chad gets caught more than anyone else. That’s most likely because the #48 team and Jimmie Johnson are five time consecutive Sprint Cup Champions, and the spotlight is shown on them more than the other teams.
However, that doesn’t act as an excuse for Knaus’ actions. He needs to realize cheating will hinder the organization more than help it. How can you run your race team efficiently when you’re getting suspended all the time? As I have said, all this negative publicity is wearing Jimmie down. He is a driver concerned with his image; he doesn’t want to be known as vanilla or a cheat. If Chad could understand that, things would be much better for that relationship. Rick Hendrick isn’t helping the situation, either. Time and time again, he’s pardoned Knaus’ actions and fought for him, which he is doing this time around. Why would Chad stop when his boss is always there to back him up? At least slap him on the wrist and say, ‘No! Bad Chad!’
There’s a line that ends up getting crossed by the #48 team, and it’s disappointing. When learning about the C-Post incident, I found myself wondering, ‘What about those five championships? Did they win those fair and square?’ I must thank NASCAR for stepping up and slapping Knaus with a punishment that was a good fit for the situation. With the way this is going, my prediction of Knaus being out of the Hendrick stable by 2014 seems more plausible. It will be the end of an era if Mr. Hendrick realizes what all this negative exposure is doing to the credibility of his team. All we can hope is that this doesn’t derail Johnson’s efforts for a sixth championship.