FONTANA, Calif. — In the aftermath of Hendrick Motorsports’ successful appeal of penalties imposed on the No. 48 team for a Daytona rules infraction, Jimmie Johnson made a bold assertion Friday at Auto Club Speedway.
“Through the appeal process, we proved that those ‘C’ posts were legal,” Johnson said of the parts NASCAR confiscated on opening-day inspection Feb. 17 at Daytona.
NASCAR president Mike Helton would take issue with that statement. In Helton’s view, when NASCAR’s chief appellate officer, John Middlebrook, upheld a $100,000 fine to Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, that vindicated the inspection problem that uncovered the alleged violation.
“We believe in our inspectors,” Helton told reporters Friday at Auto Club Speedway. “We think that the decision that was made this week supports the inspection process, because the elements of the penalty that were upheld indicate that the inspection process, or the inspectors, did their job correctly.”
In upholding the fine and leaving Knaus and car chief Ron Malec on probation, while rescinding six-race suspensions to Knaus and Malec and 25-point penalties against Johnson and car owner Jeff Gordon, Middlebrook made no comment about the nature of the violation itself. He simply altered the punishment.
So were the “C” posts legal or not? Asked whether they would be confiscated again if the 48 car featured the same “C” posts at Talladega, Helton said, “I would hope so.”
Legal or not, Johnson, Knaus and team owner Rick Hendrick expressed confusion over the rescission of some penalties and the upholding of others.
“I’m not totally happy with the decision,” said Johnson, who climbed from 17th to 11th in the Cup standings after his 25 points were restored. “I’m pleased that the big issues had come down, but I share confusion as well.
“I think our message — I know our message all along through Hendrick Motorsports and myself — we didn’t feel that a penalty was warranted in the first place. We’re just as curious.”