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Overturned suspensions, points huge
I am happy for team owner Rick Hendrick and crew chief Chad Knaus that on final appeal, the points penalty and suspensions issued following an infraction by the Jimmie Johnson team at Daytona International Speedway were rescinded.
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Really and truly, when you think about those three elements – points, money and suspension, even though $100,000 is a lot of money to a lot of folks, it’s even a lot of money to Hendrick Motorsports – the most valuable part of the equation is having crew chief Chad Knaus and Car chief Ron Malec at the racetrack, moving right on, straight from Bristol now to California this week. Then, obviously, we all know the importance of points.
Tuesday, in an appeal to National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook, the six-week suspensions NASCAR had issued Knaus and Malec were rescinded. So was the 25-point owner and driver penalty that had been assessed the team. The $100,000 fine against Knaus was allowed to stand.
You can’t even put a value on points. Let’s just say that 25 points stayed in place as far as a penalty, and let’s just say Jimmie got into a slump during the summer months, maybe got into a couple of wrecks, maybe they lose a couple of engines, and he ended up 1th in points after Richmond, 15 points out of the top 10 and a locked-in spot in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. How valuable would those points be then? Honestly, though, I think the way Johnson and his team have been running, the 25 points was going to be a moot point, I really believe that. But still, today, you have to count them as very valuable, so Hendrick Motorsports was able to get overturned two of the three elements, and in my book the two most important elements.
But I am happy for Chad. I’m happy for Rick, I said it on race day this past week, for some reason, Rick Hendrick – unless I’m totally forgetting the past to some degree, he’s been so vocal and bold and confident about this penalty and I don’t remember him being that way on some of the organization's previous rule infractions, some of its previous penalties. I don’t remember Rick Hendrick even speaking those other times, but he’s been very bold, very adamant, about his one for whatever reason.
Obviously it must have proven right, at least in the eyes of John Middleboork, the appellate officer.
Laying that aside, I’m shocked. I’m almost lost for words. When I read on my iPhone that the majority of the penalties had been rescinded, I almost dropped it. I just never believed that John Middlebrook, with that appeal committee last week unanimously upholding NASCAR’s penalties, I never believed John Middlebrook would have overturned two of the three elements. I truly believed that what was going to happen was that he was going to reduce the suspension from maybe six to three weeks, six to four weeks, I felt like he maybe was going to reduce the fine, maybe from $100,000 to 75,000 or $100,000 to 50,000, but I felt like he would not touch those points.
That’s kind of been the history of John Middlebrook. I think he’s handled three appeals that have come his way in the two years he’s been in position and he has reduced all three of them. Now, the most major one would have been Richard Childress Racing in the fall of 2010 with Clint Bowyer at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway race, a penalty that Middlebrook reduced on final appeal. But I’m shocked.
I don’t mean to just keep this box of snakes stirring, but if John Middlebrook was sitting before me and I could look at him and ask him one question, my one question would be, why still the $100,000 fine? If this rule infraction was light enough in your eyes to rescind the points, rescind the suspension, why the fine? What was out of line enough to still justify a $100,000 fine?
Middlebrook is a former General Motors executive, so obviously some are going to ask about his decision in light of that relationship. I would be asking that same question, but I go back to the RCR penalty a year and a half ago, and I know for a fact, first-hand, had dinner with him on many occasions with team owner Richard Childress and Dale Earnhardt, that Richard Childress and John Middlebrook were tight, were very tight.
When I heard it was John Middlebrook that was going to rule on Childress’ final appeal of that penalty, I went, ‘Oh my gosh, why don’t they just get Richard’s brother to listen to it?’ Because I knew how tight Richard and John were. But I’ve got to say, it appeared that had no bearing on it, which honestly gives me a lot of respect for John Middlebrook. I don’t even really question that one because of that and that’s just my honest opinion.
Now, I am burnt out on talking about it and I know Hendrick Motorsports is, I know NASCAR is. It’s like, man, look, we’ve run four races, we’ve had four different winners, we’ve had four different manufacturers win, we’ve had four different organizations win, we’ve had four different polesitters. Man, let’s move on. Let’s get to the meat and potatoes of what we’re here for and that’s to run races every week.
Still, though, if I could look at John Middlebrook I’d say, if this penalty is not that big of a penalty in your eyes – what justifies the $100,000 fine. What was out of line?
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