NASCAR chief appellate officer John Middlebrook this morning is hearing the final appeal to overturn or reduce NASCAR penalties levied against the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team for illegal C-posts discovered during pre-qualifying inspection for the Daytona 500.
Middlebrook has heard one prior appeal at the Sprint Cup level and two in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The Cup case came in 2010, when Clint Bowyer’s Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet failed post-race inspection after winning the first race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Bowyer’s points penalty was upheld in that case, but crew chief Shane Wilson saw his punishment reduced from a six-week suspension and a $150,000 fine to four weeks and $100,000.
In 2010, Middlebrook cut a $5,000 fine against Nationwide owner Johnny Davis to $2,500 and earlier this year lifted the suspension of Nationwide driver Peyton Sellers, who had been in an altercation with a series official.
What happens in the case of the Hendrick team remains to be seen. Last week, the National Stock Car Racing Commission denied the first appeal and today is Hendrick’s last chance.
The original penalty ruling was that the No. 48 car was found to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4J (any determination by NASCAR officials that race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the rule book or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the event); and 20-2.1E (if in the judgment 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).
Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec were suspended for six Sprint Cup races and Knaus was fined $100,000. But both will be at Auto Club Speedway this weekend, pending the outcome of the final appeal.
In February 2006, Knaus was suspended for four races, after the rear window of Johnson’s car failed to fit the template following Daytona 500 qualifying. Johnson won the 500 that year with interim crew chief Darian Grubb.
In June 2007, Knaus got earned six weeks off when he was suspended for illegally modifying the front fenders of Johnson’s car at Infineon Raceway.
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.