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Hendrick loses appeal against Johnson penalties

This week's initial appeal had been delayed because of teams having to relocate in a hurry toward to America's southwest for the races at Phoenix and Las Vegas after the late-running Daytona 500, and this is the first week that they have been back in NASCAR heartland around North Carolina to hold the hearing.

The three-person panel that voted on this week's appeal consisted of former USAC chairman John Capels, former IRL and Goodyear executive Leo Mehl and Dale Pinilis, operator of Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem. Appellate Administrator Ed Bennet was a non-voting member of the panel.

The National Stock Car Racing chief appellate officer who will deliver the final ruling on the appeal is former General Motors Executive John Middlebrook, who took over the $1 a year job in February 2010. He did previously rule on penalties imposed on Clint Bowyer and his crew for a rules violation at the start of the 2010 Chase, upholding a big points deduction on the driver and team but reducing the suspension on crew chief Shane Wilson from six weeks to four and lowering the fine imposed on Wilson from $150,000 to $100,000.

Middlebrook's role is to read over the transcripts of the separate private presentations made by NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports to today's appeal panel, and then to meet with all the participants in one combined meeting to ask any further outstanding questions.

"Coming off of a unanimous decision, I really think Hendrick Motorsports has a slim-to-none chance of this being overturned by Mr Middlebrook," former Cup driver Kyle Petty told the SPEED cable channel. "If it had been a split decision, I think Hendrick's chances in the next appeal still would be questionable, but I don't see how Mr Middlebrook can do anything but uphold the panel's ruling."

The modifications at issue are to the so-called C-posts or pillars that join the roof of the car to the main deck. Since they can be used to help direct the airflow onto the rear spoiler of the car, an aerodynamic advantage can be achieved by changes to this part of the bodywork. However, Knaus says that no such modifications have been made to the car since it last passed scrutineering multiple times at the end of 2011; the team also took issue with the way that the C-posts were ruled to have been illegally modified even though the Daytona stewards did not take detailed measurements or make reference to equivalent standard template parts.

The penalties were levied under Section 12-1 of the NASCAR Rule Book which is related to “Actions detrimental to stock car racing,” Section 12-4(J) which covers “Any determination by NASCAR Officials that the Race Equipment used in the Event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the NASCAR Rule Book, or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the Event” and also Section 20-2.1(E) which says “If in the judgement of NASCAR Officials, any part or component of the car not previously approved by NASCAR that has been installed or modified to enhance aerodynamic performance, will not be permitted: Unapproved car body modifications."

More:
Johnson, Knaus talk penalties and appeals
Johnson penalised for illegal bodywork




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#48 crew chief Chad Knaus helps unload his team`s backup car after Jimmie Johnson hit the wall on his first lap of final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice on Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nev. [Picture Credit: Jeff Bottari/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Crew chief Chad Knaus of the #48 Lowe`s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson, speaks to the media prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 2 in Avondale, Ariz. NASCAR suspended Knaus for six races and fined him $100,000 for failing an inspection last week in Daytona. Knaus will continue his crew chief duties while Hendrick Motorsports appeal. [Picture Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images]
Crew members work on the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson after NASCAR confiscated C-posts due to a modification violation in an initial inspection at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Crew chief Chad Knaus reacts as crew members work on the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson after NASCAR confiscated C-posts due to a modification violation in an initial inspection at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
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