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Woody: Cheating’s Not Funny Anymore

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, March 6 2012

Chad Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson, is in trouble with the NASCAR inspectors once again. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Tom Copeland)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer

I confess that I wouldn’t recognize a C-post if Chad Knaus installed one in my breakfast cereal some morning.

Which, based on all the mechanical malfeasances Chad has been charged with during his years in NASCAR, is not out of the realm of possibility.

But whatever a C-post is (an area between the roof and side window of a stock car, I read somewhere), it must be important. Chad was fined $100,000 and suspended for six races for “illegally modifying” one prior to the Daytona 500.

Driver Jimmie Johnson was docked 25 points, which he easily re-gained last Sunday at Phoenix with a 4th-place finish, with Chad serving at his post (not his C-post) while the penalty is under appeal.

The Daytona bust was Chad’s fourth since he has been Johnson’s crew chief, including the team’s five championships seasons. And that doesn’t include last season’s incident at Talladega when Chad was over-heard instructing Jimmie to smash his Chevy’s rear-end into the wall so that it couldn’t be examined in post-race inspection. In CSI parlance that’s known as “destroying the evidence.”

They call Jimmie “Five Time.”

Maybe they should call Chad “Four Time.”

Apparently Chad is unperturbed by his image as Willie Sutton with a lug wrench. He’s back in trouble, and once again he claims the dog ate his rule book.

I’m surprised that nobody seems surprised. The TV guys brushed the whole thing off as no biggie, and

Chad Knaus is building a rap sheet. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

even the print media has generally given Chad and Hendrick Motorsports a pass.

Maybe it’s a matter of conditioning. In the old days of NASCAR the motto was, “If you’re not cheating you’re not trying.”

Drivers refused to even call it cheating; they preferred “fudging.”

I remember how amusing we all thought it was, watching rascally Smokey Yunick’s cat-and-mouse games with NASCAR inspectors. And yeah, we tended to pull for the mouse.

But those days are over, lost in the mist and myth of the sport’s backwoods history like the burning-rubber smoke of a moonshine runner.

It’s a new era, and cheating’s not funny anymore.

Cheating will eventually do to NASCAR what steroids has done to baseball – cast a pall of suspicion over the sport and tarnish the accomplishments of everyone who has the slightest taint.

That includes Jimmie Johnson and his incredible record five consecutive championships.

Did he win them fairly or did he secure his winning edge – however slight – with the aid of some sort of altered-C-post type of fudging?

That the question can even be posed by a fan of Jimmie – which I unabashedly am — should send shudders through NASCAR. It ought to embarrass team owner Rick Hendrick so badly that he would order Chad to stop doing it. With Rick’s unmatched resources and talent there’s no reason to keep sneezing on his opponents’ back-swing.

Jimmie likewise should put his foot down (hopefully not on an illegally-altered brake pedal). After all, he’s the one driving the getaway car and it’s his legacy that is at risk.

Trust me – if Jimmie and Rick had a sit-down with Chad and said “No more,” there wouldn’t be any more. We’d have seen the last Hendrick C-post picked out of NASCAR’s police lineup.

NASCAR could stop it too if it really wanted to. Instead of spanking a mechanic, park the driver. Too drastic, you say? Well, bear in mind that credibility is like a wedding ring – it’s hard to get back once it’s flushed down the toilet.

The fact that nobody – NASCAR, Rick, Jimmie, Chad, the media – seems particularly distressed is, well, distressing.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, March 6 2012


  • Terrell Davis says:

    Heck fire, just let ’em run what they “brung” and hope they “brung” enough……throw that pesky rule book right out the window…..at about 200 mph and whatever is left will be the rules!
    Seriously, NASCAR should have at least done a bit more than an “eyeball” inspection.
    But, as Woody, pointed out, Chadder Patter has been busted before. Maybe NASCAR is sending one of their infamous messages. Odds are that when the Chase begins, Jimmy will be in the hunt….thanks at least in part, to Chadder’s rules interpretations.

  • Vicki says:

    I agree with Dennis. Part of the fun of NASCAR is seeing the crew chief match wits with NASCAR and each other, seeing them use their creativity to find a competitive edge working between the iron-clad templates. It is why the really good crew chiefs have been paid so well. Since 2005, 3 crew chiefs have been found in violation more often or as often as Chad. When creativity is totally stifled, bureaucracies, which NASCAR is, become rigid and hidebound and lose their edge.

    • larry woody says:

      Vicki, I suppose “part of the fun of baseball” was seeing Mark McGuire, Barry Bonds, et al “use their creativity to find a competitive edge …”

  • dick says:

    What he said…………

  • Andy DeNardi says:

    Sportsmanship is an aspiration or ethos that a sport or activity will be enjoyed for its own sake, with proper consideration for fairness, ethics, respect, and a sense of fellowship with one’s competitors.
    Sure, cheating is one of the traditions of the sport. So are dirt tracks and building the racecar in an empty service bay after the gas station closed at 6pm. Those things are gone, and cheating should be as well.

  • Tony Geinzer says:

    I figure NASCAR has picked up an F1 Styled Methodology in my eye.

  • Mike says:

    I have no idea what is true and what is not. If the car never hit the track, they never even put the templates on the car. How does Nascar get off saying the car is illegal and fine Chad and take points from Jimmie cause they did not like the look of it. Personally I miss the Smokey days, Junior Johnsons shaved intake bolts,Rudds pancake cylinders in the spring pockets. How is it last year his highness Gibbs and the better,faster,prettier Toyotas that the Waltrips are in love with got to change out there ILLEGAL oil pans with no penalty’s? I think Nascar has gone off the deep end with this garbage and by looking at the empty stands and declining ratings for tv that I am not alone.

  • Crash says:

    @dennis: Even in series like the 1970’s Can -Am, which allowed for far more mechanical ingenuity within its rules than does today’s NASCAR, there were still rules. And, like NASCAR, sometimes the rules makers had to change them on the fly, becasue the rules can’t possibly be written to account for every as yet unknown innovation. Remember the Chaparral Can -Am car with the the vacuum fan thing? Literally sucked the car to the tarmac. All within the rules as there were written at the time. And when it blew away the competition, it was made illegal, by changing the rules to make it so. Such seems to be the case with the NASCAR stock car bodies. Either you let every body work in the areas “outside the templates”, whatever that is exactly, or you make sure that nobody does. Apparently, NASCAR does not want to see any ” inovatin” in those areas, as they are well known to not like things that stink up the show. But the author makes a good point re the credibility perception issue. Innovation within a set of rules is one thing. Flaunting them all together , particularity the way Knaus did with his caught on camera ” bend the rear” thing, not so good.

  • Dennis says:

    I’ve been a NASCAR fan since the 70’s and have read about some of Yunick’s creativity. I don’t mind the teams trying to find advantages. This is what racing is. I don’t think the word “cheating” is appropriate. As long as people have raced, they’ve looked for advantages because they know that if they choose not to, it won’t stop their competitors. It’s the nature of the beast, if you will.

    I don’t want to watch an IROC series. With what little they let the teams do, it’s already too close to that. The cars all look the same. There is very little innovation.

    We could just have NASCAR build all the cars complete with engines and just supply a race-ready car on Sunday. No one allowed to touch the cars. Just insert driver and drop green flag.

    I’m not looking for that.

    One thing that does concern me though is articles with titles like this one could give some the wrong impression. The impression that the other teams aren’t doing exactly the same thing. The 48 team has won their five fair and square. Which team would you hold up as the “pure” alternative?

    Cheers from the Great White North.

    • dick says:

      ………and another thing………for some undefinable reason, whenever someone mentions the name “Yunick”, I want to stand at attention with my hand over my heart!! Why is that?

  • lee says:

    NASCAR made it clear when they came out the this new car and all the fixtures that will be no cheating, even .001 out. the old days of pushing the “GREY AREA” is over.

  • Tony says:

    If you aren’t qualified enough to know what a C-post is, you aren’t qualified enough to assert “those days are over”.