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chief appellate officer John Middlebrook, determined that the 25pt driver and team owner points penalties should be rescinded, and that there would be no suspensions for crew chief Chad Knaus or car chief Ron Malec.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."
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.