Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus: Racing Outside the Nascar Rulebook?

David YeazellSenior Analyst IOctober 20, 2009

Question: Is it possible NASCAR inspectors are so focused on the minutia of Jimmie Johnson’s car that they can’t see the forest for the trees?


Long ago, I heard a story about two men who came to the border crossing every week. Each Friday, they showed up pulling a large cart filled with dirt and stones. The security guards knew the men were smuggling goods across the border, but could never find any evidence.

Each time the men would try to cross, the guards would labor for hours unloading and sifting through the massive amount of dirt and stones only to come up empty every time. Upon finding nothing being smuggled, the guards had no choice but to allow the men to cross the border.

NASCAR has taken the No. 48 car to its R&D center in North Carolina for inspection four times in a row. While they warned Hendrick his cars were very close to being out of tolerance, they still have found nothing.

The NASCAR rule book is basically a modified how-to manual for teams. It tells them what to build, how to build it, and what the tolerances are. Supposedly everything on the car is covered in this book.

It’s the same book used to inspect the car. What if the 48 team is using its own version of NASCAR’s rule book? Have they found something, not in the rule book, to make their cars so much better than the others?

On restarts, with Johnson and Mark Martin side-by-side, how does Johnson pull ahead by four or five car lengths before entering turn one? When the green flag flies, it’s virtually a drag race to turn one. Martin and Johnson’s cars are basically clones of each other using the same Hendrick engines.

So how does he do it? Where does he get the extra boost of horsepower to pull away like that? Not just from Martin, but from almost everyone.

With Johnson being so dominant at most every track on the Chase schedule, why is Talladega his Achilles heel?

Could it be that NASCAR gains a significant amount of control over a car at the restrictor plate tracks? Springs, shocks, and restrictor plates are all issued and controlled by NASCAR.

Is this where Knaus' hides his keys to success, in the shocks, springs, or carburetor?

Johnson has not won on a restrictor plate track since 2006. That was the same year Chad Knaus was suspended for cheating at the Daytona 500. Halfway through the 2005 season NASCAR found two Hendrick teams, Johnson and Kyle Busch, to be using “suspicious” shock absorbers and ordered a change.

For three years, the two men came to the border. For three years, the guards scoured every inch of the cart, but never once suspected it was carts they were smuggling.

NASCAR is so fixated on finding a needle in the hay stack when actually the problem could be the hay stack itself.

If everything is by the book and there is still a problem, then it's time to look beyond the book.

NASCAR needs to look outside its rule book. Maybe, like in 2006, they're not breaking any listed rules. 

Look at Knaus’ rule book, the check lists, build sheets, notes, and everything else associated with Johnson’s car that is not listed in the NASCAR rule book.

As the sanctioning body, it’s time NASCAR finds out what Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus are smuggling and re-level the playing field.


Photo Credit: David Yeazell