Jimmie Johnson has left Daytona with not only a wrecked racecar, but also with negative points. The five-time series champion was docked 25 driver, and car owner Jeff Gordon (the listed owner for the Hendrick Motorsports entry) 25 owner points for infractions found on opening day inspection for the Daytona 500.
Additionally, and perhaps more seriously, Johnson's crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec have been suspended for the next six races apiece. They are suspended until April 18, on probation until May 9, and Knaus fined $100,000.
The violation was during the first day of practice for the Bud Shootout, when NASCAR officials confiscated C-pillars, the posts that connect the roof to the rear deck lid, in between the side and rear windows, and determined they had been illegally modified. They were removed from the vehicle, but the team was able to fly in replacement parts.
Following the race, NASCAR has determined 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 rulebook 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).
Knaus and Malec can go to races during an appeal process, which the team has opted to pursue.
“Our organization respects NASCAR and the way the sanctioning body governs our sport,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “In this case, though, the system broke down, and we will voice our concerns through the appeal process.”
With NASCAR's new points system that was implemented at the start of 2011, points range from 43 for first place, plus three bonus points per win and single bonus points for a lap led all the way to 1 for 43rd place. Johnson, who finished 42nd at Daytona, had only 2 points to his name leaving Daytona anyway with Kenseth at 47. The penalty sets Johnson back to -23, a full 70 points behind. It's early but undoubtedly a major setback to Johnson's 2012 season, with that large of a deficit.
Knaus was also suspended for six races in 2007, when NASCAR claimed the front fender was outside the tolerances at Infineon Raceway.