(Illegal C-Posts at Daytona were the latest infractions on the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet - Getty)
Chad Knaus is no stranger to being penalized by NASCAR.
In fact this latest infraction and punishment would be the third time the Hendrick Motorsports crew chief got in hot water just at Daytona alone.
Knaus was fined $25,000 and Jimmie Johnson hit with a 25 point penalty in July of 2002 when the 48 Chevy was found to have illegal rear trailing arms which dropped the back of the car lower to the ground.
In 2006, Knaus was ejected from the track, fined $25,000 and handed a four-race suspension for installing an adjustable rear window to help the aerodynamics.
Of course there are other examples of the Knaus ingenuity during his NASCAR career including a 2007 incident at Infineon Raceway for a body violation that resulted in a six-race suspension.
He’s been relatively infraction free of late, at least in the suspension department, but last fall generated a lot of attention at Talladega when he was overheard instructing Johnson to “crack the back” of his car into the wall if he won the race because the rear end was too low to pass post inspection.
So with that body of work already on his record, it’s no wonder NASCAR came down as hard as it did this time around with a six-race suspension, $100,000 fine and 25-point penalties in the driver and owner departments.
Such a repeat offender was bound to get the book thrown at him at some point.
“It certainly makes you scratch your head,” said NASCAR president Mike Helton when the Daytona inspection infractions were announced two weeks ago. “What we’ve learned over time is to, in the heat of the battle, try to accomplish what we immediately are after, which is to get all the cars inspected and get them on the race track and then sit back and kind of digest it all.
“But you do kind of scratch your head on a name that reoccurs.”
There’s a school of thought that believes Knaus is simply doing his job, trying to find that gray area where the NASCAR rulebook ends and ingenuity takes over.
NASCAR’s history is full of cheating incidents including the very first race the sanctioning body ever ran in 1949 when apparent winner Herbert Westmoreland's 1947 Ford was found to have illegal rear springs in post inspection and the victory was handed to second place Jim Roper.
But in order for the sport to have credibility there has to be a rulebook and NASCAR has to enforce said rules.
Since the advent of the “Car of Tomorrow” in 2007, NASCAR has made it clear the sanctioning body would not tolerate tampering of any kind with the Sprint Cup machine. The biggest and smallest names in the sport have all felt the wrath of NASCAR when the rules were compromised.
NASCAR has had no problem increasing those penalties over the years to get its zero tolerance point across.
"Now if this penalty won't stop it, we have no problems ramping up," Sprint Cup director John Darby said back when Knaus and fellow Hendrick crew chief were penalized in Sonoma. "We can keep going, and we will, until we get the results we're looking for."
Which is why this potential six-race time out for Knaus makes sense. A multiple time offender as he is, Knaus deserves more scrutiny.
Clearly the fines, penalties and suspensions that have come before haven’t impacted Knaus’ penchant for thinking too far outside of the box.
My guess is even this time around it won’t change that outlook.
But NASCAR is doing the right thing with this unprecedented disciplinary action.
And somewhere down the road when Knaus decides to hang up his crew chief uniform, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a job offer come his way in Daytona Beach.
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