National Stock Car Racing Appellate Officer John Middlebrook heard the case of Hendrick Motorsports car owner Rick Hendrick on Tuesday and overturned the six-race suspensions of No. 48 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec. Instead, the two men will be on probation until May 9.
The complete NASCAR penalty originally included six race suspensions for Knaus and Malec, a $100,000 fine for Knaus, the loss of 25 driver points for Jimmie Johnson and the loss of 25 owner points for Jeff Gordon, who is listed as owner of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
We felt by the rulebook we were approved. By the rulebook, the car was legal.
NASCAR slapped HMS with the penalties, citing sections 12-1 (Actions detrimental to stock car racing), 12-4(J) (Any determination by NASCAR officials that the race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in section 20 of the NASCAR rulebook or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the event) and 20-2.1(E) (If in the judgment of NASCAR Officials, any part or component of the car not previously approved by NASCAR that has been installed or modified to enhance aerodynamic performance, will not be permitted: unapproved car body modifications) of the 2012 NASCAR Rulebook.
The original penalties were a result of both C-posts on Johnson's Daytona 500 car being ruled out of NASCAR allowable specifications during opening day inspections at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 17. The parts were replaced prior to the Feb. 27 Daytona 500.
Johnson and Gordon regained the 25 points they lost, but Knaus' $100,000 fine still stands. With his 25 driver points restored, Johnson will head into Sunday's Auto Club 400 in Fontana, Calif., 11th in championship points.
"There was no ill intent on our part," Hendrick said, according to a report from the Associated Press. "We felt by the rulebook we were approved. By the rulebook, the car was legal."
Hendrick went before the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Board last Tuesday, in an attempt to get the penalty overturned or reduced. The board upheld NASCAR's penalties. Middlebrook was Hendrick's last shot at getting a reprieve.