For those of you convinced that NASCAR is completely in the bag for Jimmie Johnson, or that Johnson and Chad Knaus have been cheating their way to four championships, you probably will want to skip this post. Seriously. It'll just make you mad. Go; we won't hold it against you.
Still around? OK, here we go. Just before Sunday's Martinsville race, NASCAR officials visited the #48 and noted a crack in the drive-shaft cover. NASCAR This Week's Monte Dutton indicated that NASCAR simply asked the team to replace the part, and that it never got anywhere near the track. End of story, right?
Not quite. Stock Car Spin is particularly incensed with the lack of penalty, and points out three other instances this season where drivers were penalized for parts that never saw track action:
• At Texas, Max Papis and Marcos Ambrose were each penalized 50 points for illegal lower radiator pans discovered in post-qualifying inspection. The parts in question never saw the track during the race.
• At Darlington, Michael McDowell was penalized 25 points for an illegal rear gear discovered in post-qualifying inspection. The part in question never saw the track during the race.
• At Pocono, Travis Kvapil was penalized 150 points for illegal bleeder valves on the tires discovered before Kvapil rolled onto the track to take the green flag. The parts in question never saw the track during the race.
Hmm. Interesting. And this will no doubt fuel the fires of the NASCAR-loves-Jimmie set. However, there are a few significant differences between those events noted above and this instance.
For starters, and most importantly, this wasn't an illegal part; this was a proper part that lacked structural integrity. "The part appeared to have a stress crack in it," NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp told Yahoo! Sports. He noted that it is not unusual for NASCAR to ask teams to replace a potentially faulty part it may notice during a pre-race inspection. NASCAR makes such requests in the interest of safety, not penalty.
Obviously, because we're talking about the points leader and reigning four-time champ, everything Johnson does comes with an extra layer of scrutiny. But in this case, it looks like there were no issues beyond some preventative maintenance.