No. 48: Who Said a Cheater Never Wins?
So what we learned this week is that, yes, Chad Knaus is, in fact, a cheater. NASCAR said so.
The National Stock Car Racing Commission said so.
And now the National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook said so.
But Middlebrook doesn’t think Knaus’ cheating was as bad as NASCAR or the commission thought it was, so this week, he lightened penalties handed down to the No. 48 team and its oft-wayward crew chief.
Restored are the 25 driver points that Jimmie Johnson lost after the Daytona 500 for the C-post that didn’t pass NASCAR’s eyeball test. Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec also received only probation instead of the original six-race suspension originally handed down by NASCAR and upheld by the commission.
But, the $100,000 fine levied by NASCAR still has to be ponied up by Knaus and his boss Rick Hendrick.
That last part is the one that I don’t get.
So, he cheated — Middlebrook admitted as much by allowing the fine to stand — and this is not the first time, mind you, so why do you reduce the suspension and restore the points?
The fine was the least punitive part of the fine. If there is one thing that Hendrick has, it’s money.
Points and losing a five-time Cup winning crew chief hurts that team and serves as more of a deterrent than 100 grand.
I’m guessing that the fine is punishment for Knaus outsmarting NASCAR on numerous occasions with this same car.
“The car went to the tech (NASCAR Research and Development) center,” said Hendrick to NASCAR.com’s Joe Menzer. “It was inspected at the race track. It was inspected at the tech center on multiple occasions. It was at the tech center as late as January and the car had not been altered. We even had one of the NASCAR officials make a comment about the car being correct in the C-post and the template area. We had all that documented.”
Knaus said that the No. 48 gets more scrutiny because it wins so much and they are OK with that.
“After Talladega last year, our 48 car was the random car drawn every week (for inspection and the R&D Center),” said Hendrick.
Of course, Talladega was where Knaus famously told Johnson to have someone knock in the back end of the car a bit if he won, with the implication being something with the car was outside of the rules.
The Daytona car was the same car from Talladega.
So, essentially what has happened, if the car was in fact illegal, which is what everyone has said, is that Knaus and the boys on the No. 48 team outsmarted NASCAR’s inspectors for the better part of a year.
And for that they must pay — $100K to be exact.
NASCAR will never admit and Hendrick or Knaus won’t explicitly call it exactly what it is, but the evidence is there.
Contact Andy Cagle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story