Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and his crew chief Chas Knaus were trying hard to brush aside questions about the mid-week penalties from NASCAR handed down on them and the #48 team for a rules infringement at Daytona.

"Obviously, there is a lot that has gone on since last weekend's race including the penalties that have been passed down," Johnson said at Phoenix on Friday. "But, I'm focused on this weekend's race. We need to go out there and get as many points as we can. Win the race, that is what [sponsor] Lowe's has hired us to do and what Hendrick Motorsports has worked for all winter long to get us prepared for this year."

Points are what matter now, after Johnson and his team got a 25pt driver and car owner's deduction for illegal modifications to part of the #48's bodywork at Daytona. With a disastrous Daytona 500 itself (he was wrecked on lap 2 by Elliott Sadler) that means that Johnson comes into this weekend's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway with -23pts in the Sprint Cup championship.

"We were certainly disappointed in the way the race unfolded for us," he said about Monday night's events. "To make it 2.6-miles in the Daytona 500 and to be torn up just isn't the way we wanted to start the season."

Johnson made clear that he still had complete faith in his team and his long-time crew chief Chad Knaus, despite the embarrassment of failing scrutineering and now having the heavy penalties to work off.

"I have all the confidence in the world and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports on the #48 team and across the board," he insisted. "I believe in our system, I believe in my team, I believe in my guys, it is what it is. We are here to race and win the race this weekend."

The reaction to the penalties up and down pit road has been mixed. Johnson's Hendrrick team mate Jeff Gordon was of the opinion that "It seems to me to be sending a stronger message than needed to be sent ... I was surprised at how stiff a penalty that was."

But Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin wasn't surprised at all. "I think NASCAR does not like the wool to be pulled over their eyes," he said, referring to the theory that NASCAR felt that it had been fooled by the #48 at the last restrictor-plate race of 2011 at Talladega and was in no mood to be a patsy this time around. "You always want to try to stay in NASCAR's good graces and I think that NASCAR has just had heavy eyes for those guys early in the season anyway," Hamlin added.

"There's a fine balance between where you cross the line and where you don't," said Richard Childress Racing's Kevin Harvick. "The only way to find out is to push things to the limit and see if you get away with it ... Sometimes they cross the line and you've got to find that line.."

Hendrick Motorsports has already announced that it will appeal the penalties that NASCAR levied on Wednesday. "The appeal process is underway as we all know," Johnson said. "Through that process there will be a lot of facts presented to NASCAR on our behalf. At this point in time I just can't share or get into an in-depth discussion about what those are.

"I need to go through the process; the team needs to go through the process. I'm clearly not a part of it, I'm just the driver," he added. "The team goes through the process and once that process is over there will be plenty more to talk about then."

The #48 team under Chad Knaus' leadership has been in trouble over rules and regulations infringements before - this marks the fourth time since 2005 that Knaus has been fined and suspended for major violations. Johnson was asked whether he thought that this had played any part in how NASCAR had approached inspection of the #48 at the Daytona 500.

"That would require me speculating. I'm just not in a position to do that. You will have to take that question up with NASCAR," he said. "There is a very strict tech procedure that exists in our sport and there isn't a car that has been more scrutinised over the last decade than the #48 car. I have no concerns."

The issue of just how well inspected the #48 car has been over the years was picked up by Chad Knaus, who himself faces a six-race suspension, probation and a $100,000 fine if the Hendrick appeal fails.

"It did run all four races last year, and has been through inspection a lot," said Knaus of the car that failed inspection during pre-practice checks at Daytona. That meant that NASCAR officials had okayed the car "multiple times" before this.

"Honestly, it's not what I had expected," admitted Knaus. "I'm disappointed that it is in the situation it is. This is not what we had expected rolling into Daytona at all ... We do everything we can to build the best race cars we possibly can to bring to the race track," he continued. "Unfortunately, they didn't like something and we have to address that. It definitely was not foreseen."

Knaus also pointed out that the scrutineering failure had been done on the basis of a visual check only. Other parts of the car can be checked by comparison with standard part templates, but the C-posts that connect the roof of the car to the deck and help direct air over the rear spoiler are apparently not an area that can be checked by strict measurements.

"That will definitely come up during the appeal," said Knaus of the inspection process. "It was all visual. The templates were never actually put on the car. It was a visual inspection at that point. We never even got the opportunity to actually present that under templates. It is unfortunate, there is a bit of subjectiveness to it and that is why we are going through the appeal."

However, the C-posts are part of the car that are not supposed to be changed or modified by teams under any circumstances. And one of the rules cited by NASCAR in failing the car simply states that "Streamlining of the contours of the cars, beyond that approved by the Series Director, will not be permitted." There's no mention of templates, even though in practice they are commonly used as part of the day-to-day inspection process.

In the meantime, Johnson, Knaus and the rest of the team just have to hope that the appeal succeeds and that the penalties are overturned or modified.

"We are very fortunate to have this ability to go through the appeal process," said Knaus. "It's unfortunate that teams have to take advantage of the appeal process from time to time, but it is good that it is there. We have seen something's changed, reversed, minimised and some maximised at different times. Hopefully we will get it going in our favor."

If the appeal fails then Johnson will have to have a new crew chief to replace Knaus for six races, as well as a new car chief to stand in for Ron Malec who faces a similar suspension. Knaus said that the team didn't yet have a Plan B regarding who would end up taking over from them if it came to that.

"We don't know yet," he said. "We are very fortunate at HMS we have a lot of depth in our organization. We have great people. We have a lot of very intelligent people; some people who probably do this job a hell of a lot better than me there. I'm not really too concerned about that right now."

Like Johnson, Knaus wouldn't be drawn on whether he felt that he and the #48 were being targeted for perceived past transgressions - or whether he himself was developing a worrying reputation as someone who might be consistently prone to breaking the rules.

"I don't know, that is difficult for me to say - you would have to go ask NASCAR about that," he said. "Honestly, I'm here to do the best I can #48 team, and that is all that really matters to me. As far as my reputation goes, I'm not too concerned about that."