Hendrick Motorsports has won the final stage in the NASCAR appeals process over a series of points deductions and crew suspensions levied on Jimmie Johnson's #48 team for rules infringements discovered in pre-practice technical inspection at Daytona in mid-February.

The final appeal, presided over by the series' chief appellate officer John Middlebrook, determined that the 25pt driver and team owner points penalties should be rescinded, and that there would be no suspensions for crew chief Chad Knaus or car chief Ron Malec.

"I'm glad this is over," said team owner Rick Hendrick. "I appreciate the fact that we had the opportunity to present all the facts. I'm happy with the outcome to see the points reinstated and Chad reinstated."

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However, a $100,000 fine handed down to Knaus remains in place, as does the probation on Knaus and Medac through to May 9.

"I would have liked to have the fine gone, too, because I think there was no reason for any kind of penalty," continued Hendrick. "All I can tell you is by the rule book, the car was legal. I believe if that wasn't the case, we wouldn't have gotten this overturned."

"Obviously we're not happy with the fine, that's an awful lot of money for something that was obviously proved to be OK," agreed Knaus, who said that "it's not about vindication" and declared: "I felt like they made a mistake [with the original finding] ... It's over with. It's time to move on."

The stunning reversal came exactly a week after the three-man National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel unanimously upheld the original penalties. The official notification from Middlebrook did not give any immediate reasons behind the decision that had been handed down, and he did not make any media appearances.

The modifications at issue were 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 and Hendrick insisted that no such modifications have been made to the car since it last passed scrutineering multiple times at the end of 2011, and they had documented affidavits to support the claim.

The team additionally took issue with the way that race officials at Daytona deemed the C-posts illegal without taking detailed measurements or making reference to equivalent standard template parts. They also pointed out that 20 other teams with issues during scrutineering were allowed to take the car back, in three cases even grinding down C-posts to meet compliance before resubmitting the cars for approval; whereas in the case of the #48 the C-posts were immediately cut off the car and confiscated, with penalties.

Rick Hendrick, the owner of Hendrick Motorsports, had been vehement in his anger over the original penalties and had been determined to see them overturned. "Hopefully this will be the last time I'll ever have to stand here and do this," he said, clearly still fuming about the ordeal that he and his team had been put through.

"I was shocked last Tuesday and I was pleasantly not surprised but glad [with today's final appeal ruling]," continued Hendrick. "It just felt like to me the only way it could go ... I believe so much in the facts. They went through the facts from one end to the other."

Former Cup champion Darrell Waltrip's opinion was that Middlebrook's ruling could have been because of NASCAR's apparent determination to make an example of the #48.

"I think this came down to NASCAR maybe not doing everything down to the letter of the law at Daytona and the penalties being assessed before the team had a chance to defend itself or work on any problems," Waltrip told SPEED. "I think that's why Rick felt so strongly about taking his appeal all the way to the top."

For its part, NASCAR said that it respected Middlebrook's decision and that the retention of the $100,000 penalty on Knaus and the probations on him and Malec could be taken as an endorsing the key finding of a rules infringement at the heart of the process.

"I think there is still evidence that there was a rules infraction," NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp insisted. "The $100,000 fine is intact, so there was a rules infraction committed.

"I am sure the chief appellate officer has his reasons," Tharp continued when asked why the fine remained while the other penalties had been reversed. "He heard both sides, and it's his prerogative to make those decisions. It's part of the process."

Middlebrook is a former 49-year veteran of General Motors who took over the $1-a-year position as National Stock Car Racing chief appellate officer in February 2010. In all four of the appeals that he has now ruled on, he has reduced penalties in each case - although none quite so stunningly and comprehensively as this week's ruling on the #48 team.

Middlebrook is a long standing friend of Rick Hendrick, and conspiracy theorists were quick to suggest that he had been biased in his judgement - something that NASCAR's Kerry Tharp dismissed.

"His experience and knowledge and association in our sport over the years speaks for itself," he said. "He is a very well thought of and respected person in the auto industry."

The chief appellate officer's role in today's proceedings was to read over the transcripts of the separate private presentations made by NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports to last week's appeal panel, and then to meet with all the participants in one combined meeting to ask any further outstanding questions. The process took most of Tuesday, starting at 9am and lasting for more than six hours.

"I think the forum today was a little bit better," said Knaus. "It allowed us to get us in the same room with the NASCAR personnel and discuss what happened, and the appeal committee was able to hear both sides of the story at the same time.

"There's two sides to every story: there's my side, NASCAR's side and the truth always falls in the middle somewhere," he continued. "Today we did a good job to make sure the truth was laid out there for everybody."

The original penalties had been 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."

"It's unfortunate that the perception out there is that we continue to bend the rules, because we truly don't," summed up Knaus, whose reputation has been under the microscope in the last month over this latest issue. "I am not really worried about my reputation - I'm worried about winning races for Hendrick Motorsports.

"If people don't like the way we do it or what's happened in the past, that's sad," he said. "I don't like personal digs because this is a business, this is a sport - but that's the way it is."

More: Hendrick loses appeal over Johnson penalties Johnson, Knaus talk penalties and appeals Johnson penalised for illegal bodywork