JIMMIE JOHNSON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO AND CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF, DISCUSS THE NASCAR PENALTY THEY RECEIVED FOLLOWING THEIR WIN OF THE LAS VEGAS RACE. The No. 48 Chevrolet team received three penalties, due to the car's...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO AND CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF, DISCUSS THE NASCAR PENALTY THEY RECEIVED FOLLOWING THEIR WIN OF THE LAS VEGAS RACE. The No. 48 Chevrolet team received three penalties, due to the car's roof height being too low in post-race inspection. A penalty of 25 driver points dropped Jimmie Johnson - the race winner at Las Vegas - back to second place (500 points) in the standings, 10 behind reigning series champion Kurt Busch (510). Chad Knaus, Johnson's crew chief, has been suspended from competition for the next two races and fined $35,000; Jeff Gordon, the No. 48 car owner, has been penalized 25 owner points. Knaus is on site this weekend as the team plans to appeal and their date is Tuesday, March 22.
(ON THE PENALTY) "I understand that NASCAR is in a position to penalize us for being low. We were not at the proper height at the roof when the car went through inspection. But the punishment that came out seems really, really harsh when we were barely below the minimum rule at the roof. And at the quarter panel, we were quite a bit lower but there's not a minimum rule back there; it's a maximum rule. The reason there's a maximum rule is because there's an advantage in having the back of the car propped up. Well our car fell. It dropped lower. So we weren't intentionally cheating. NASCAR saw that we had a wedge bolt back out and understood it. We lowered the car so the car did not have ad advantage, and we end up with all these stiff penalties and suspension and money and all this stuff. That's where we're all confused. We walked NASCAR through every step of it and they understand, but then we were passed out a fine as if we blatantly tried to cheat. That's where our confusion is and that's what our appeal is based on."
(IF NASCAR DOESN'T CHANGE THE PENALTY, CAN THIS TEAM REBOUND?) "Absolutely. We're putting our statements out there so that the fans understand and the people in the garage nd the racing community know our point of view. We've never hidden from anything before and we're sure not going to now. So we're just putting our statements out there and we're going to plead our case to NASCAR once again and see what happens. If it doesn't get overturned, we're prepared and in a position to do without Chad Knaus for two weeks. It's something we would hate to have happen.
"But if you remember back to October with the plane went down and we los a lot of our department at Hendrick Motorsports, people that worked under them were trained and ready to step up and get the job done. That's how I feel our race team is. Chad has done such a good job of grooming these guys and preparing them, I feel that they're going to be able to step up and go to the track and compete for a win. We're going to do all that we can. We don't want to be without Chad, but if we have to, I don't think it's going to be a situation where we're not going to qualify well or race well. We're still going to go out there and be competitive and collect as many points as we can and take it from there."
(WERE YOU CHEATING?) "I don't like that word 'cheater.' We're not cheating. If we'd done something intentional against the rules, black-and-white, okay you're a cheater. But if you have something mechanical happen with the race car, then that's okay. But cheating we were not."
"We do everything here at Hendrick Motorsports to build up NASCAR. We do a lot of things for NASCAR, radio shows, TV shows. We would never jeopardize that by doing something silly. The car was low because the wedge bolt backed up, that in turn was why the roof was low. The car was at a huge aerodynamic disadvantage at that point, and we were lucky to have Jimmie Johnson at the wheel and some great pit stops, to keep us up there. As the car cycles over the bumps, the coil spring twists, and the spring we had in the car, sometimes the wedge bolt will turn. Our lock was on there."
(WAS IT RIGGED TO BREAK?) "There have been no accusations. All we know from NASCAR is what they've said in the press, and all they know from us is what we've said in the press. They're telling the public they won't stand for any cheating. They found something wrong with our car after the race. Whether it was intentional or not intentional will be found out on Tuesday, according to them. I know there was nothing premeditated by us. Obviously they're trying to get the aerodynamics of these cars closer, by cutting the rear spoiler. All Jimmie could tell us was the car was getting very loose entering the turns. So we were doing whatever we could with air pressure to tighten the car back up. Fortunately we had a lot of short runs at the end of the race, so we could keep fresh tires on the cars and keep the track position we needed. But he had his hands full with that car, let me tell you."
(ON TAKING AWAY A WIN) "If they make it a hard and cold rule that if your car doesn't meet the height requirements after the race, the car will be disallowed and you don't get the win, that's fine, we'll live by it. But it would open up a whole can of worms.
"There has always been common sense, and NASCAR has always been good about using common sense, and I'm sure they will here. If they don't, we'll just have to deal with it.
"In a situation such as this in the past, it's been a fine or points penalty, never a suspension. The points and the fine are enough; that's a lot. That hurts, especially as tight as the championship battle is."
(ON THE PENALTY) "Obviously our goal isn't to go in there and try to prove them (NASCAR) wrong about the car being low because the car was low. We're trying to make them understand that is was not intentional. And by not being intentional, we just feel like the two weeks suspension it a little bit stiff. We understand that they've got to do something. In the past, what they have done in situation similar to this has been a point penalty and a fine. And, as much as that's going to hurt us to take the 25-point hit, and for me to lose $35,000, we feel that's more than saying what it is they're trying to say."
(WHAT IF THE PENALTY IS NOT OVERTURNED?) "Well, you have to try. We have to do something. We owe it to Lowe's and Hendrick Motorsports and to my team to try to get this appeal pushed through and get it overturned to some degree, because we work very hard to make sure we work within the guidelines that NASCAR lays out there. To have a mechanical issue hurt us like that just sends a bad message about something we wouldn't do. We don't want people to think that."
(IS NASCAR SENDING A MESSAGE TO ALL THE TEAMS THROUGH YOU?) "I don't know what it is they're really trying to do. I think it could create a lot more grief than what they NASCAR community is prepared to handle at this point in time if they start going with that degree of stiff penalties. There aren't enough crew chiefs to go around. You'll have a lot of crew chiefs on vacation for a lot of the year because there are a lot of things that we can't perceive happening throughout a 500-mile event that goes wrong with these race cars. And if you look at past history, NASCAR knows that and they see that and they can identify with that."
(IF YOU ARE GONE FOR TWO WEEKS, HOW WILL THIS AFFECT THE TEAM?) "One of the really cool things about this team is that they work their best under adversity. This is going to be another bump in the road - and another test to myself if we aren't able to get in changed (overturned). If I've been able to put together the team that we need to have, they won't even miss a beat without my being there. I hope I've done that. We've got some really smart people at Hendrick Motorsports and this team is very strong."