Daytona Beach, FL – NASCAR on Wednesday issued hefty day inspection for the Daytona 500.
Crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec have been suspended from NASCAR competition for six Sprint Cup Series races. Knaus also received a $100,000 fine.
Johnson and car owner Jeff Gordon were penalized with the loss of 25 driver and owner points.
According to a news release from NASCAR, 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).
Hendrick Motorsports said it will appeal the penalties and noted that adjustments to team personnel on the No. 48 are not planned while the appeal is ongoing. Therefore, Knaus and Malec will be at Phoenix International Raceway for this weekend's Sprint Cup Series race.
"Our organization respects NASCAR and the way the sanctioning body governs our sport," team owner Rick Hendrick said in a statement. "In this case, though, the system broke down, and we will voice our concerns through the appeal process."
During the inspection process, NASCAR officials found the C-post on Johnson's Daytona 500 car to be illegal. A C-post is the panel that connects the rear of the car's roof to the top of the rear quarter panel or deck lid area.
The parts were confiscated and then sent to NASCAR's Research and Development Center in Concord, North Carolina for further evaluation.
Shortly after officials made the discovery on Johnson's car, Sprint Cup Series director John Darby said, "What you would normally see is exactly what the original surface of the car should be. There were some obvious modifications that the template inspectors picked up on, and we did some additional inspections with some gauges and stuff and found that they were just too far out of tolerance to fix, so they were removed from the car."
The team had to fix the issue on the car and remit it for inspection before they could participate in the first practice for the Daytona 500, which was scheduled on the following day.
NASCAR had planned on issuing any penalties it deemed necessary to Johnson's team after Speedweeks had concluded at Daytona International Speedway.
Johnson placed 12th in the February 19 time trials.
Four days later, he finished third in the second Gatorade Duel qualifying race to give him the eighth starting position for the Daytona 500.
Johnson earned just two points after finishing 42nd in last Monday's rain- delayed Daytona 500. He was one of six drivers involved in a crash after the completion of the first lap.
If the penalty is upheld, Johnson's points will be readjusted to minus-23, putting him 70 markers behind Daytona 500 winner and current points leader Matt Kenseth.
In 2006, Johnson's car failed post-qualifying inspection for the Daytona 500, with officials discovering an unapproved template modification to the rear window area. Knaus was not allowed to participate in any further Speedweek activities, including the Daytona 500. He was also suspended for the next three Cup races and received a $25,000 fine.
Johnson went on to win the Daytona 500 for the first time in '06, with Darian Grubb serving as his interim crew chief at the time.