Friday, October 28, 2011

No. 48 likely to undergo post-race inspection for remainder of season

Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR
Following Chad Knaus' order to Jimmie Johnson to wreck his car if he won Sunday's race at Talladega Superspeedway, NASCAR said the No. 48 can expect to be called into post-race inspection for the last four races of the season.

NASCAR officials met with Knaus and Johnson on Friday morning at Martinsville Speedway and released the following statement:

"We had the opportunity to visit with Chad and Jimmie this morning in Martinsville. As the sport's governing body we were doing our due diligence to look into this and gain some insight into the comments Chad made before the race at Talladega. We have a responsibility to the rest of the garage area to ensure that everyone is competing on a level playing field with the inspection processes we have in place. The 48 organization knows that from this occurrence that their car is likely to be a regular customer at the R&D Center for post-race inspection the balance of this season."

The winning car and one random car are taken to NASCAR's Research and Development center for further inspection after every race. The last four races of the year, in addition to Martinsville, include Texas, Phoenix and Homestead.

Jeff Gluck of SB Nation first reported Wednesday that the crew chief of the five-time championship-winning No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team ordered Johnson to crash the rear end of the racecar if Johnson won Sunday's race. NASCAR.com's Race Buddy application caught Knaus on the No. 48's in-car camera giving the instructions to Johnson before the race started.

No penalties will be issued over Knaus' comments. After the audio was released Wednesday, NASCAR said the sanctioning body wanted to investigate the matter "to get all the facts before making an opinion and reaching any conclusions."

The No. 48 did not win Sunday's Talladega race, finishing 26th, so Knaus' instructions never came to pass. In an interview with SB Nation, Knaus said he gave the order not to cover up any illegal work done to the car, but that he was trying to cover his bases because the bump drafting at Talladega could knock the back of a legal car outside of NASCAR's tolerances. Johnson backed up Knaus' concerns in a "NASCAR Now" interview Wednesday and again Friday during his media availability at Martinsville Speedway.

“Looking back on things, Chad explained himself very well this week, and has been more than available to talk though the situation. Everyone is very well aware at the statements he made. The other thing to remember is that car passed inspection multiple times throughout the course of the weekend. At the end of the day, while Chad was trying to protect himself post-race, he made a foolish statement. That is truly it," Johnson said Friday.

The No. 48 car passed three kinds of pre-race inspections leading up to Sunday's race at Talladega. The team used the same car they won with at the spring race, which was undamaged and did pass NASCAR's post-race inspection as well as further inspection at NASCAR's Research and Development Center.

In the Race Buddy audio, Johnson appears stunned by Knaus' suggestion. On Friday, Johnson said Knaus had never asked him to do that before.

“At the moment, I was kind of surprised. As he talked to me he made a reference to covering his bases and I’m like, I am not thinking about that, I am going racing like I always do, so that was that,” Johnson said. "You can tell by my reaction in the race car that was something I had not heard before."

"Chad and I certainly respect NASCAR and their inspection process and unfortunately it happened for really no reason at all and now we have to put it behind us."

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