Cheating, or Just Trying Hard?

NASCAR yesterday ejected Chad Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson's #48 Lowe's Chevy, for the remainder of Speedweek -- and perhaps for two more Cup races -- for a rules infraction during qualifying on Sunday. Rules infraction being the polite way to say "cheating."

Knaus used a device to raise the 48 car's rear window, giving it an an aerodynamic edge on Sunday.

Now, Junior Johnson once said you can't win without cheating. It seems to me that everyone kind of accepts that philosophy, at least in the sense that you're looking for an edge. NASCAR even acknowledges there are gray areas, which kind of leaves teams in the dark about knowing when they've crossed the line.

But let's remember, they're not just racing for pride out there. There's big money at stake and big money has been invested. So the sanctioning body has to do its job to keep the playing field even. Anything less would be unfair. Besides, this isn't the first time Knaus has run into aerodynamic difficulties: He got smacked last year for the 48's roof being too low in the Las Vegas race. That's what I'd call a track record.

At any rate, Jimmie Johnson, a fan fave, is in a pickle. Not only does he start from the back of the pack in Thursday's 125, but he's lost his play caller for the 500. Ouch! Should the team owners start thinking about a permanent replacement for Knaus? I know I would. I'm sure the team sponsors will weigh in, too.

And where does that leave Terry Labonte, who got caught using an illegal carbuerator in Sunday qualifying?Hanging in the wind for now. It's possible there'll be disciplinary action for Labonte's 96 team, too. That would be a shame for the former champ, though I don't know the extenuating circumstances of his "rules infraction."

What are your thoughts? Has NASCAR made Knaus and the 48 team a high-profile scapegoat?

Or does the punishment fit the crime?

Miscellany

One of the speedway PR flaks asked me yesterday if I'd heard that one of the Alpine skiers at the Olympics has dubbed a big high-banked turn on the men's downhill course "Daytona" - and that the sportscasters had picked up on it. Neither he nor I have had time to watch to see if that's really true. Has anyone out there heard this, or is it a Daytona urban myth? Let us know, please. Thanks.

Live Chat on Wednesday

Join me for a live chat tomorrow from 2 to 3 p.m. That would be in the "Daytona time zone," which I think is the same as Eastern time, but sometimes that gets a little hazy.


Dirt Track Racing Tonight
I'm heading to Volusia County Speedway tonight to catch the dirt track action. I'll post tomorrow morning on that.

By Mike Snyder |  February 14, 2006; 10:40 AM ET  | Category:  Drivers , Teams
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They're definitely calling the last turn on the downhill ski run Daytona, because it's banked pretty high - didn't say which of the skiers had named it that as far as I heard.

Posted by: hl | February 14, 2006 12:44 PM

Thanks Hi. That's so cool. Cheers!

Posted by: Mike | February 14, 2006 01:00 PM

Once the France family starts applying penalties equally across the board, a lot of the 'gray areas' would be easier to navigate. Junior gets away with things that other teams get tagged for, period. And so forth with other favored owners...

Posted by: 88 Fan | February 14, 2006 02:58 PM

There's "being creative" and then there's cheating. Modifying the aerodynamic profile of the car while it's running classifies as cheating, at least in most forms of professional auto racing today.

I'm surprised that one of the Hendrick teams would have to stoop to this. They're generally pretty good on the restrictor plate tracks.

The rules will always have grey areas. That's where the "being creative" comes into play!

Posted by: Chuck Fry | February 14, 2006 06:15 PM

Couldn't agree more with you, Chuck.

Posted by: Mike | February 14, 2006 07:29 PM

88 Fan:

Lots of folks make the same argument, but we don't have the proof, do we. I guess we have to cross our fingers and put faith in the officials. Good luck to DJ this week.

Posted by: Mike | February 14, 2006 07:31 PM

I've been watching the Olympics all week and there is definitely a turn they're calling Daytona -- which I think is officially called the Borgata turn. It's either right before or after the "blue jump" and shortly before the finish. It banks high into the tree line and, like NASCAR, to the left.

Posted by: Yup | February 15, 2006 01:35 AM

NASCAR should extend a job offer to Mr. Knaus much like they did to0 Gary Nelson years ago. End of problem.

BTW, you mentioned you were headed to Volusia County Speedway. Have you ever had the pleasure of watching the DIRT modifieds in action before? They're awesome!!

Posted by: Phillip | February 15, 2006 06:17 AM

They are cheating and they know it. If they thought what they were doing was legal, they would not have waited until after the morning tech inspection to make the change....

Junior Johnson may say that you need to cheat to win, but other teams are winning and not getting caught cheating. That either means that 1) they aren't cheating; or 2) they are but are better at it. If it is the later, Hendrick would have fired Knaus long ago and replaced him with someone who could cheat without getting caught.

Posted by: Kevin | February 15, 2006 08:07 AM

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