Knaus facing suspension after 48 fails inspection
Johnson, Terry Labonte have Daytona 500 qualifying times nixed
By David Newton, NASCAR.COM
February 12, 2006
10:47 PM EST (03:47 GMT)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Crew chief Chad Knaus faces possible suspension for altering the height of the rear window in driver Jimmie Johnson's car before Sunday's qualifying for the Daytona 500.
Johnson's qualifying speed that ranked fifth was disallowed, which will force him to start from the back in the first of Thursday's two Gatorade 150 qualifying races that set positions 3 through 43 in the 500.
Terry Labonte's car also had its qualifying run thrown out Sunday after the No. 96 Chevrolet failed inspection.
Labonte's car, with a Joe Gibbs Racing engine, was found to have illegal modifications to the carburetor. The two-time NASCAR champion is driving in the inaugural race for Hall of Fame Racing, the team owned by former NFL quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach.
"These were serious infractions," NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said. "I don't think we would disallow the times if this was not serious."
The biggest penalty could come as early as Monday against Knaus, according to a NASCAR source.
According to the source, an instrument was placed inside the car that raised the rear window after it went through pre-qualifying inspection to provide an aerodynamic advantage.
The height difference was discovered during a post-qualifying inspection and considered a flagrant attempt to gain a competitive advantage.
NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter classified the violation as serious and said additional penalties could follow. Johnson is not expected to be penalized.
Johnson's car was not impounded on Sunday night, but Hunter did not rule out the possibility that could happen Monday, meaning Johnson would have to go to his Hendrick Motorsports team's backup car for the qualifying race.
This is not the first time Knaus has been in hot water with NASCAR. He initially was suspended for two races and fined $35,000, Johnson was penalized 25 driver points and owner Rick Hendrick 25 owner points after it was determined the roof height was too low after last season's race at Las Vegas.
The suspension later was overruled, but the fine and points reductions were not.
The height of Johnson's car also was questioned last fall at Dover, after which NASCAR passed a rule outlawing the shock configuration the team had developed.
Hunter said past violations will not be a factor in considering further punishment. But Hunter left open the possibility of further penalties, including confiscation of the cars, suspension of the crew chiefs, monetary fines and maybe even a points deduction.
"Every situation is different,'' he said. "This is the first event of a new season. We want to start the season off with a very thorough inspection. As far as priors, this is judged on what happened in [Sunday's] qualifying procedure.
"In what happened in the past, we've dealt with those and issued penalties. But one thing we're concentrating on is making sure our guys stay within the framework of the rules.''
Hendrick and Knaus met with NASCAR officials early in the evening. Neither was available for comment after the infraction was announced.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.