Crew members work on the car of driver Jimmie Johnson after a crash during… (John Raoux / Associated…)
NASCAR on Wednesday suspended Jimmie Johnson's crew chief and car chief for six races, and docked Johnson 25 title points, after the car driven by the five-time Sprint Cup Series champion failed opening-day inspection for the Daytona 500.
The sanctioning body found that the No. 48 Chevrolet had an unapproved C-post -- the sheet of metal connecting the roof and rear quarter panel -- that might have improved the car aerodynamically.
Johnson's team, Hendrick Motorsports, said it would appeal the suspension levied against crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec, and both can remain at races during the appeal starting with Sunday's race at Phoenix International Raceway. Knaus also was fined $100,000.
But if the penalties are upheld, Johnson would be in an early hole as he bids for a sixth title. He finished next to last in the Daytona 500 because of an early crash, and the loss of 25 points leaves Johnson 70 points behind Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth.
This was not a rare occurrence with Knaus (pronounced ke-nouse), who has run afoul of NASCAR's rules several times.
After Johnson qualified for the Daytona 500 in 2006, for instance, NASCAR found his rear window had been doctored to improve the car's aerodynamics and suspended Knaus. Johnson then won the race without Knaus, who watched it on TV at home.
But Knaus, known as one of the brainiest and hardest working crew chiefs in the garage, repeatedly has rejected the cheater label, contending that it's his job to probe gray areas in NASCAR's rule book to gain an edge.
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