Why Believe The Penalty PR Game?

Next week in a room at NASCAR’s R&D facility in Concord, N.C., retired General Motors executive John Middlebrook will hear the final appeal of Hendrick Motorsports. The crime of course being “c-posts” that, according to NASCAR, did not meet specifications.

Soon after, we’ll learn what Middlebrook’s decision is. Given his past, there is a chance the penalty could be lessened. Either way, you better believe the Hendrick media machine will be in overdrive.

For weeks, the team has displayed shock that NASCAR issued this penalty. Rick Hendrick said “the system broke down” and Chad Knaus  said there was a “bit of subjectiveness” to the penalty. I mean, it’s unbelievable that Knaus could be getting penalized for working outside the rulebook, right?

What’s that you say Lee Spencer?

One needs a scorecard to keep up with [Knaus'] infractions in 2002, 2003 (twice), 2005 (but his suspension was overturned on appeal), 2006 (four-race suspension), 2007 (six-race suspension) and 2009 (during the Chase, when the Cup Series director called Knaus’ handywork “close to the tolerances” but never penalized the Nos. 5 or 48 Hendrick Motorsports teams).

Oh, and there was the directive last October at Talladega not to bring the car back in one piece, but alas, we’ll never know what evolution of genius Knaus had discovered.

Well, there’s that I guess.

The truth is, despite his objections to the contrary, Chad Knaus very likely knew what the team was doing. And if he did, then he deserves to get sanctioned – if he didn’t, he’s not doing his job very well.

Time after time we listen to these teams act like some rogue employee made the offending change to the car – or in this case, that no penalty had even occurred. They’re of course doing it for the sake of perception – and I can understand that – but don’t expect us to believe it.

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26 Responses to “Why Believe The Penalty PR Game?”

  1. Bob Durnell says:

    What everyone seems to forget about the incident last fall at Talladega is that car was inspected and every car run the rest of the season was inspected with a fine toothed comb and NASCAR came up with NOTHING, so get off Chad’s back. It’s OK to assume Chad MIGHT be guilty because of his past, but it’s wrong to assume he IS guilty because of his past. NASCAR has the power to do whatever they want and claim ANYTHING is legal or illegal, but that doesn’t mean they’re right, just that they hold the power. I’ve been a part of getting cars through inspection, and despite what NASCAR wants the world to believe, much of it is as subjective as judging figure skating or gymnastics. Working for a small team that routinely ran the same car, I’ve seen certain items out there for everybody to see sail through inspections for 3/4 of a season, only to “suddenly” be illegal. The truth is Knaus is smarter than the inspectors and it ticks them off.

  2. I realize that this is going to get me blasted by many, but I don’t care. I feel that something is missing big time surrounding this penalty like information. Now I do take what Rick Hendrick says at face value and his words of the system broke gets my attention.

    But what I really want to know is: Did Hendrick Motorsports alter both c-posts during the off season before Daytona or not? Or is Hendrick telling the truth that they just repainted the car and its the same car including c-posts that they ran at all four restrict or plate races in 2011 including winning the sprint Talladega race nd NASCAR dropped the ball?

    Why didn’t NASCAR test the whole car anyway, visual inspection doesn’t mean much too me…

    I could even think that the C-Posts were altered at the beginning of 2011 and went through tech all those times, but was found only now at Daytona (Feb 2012).

    I guess I need more information to figure it out.

    And yes I do believe that Chad Knaus is an inavator, not a cheater. However even I know that you don’t touch the sheet metal of this car period and I’m just a fan, not someone who works in NASCAR or the sport.

    But when the final appeal is over, its over in my book and its times to move on one way or another and focus on racing and fixing the inspection and appeals process because their clearly broken. NASCAR fixed the point system, they now can fix this problem.

  3. RAEckart says:

    The thing that’s remarkable was Knaus last infraction was 2007. Five years is much longer than I thought.

    To Hendrick PR credit, they did get the story out that the car never got the “claw”. That’s an interesting procedural point.

    But Journo, you or T.C. really, really should write about this one a little deeper. So far all we’ve heard is a bunch of generic news reports & Hendrick P.R. There has to be educated guesses from the smartest people in the garage that’d be fit to print.

    Was the car really not altered between Talladega & Daytona? Did NASCAR have a fairly good idea of HOW they altered the car? Was it really as stupid as heating up sheet metal to pull it up slightly?

    No other website has given us squat as far as what even MIGHT have happened. Every two-bit hack wants to slam Knaus as a cheat and say case closed. But YOU ALL could shed a little light on how he pulled it off. Even an educated guess’d be 100% better than everyone else.

  4. Larry P. says:

    The biggest thing that bothers me about this mess is the comments Knaus made about how this came about. He said the rejection was done visually. No templates, no measurements, nothing but someone looking at and saying it did not look right. If that is the case, then NASCAR is wrong and the penalties should be tossed. Black and white, no gray area at all. If measurements where made, then someone is lying. Knaus, a crew member, someone. Can’t believe NASCAR threw the templates on with no crew members present, and have a hard time believing Knaus would flat-out lie in his comments.

  5. fireball doowah says:

    Any insight why HMS is fighting this so much? I don’t recall them ‘going to the mat’ on the other penalties, but I have a short memory.

  6. Neon says:

    Don’t you know that this is a game of principles and not $, or points, or suspensions? IMO Rick cares nothing about the $ fines, Rick cares only slightly more about the points (48 is already back to 23rd and climbing and all that matters for pts is getting in the Chase), Rick cares marginally more about the suspensions (Heck Darien won the 500 w/o Chad).
    No, Rick is digging in against the NASCAR juggernaut on principle alone. IMO if a reduction is forthcoming it will only be in the $ department and will mean nothing. Then Rick will end up donating that same amount of $ to charity, which I beleive is where NASCAR $ fines go anyway.

  7. 61 starliner says:

    Here is my reply. You want us all to believe that NASCAR is squeeky clean. If there is a cheater here my guess would be it’s NASCAR themselves. The C-posts were not out of spec. The didn’t even check them, they just decided they didn’t like the looks of them. When Chad was caught with the fenders flared, they fit the templates again NASCAR didn’t like the looks of them This stupid rule “detriment to stock car racing is the biggest ruse of them all. NASCAR wants the rules so vague so that they can penalize anyone anytime when they win too much. Racing used to be about the best driver, and the best mechanics that could work within the rules. NASCAR doesn’t publish their rule book, and it doesn’t matter if it’s in the rule book or not. NASCAR just decides it’s not good for NASCAR. The truth of the matter is NASCAR is just bowing to it’s sponsors to keep them in the game, and letting JJ & Chad win a sixth title is not going to make the sponsors any too happy. So if you can’t beat them on the track, then you have to beat them with point deductions. Then put the pressure to get Chad of the pit box and in a inside job where he can’t be so dominant. This and the IROC (car of tomorrow)joke racing along with phantom debris cautions is why I haven’t watched a NASCAR race in two seasons. The results are manufactured as is the racing. Just as Tony Stewart said a few years ago it’s the WWE/NASCAR series.

  8. Sue Rarick says:

    There was an old TV commercial that said “Show me the beef”. Nascar has yet to show the beef. They put out a part 99 44/100 percent of the media doesn’t have a clue as to it’s legality.

    Really all they had to do was show the difference between the part in question and an acceptable part from another car. It would have been as simple as two words – Contour Gauge – If they were different then Chad was cheating and there for all to see would have been the proof. But they didn’t. They fell back on Nascar’s catchall rule – Actions detrimental to the sport – Spitting on the road could fit that just as well.

    I’m not saying they needed CSI – just a couple of contour gauges which any fabricator at the track probably had.

  9. MS says:

    So was the infraction in initial inspection or pre-race?

    If pre-race, is NASCAR claiming it passed initial and then failed pre-race?

    If it was initial inspection where it failed, what the heck are they passing out sanctions for? That’s just plain goofy if it was an initial inspection problem.

  10. Journo says:

    61 Starliner – The problem with your perception of the situation is that you’re assuming that Hendrick didn’t do anything – you are believing the line from the team, which may or may not be correct. I’ve given you my take. And while I understand the issues some of the fan base has with NASCAR, the sanctioning body has no reason to penalize the 48 over any other car.

    Sue – The thing is, the teams know what they’re being penalized for – it’s a very transparent process for them. They also know NASCAR is not going to spend much time commenting on penalties, so they’re at liberty to form the narrative that drives the conversation. That is what’s happening here and happens just about every other time. The truth is, all are given rulebooks (as is everyone with a hard card) and subsequently, all look for ways to work around the rulebook.

    MS – The initial penalty was during a pre-race inspection. The issue is, NASCAR expects teams to bring legal cars to the track. That said, I think there’s an argument to be made about penalties for pre-race inspections.

  11. Tim says:

    A couple of things stand out to me:

    1. If this particular 48 car raced all four superspeedway events in 2011, was not damaged in a wreck, and the C-Posts were never touched . . . then how can NASCAR fine and penalize this team now? If the car wasn’t changed and passed inspection last year, what gives? NASCAR should have to respond to this for the fans.

    2. If the templates were never put on the car, as alleged, how can the car be deemed to be illegal? Just because NASCAR inspectors didn’t like the shape of the C-Posts via a visual inspection, that should not merit them being deemed illegal. What’s the use of having templates if NASCAR inspectors are going to deem things illegal without even using them. Again, NASCAR should have to respond to this for fans.

    3. If the 48 car had been presented for inspection and passed, then changes were made to the body of the car so that the templates did not fit after a reinspection, then suspend and fine the team all day. No one would blame NASCAR. The 48 car never made it through inspection or made it to the track for practice. Handing out a $100,000 fine and 25 point penalty is just way to harsh a fine in this situation. Again, NASCAR should have to respond to this for fans.

    If the inspectors didn’t like the shape of the C-Posts, then make the team fix the body before presenting it for reinspection. If the team chose not to fix the issue, then don’t let them race. In my humble opinion, NASCAR got the penalty part of the issue wrong. They may ultimately be correct on the shape of the C-Posts, but the penalty part was way out of bounds.

  12. Jon says:

    Quit pretending nascar has no interest in penalizing the 48 team. It’s a WAY better storyline for TV and better for ratings for him to be in the hole trying to fight his way out. If he was “allowed” to dominate, then the ratings could clearly start sagging. I am not saying they will rig races, that they will go out of their way to penalize people, but I fully believe the weird nature of never putting this car to template and the fact that they were penalized for something that never even got put on the track is EXTREMELY fishy. NASCAR has almost no transparency with the rules and what constitutes cheating. No other sport out there has such secrecy over the rules/rulebook like NASCAR. Until they quit doing that, this will always be the fan reaction, regardless of the driver being penalized.

  13. MS says:

    Journo – If the infraction was cited at pre-race inspection, that means by definition it passed initial inspection. And if it passed initial inspection and then failed pre-race inspection it means NASCAR contends that changes were made between the two inspections. No?

    So I can certainly understand the push-back from Hendrick for an infraction that according to all news reports was not quantifiable by either measurements or templates but was rather “eye-balled” and that NASCAR contends is something the Hendricks crew intentionally changed from one inspection to the next.

    Sorry, but credibility matters here. If NASCAR has the smoking gun then fine, can Chad for the entire season for all I care. But come on, “we eye-balled it”???

  14. Journo says:

    Jon – In one breath fans say that NASCAR favors the #48 and then in the other, it’s a better storyline by them penalizing the team. Which is it? This is, to be fair, a pretty common thing for the #48 team and Chad Knaus. To think this is odd that they would get penalized is removed from realty. There is a contingent of the fan base, you included that will never be happy with the sanctioning body operates, and that’s fine. I’m not really sure how you stand to watch the sport though.

    If you think this is the storyline NASCAR wants coming into the season, you’re crazy. Having one of the sport’s top teams questioning the inspection process does nothing but undermine the sanctioning body and creates negative perceptions. Trevor Bayne winning the Daytona 500 is a great storyline. Chad Knaus getting caught cheating AGAIN, and getting compared in editorials to athletes who dope is not.

  15. Journo says:

    MS – There are multiple inspections in the pre-race process (by definition all inspections that occur before the race are pre-race inspections) – we can call that first inspection the initial inspection. That’s the inspection the #48 failed. The car rolled off the truck like that.

    Something to consider, for the car to be so out of whack that the officials noticed without the templates should give everyone pause (the claw is not the be all, end all). They made the team cut off the c-posts and NASCAR took them back to Concord. Remember too, NASCAR has already warned the team in recent seasons about bringing cars with issues to the track. Hendrick is no martyr here.

  16. Slug says:

    Hendrick/Knaus probably used the extra time during the appeal process to figure out some way to circumvent Chad not being directly at the track… They’ll probably wire up Johnson with some sort of direct connection (no-hands cell phone anyone?) to a computer terminal so Knaus can see exactly what the 48 car is doing on the track.

    Cheating? Nah.

  17. djones says:

    What I want to know is, if this inspector is so good at “seeing” cars out of spec, why bother with all the templates? nascar could insure his/her eyes with Lloyd’s and save all that money on inspection tools. If it was that noticeable, didn’t others “see” it too? Like others above said, we never got to see the 48 car next to one without C posts issues.

    It really doesn’t matter if Chad is at the track or not. Didn’t Jimmie win while Chad was on a nascar imposed vacation in the past? I get why Rick H is battling this, he must think it’s worth fighting. I just hope Mr Middlebrook is fair. I will lmao if Jimmie wins Cup #6 in spite of this penalty.

  18. MS says:

    djones said: “If it was that noticeable, didn’t others “see” it too? Like others above said, we never got to see the 48 car next to one without C posts issues.”

    LOL, we all gotta remember, this isn’t a major sport where every infraction is replayed ad-nauseum from every conceivable camera angle, slo-mo’d and blown up and telestrated and the rulebook is on the internet…this is NASCAR, where the rulebook is a closely guarded secret and infractions are something that NASCAR tells fans is none of our business. I’m baffled that they don’t see the additional value these subplots would bring to the product and deal with them like all major sports do with their infractions.

  19. Ray says:

    If NASCAR wanted to prevent Chad from being a “remote” crew chief (calling in orders over a cell phone) instead of suspending him, he should have to watch the races from race control sitting right beside Helton the whole time.

  20. Tim says:

    Knowing who this team is, NASCAR should know better. By that I mean NASCAR should have known everyone would question their decision to penalize this team. To support their decision, they could have taken photos of the illegal parts showing what they didn’t like. Take a photo of the illegal part next to a legal part showing the difference. The manner in which NASCAR operates really hampers their credibility as a sanctioning body. NASCAR . . . please be a little more transparent.

  21. Sal says:

    Let me see if I have this right. The car that Nascar penalized was the same car that JJ raced at the plate races last year. That would include the race at Dega? The race where Chad’s pre race instructions to Jimmy were that, if he won the race, he had to crumple the back end doing burnouts? Which might have given an excuse for the C posts to be out of spec? Just sayin’.

  22. Woogeroo says:

    If it is out of spec/tolerance, then it is out. Them’s the rules… I’m just curious if it was ever actually measured/checked while it was still on the car or not.

    if yer not cheatin’, yer not trying.


  23. Jon says:

    at no point did i say nascar favored the 48. you can speak for fans in general if you want, but when you’re addressing me, i’d appreciate your arguments to not insert words into my mouth.

    in no way do i believe they favor any given team, with the exception of danica patrick. and i don’t think they “favor” her in any way, like they don’t give her car more leniency in the inspection, but they probably would prefer her to do better.

    that’s a different situation than wanting to create better ratings by penalizing a team that typically runs away with the show (or at least is known for it). i’m not saying that that’s what they are doing, but if nascar wants me to think otherwise, i suggest they actually start putting the damn template to the 48 before they start handing over 25 point penalties with little to no explanation of WHY.

  24. Woogeroo says:

    Well, Journo, you called that one!

    They got everything back except the 100K$ fine for Knaus… which is odd to me. If they rescinded everything, what did he do wrong?

    NASCAR is now claiming they put ‘gauges’ on the c-post, but not the template.

    This is what makes us fans crazy. Do BOTH NASCAR!!!! That way there is no question of fairness for any team in any situation. Measure, measure with everything at your disposal and document it all!

    Then, there is no wiggle room, if it’s out of tolerance, it’s out.


  25. Rain says:

    This is my fault…I actually expect consistency from NASCAR.Ha! Oh well…Woogeroo is right. To be fair there is no wiggle room.

  26. Marc says:

    So, the punishment was excessive with respect to the violation when compared to other recent penalties? The c-posts were out of compliance but Hendrick proved that they had passed NASCAR inspections last year? Some combination of the two? Something else? I am sure I am not the only one who is puzzled but not surprised.

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