Reaction to Johnson-Knaus Incident Mixed

Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus

Crew chief Chad Knaus instructed Jimmie Johnson to damage his car if he won Sunday's Good Sam Club 500. (Photo: Getty Images)


The fallout from last week’s Talladega controversy between Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson reached Martinsville Speedway on Friday.

The instructions by Knaus for Johnson to damage his car in a post-race celebration had he won the Good Sam Club 500 drew NASCAR’s response.

NASCAR spokesperson Kerry Tharp said the sanctioning body had met with the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team and as a result expects the car to be a likely candidate for post-race inspection the remainder of the season.

“We had the opportunity to visit with Chad and Jimmie this morning in Martinsville,” was NASCAR’s statement. “As the sport's governing body we were doing our due diligence to look into this and gain some insight into the comments Chad made before the race at Talladega. We have a responsibility to the rest of the garage area to ensure that everyone is competing on a level playing field with the inspection processes we have in place. The 48 organization knows that from this occurrence that their car is likely to be a regular customer at the R&D Center for post-race inspection the balance of this season."

Johnson was asked about the incident and gave his explanation but denied any wrongdoing on Knaus’ part or the race team’s.

“Everyone is very well aware at the statements he made,” Johnson said of the comments from Knaus. “The other thing to remember is that car passed inspection multiple times throughout the course of the weekend. At the end of the day, while Chad was trying to protect himself post-race, he made a foolish statement. That is truly it.

“At the end of the day, that car passed inspection multiple times at an impound race and was pushed out onto the grid. It was certainly something that we did not want to take place. You can tell from my reaction it was something I had never heard in the car from him before, and it is what it is. The car passed tech at the race track multiple times and people have to build faith in that; Chad and I certainly respect NASCAR and their inspection process and unfortunately it happened for really no reason at all and now we have to put it behind us.”

Asked about his reaction to the directive, Johnson admitted he was taken aback.

“At the moment, I was kind of surprised,” Johnson said. “As he talked to me he made a reference to covering his bases and I’m like, I am not thinking about that, I am going racing like I always do, so that was that.”

Other drivers were asked about the incident including Denny Hamlin, who seemed to understand the intent but was confident in NASCAR’s ability to maintain order in the series.

“Everyone is going to push the limit as far as they can,” Hamlin said. “If they felt like they were really close on tolerance -- any kind of damage would help give some kind of explanation to why it was above or below tolerances. We know on superspeedways that we have so much contact back there anyway, the cars can move quite a bit.

“If there’s any type if impropriety -- NASCAR doesn’t like that. They don’t like the wool to be pulled over their eyes and it’s up to them to make sure that we have a level playing field. And us, all other 42 competitors, want to make sure that we’re all on the same level playing field. They’re going to do their best to make sure that happens and obviously they will look into it and if they see that something is wrong then they will take care of it. If not, then we’ll just move on.”

Kevin Harvick, who is looking for a Martinsville sweep this weekend and hopes to help his championship chances in the process, chalked up the situation as a reflection of title-race pressure.

“Yea, I know for me I am all for doing whatever you have to do to win the championship and sometimes you have to do what you have to do and what you think is right as a team, so some people may not agree but at this point, it is really all about trying to win the race and trying to win a championship, however you think you need to go about that differs between teams, but you have to do what you have to do,” Harvick said.

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