29 February 2012
Johnson penalised for illegal bodywork
Jimmie Johnson's dismal start to the 2012 season got the perfect capper, with heavy penalties for a rules infringement leaving him with negative points and no crew chief.
Jimmie Johnson knew it was coming, but confirmation of the penalty for illegal bodywork on the #48 discovered on the first day of 2012 Speedweeks was the worst possible way to end a horrible Daytona 500. And the size of the penalties was bigger than expected, if not exactly a huge surprise.
Even before track activity got underway at Daytona nearly two weeks ago, the #48 failed pre-practice scrutineering when it was found that the 'C' posts that connect the roof to the deck of the car had been illegally modified outside of NASCAR specifications, seemingly in an attempt to gain aerodynamic advantage in the way that the air was channelled to the rear spoiler.
Following the conclusion of the Daytona 500, NASCAR handed down penalties on Wednesday to Johnson, the team, the car chief - and the crew chief, Chad Knaus.
Johnson himself has been docked 25pts, meaning that he is now left on negative points, since an early accident in the Daytona 500 sparked when Elliott Sadler ran into the back of the #48 at the start of lap 2 left Johnson classified in next-to-last place and with just 2pts in his account.
After the penalty is applied Johnson now has -23pts to overcome before he can even start his 2012 Sprint Cup season properly. It means he's currently in 49th place in the Cup standings.
Chad Knaus has been suspended from the next six Sprint Cup events, and additionally fined $100,000. The car chief of the #48, Ron Malec, was also suspended for six races. Both men have been suspended from NASCAR until April 18 and placed on NASCAR probation until May 9.
The team itself also loses 25 car owner points, which means that the #48 could lose its place in the top 35 that assures entry to races from Martinsville onwards. However, Johnson would be able to apply a champions provisional entry to make sure he doesn't have to rely on qualifying performance to make the grid while he recovers lost ground.
However the team is not happy with the penalties, and says that it will appeal the decision through the formal process.
"Our organisation respects NASCAR and the way the sanctioning body governs our sport," said team owner Rick Hendrick in a statement. "In this case, though, the system broke down, and we will voice our concerns through the appeal process."
The specific rule that NASCAR have deemed the #48 broke was section 20-2.1E, "unapproved car body modifications, specifically any part of the car modified to enhance aerodynamic performance."
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