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Were the Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin cars legal at Dover? NASCAR says yes, but rivals want more details in the controversy

  Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus: Tricks uncovered? Or a tempest in a teapot? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   KANSAS CITY, Kansas
   NASCAR officials, after a two-day post-race inspection at the Concord R&D center, have warned the Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson teams, and crew chiefs Alan Gustafson and Chad Knaus, about going too close to the edge on body tolerances on their Dover cars, but NASCAR's John Darby insists both cars are legal and there are no penalties coming.
   Johnson won Dover and Martin finished second; Martin leads the Sprint Cup standings by just 10 points over Johnson, in the championship playoffs.
   When the Kansas Speedway garage opened Friday morning, rival crew chiefs were abuzz with the story, asking questions and some were apparently not satisfied with the lack of specifics and said they intended to ask NASCAR for more details about the situation.
   The specific area of concern is apparently the rear of the car, and the point of concern is apparently whether or not the two teams were trying to off-set their bodies in order to gain a handling edge in the middle of the corners.
   Middle corner speed is where the Rick Hendrick teams have apparently been beating most of their rivals this season, in what has at times seemed an almost lopsided way.
   Darby said NASCAR may be taking the Martin and Johnson cars back to the R&D center "over and over and over again" after chase races, regardless of where they finish.
   "NASCAR's job is to police the sport and manage the sport…but we also work very closely with the competitors on helping the competitors to make sure we get the right results (i.e., warning teams when they get too close to the line). Take any measurement: say the car has to weigh at least 3,450 pounds…and if a car comes through inspection right at 3,450 pounds, we'll point that out to the team and say 'Hey, what are you doing? What's wrong with putting two more pounds in there…because you're putting a lot in the bank that our scales are going to measure the same every time.' We do it with engines, carburetors, everything.
   "We owe it to the teams to do that. So (Tuesday, after the post-race inspection in Concord) we called the teams and said 'This thing is passing, but….if the exact same car comes back next week, and if our inspectors are five-thousandths (of an inch) off, guess what – you're not going to be right at the tolerance, you're going to be over it."
   And in this case Darby indicated that would likely be something like a 100-point penalty.
   "And for what the gain is, it's stupid," Darby went on.
   "But the teams said 'Our (own) measurements aren't that close; they're 'this.' So we said 'Both cars are still on the (surface) plates; we'll lock them down, and you can come over with your engineers and measure yourself.' This would be Wednesday morning. And we walked through from the front of the race car all the way to the rear.
   "I think their engineers learned why there was a discrepancy. And I feel good about going through that with them.
   "Obviously as we go through the season post-race inspections gets to be so routine, like everything else….and then when you get something like this it throws up a bunch of red flags.
   "But then it doesn't take long for the rumor mills to get started…
   "A couple of the measurements there was no room to breathe. And in the grand scheme of things that doesn't make sense."
   And if the cars were over, it would a 100-point penalty? "Yeah…that's the problem," Darby said. "So why do you want to play it that close?
   "Just don't put it so close that your head is in the guillotine and someone is holding a lighter under the rope."
   Chad Knaus, Johnson's crew chief, suggested the variation might have come from damage during the race. After all, these cars take quite a pounding during a three-hour race, and it's not unusual for teams to leave the track with cars far off measurements.
   "There was damage on the rear bumper…and we take that into consideration," Darby said. "But we were really, really tight in areas where there was no damage.
   "But there was nothing 'wrong.' If it were wrong, the obvious would have happened. But there was a direction there we had to get shut down."
   Darby conceded the situation had become a significant issue among rival teams.
   And Darby raised the issue that some of the garage area debate might be to 'get inside' the heads of Knaus and Gustafson, in the championship race. The Hendrick teams have dominated the season, and they could be on the verge of running away with the championship race.
   "Going through our history, when you get down to the cats that are really chasing the championship, you use every resource you can to get an advantage," Darby said. "I remember Richard Childress entering three cars at Atlanta (late in the season, when the late Dale Earnhardt was running for the title), and the other competitors didn't know if they were out there as 'jam' cars or what.
   "We've seen it in the Truck series this year – who's going to wreck whom?"
   So is NASCAR itself subtly trying to slow the Hendrick teams down, because they may be 'stinking up the show?'
   "No," Darby insists. "NASCAR is trying to avoid the problem we don't want.
   "We will do everything we can do to make sure everyone in this garage is playing with the same sheet of paper. And if they're not, we'll react to it. Because that is one of the foundations of this new car.
   "And if we can prevent that, we'll do everything we can to prevent that too."



YES! I live for these

YES! I live for these moments. GO MONTOYA!!!!This will level things a bit.

Well let's see, if it were

Well let's see, if it were Robby Gordon's car that was "on the border" like that, would he get a "warning". Hell no, they'd nail him. Truth is Hendrick has an advantage because NASCAR let's them have it. You think they'd dare penalize a Hendrick cars points during the chase? No way. This is a good reason why empty seats are on the rise, why go to the races when you already know the outcome? If I were a sponsor, why would I shell out money to watch my non-Hendrick driver get his butt kicked every week?

EIRI strikes again.

EIRI strikes again.

I dont buy Mark Martins out

I dont buy Mark Martins out running drivers 15 years younger than him!
This is also his first year on the Hendrick Team!

I remember Harry Gant winning at 51 years old, but he was a single car operation and it looked more legit!
Martin winning 7 poles this season his most ever, almost lapping the field at Chicago and Phoenix,I dont buy it!

If Nascar thinks bringing Mark Martin back is going to bring 'old fans back", it wont work, we can see something artifical about this!!!!!!!

Chevy and Hendrick win by the politics,Bobby Labonte can get in a low buck Chevy and outrun his Yates teams this just shows how Nascar is show favoritism to Chevy! No wonder they have won 33 Manufacters titles!

Plus with Hendricks ethics off the track I dont trust the system!!!!!!!

NASCAR had nothing to do with

NASCAR had nothing to do with it. This is simply the result of a good driver going from mediocre equipment to top-notch equipment.

We know NASCAR does things in different and strange ways sometimes, but they "Didn't bring Mark back". Hendrick's fast cars and Mark himself brought Mark back.

Brian France thinks race fans

Brian France thinks race fans are fools.

The best thing Darby and

The best thing Darby and NASCAR could have done is kept quiet and move on. If you're not going to penalized someone, no need to HARASS them. No harm. No foul. Let's go racin'!

How 'bout concentrate on things that REALLY matters, like race start times, fuel injection and rain tires?

We need some personalities

We need some personalities and real racing to catch the consumers' eyes. The product has become boring and the new fans are bored and the old fans are confused.It's clearly the greatest Sport in America and will survive and be strong again. We have some good young talent coming along. Maybe Junior Johnson's son will make it and that will add some excitement !

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