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Suspensions, point penalties to 48 team reversed
by Matt Taliaferro
The National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer, John Middlebrook, reduced a penalty handed down by NASCAR to Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 48 team on Tuesday. Middlebrook rescinded the loss of 25 owner and driver points and the six-race suspension of crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec. The $100,000 fine remained in place.
At issue were unapproved C-post modifications made to the car and discovered prior to practice for the Daytona 500. The car, which never turned a lap at Daytona, was pulled out of the technical inspection line. NASCAR asked the team to cut off the posts — which connect the roof to the rear deck lid and quarterpanels — to replace them.
Team owner Rick Hendrick stated that the C-posts in question had been used for all four of the restrictor plate races in 2011, and had passed not only technical inspection, but a trip to NASCAR’s R&D Center following October’s Talladega race.
On Tuesday, Hendrick said he presented some 20 photos, 15-20 pages of documentation and three sworn affidavits that the posts had not been changed.
“I’m glad this is over,” Hendrick told Scene Daily. “I appreciate the fact that we had the opportunity to present all the facts. I’m happy with the outcome to see the points reinstated and Chad reinstated.”
A three-person appeals board initially upheld the penalty on March 13 — Hendrick’s first appeal — but Middlebrook, who serves as the final step in the appeals process, ruled otherwise.
“Obviously we’re not happy with the fine — that’s an awful lot of money for something that was obviously proved to be OK,” Knaus said. “So that hurts a little bit. But it’s not about vindication. It’s over with. It’s time to move on.”
The reinstated points moves driver Jimmie Johnson from 17th in the point standings — 61 points out of first — to 11th, 36 markers back.
“We respect (Middlebrook’s) decision,” NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said. “We believe in this process.
I don’t think we made any mistakes. Our inspection process speaks for itself. It has worked very, very well in the garage for many years and it will work for many years to come.”
Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro