NASCAR president Mike Helton talked Friday about John Middlebrook's overturning of the points penalty levied against Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team and the suspensions of crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec, standing by the inspection and appeals process.
On Tuesday, Middlebrook, the chief appellate officer for NASCAR, rescinded the points penalties and suspensions following Hendrick Motorsports' final appeal, but kept the $100,000 fine that was levied against Knaus in place.
Helton said the decision upholds the inspection process and what the inspectors found on the C-posts.
"We believe in our inspectors," Helton said."We think that the decision that was made this week supports the inspection process because the elements of the penalty that were upheld indicate that the inspection process, or the inspectors, did their job correctly.
"I think the debate over the decision this week was more about the decision after that point, of how we reacted to it. That's as much a bureaucratic decision as it is a competition decision. So we believe very strongly in our inspection process and are very proud of it. So the inspection process is status quo as we go forward."
Helton said that despite the overturning of the points penalty and suspensions, he also believed in the validity and legitimacy of the appeals process and that Middlebrook's association with General Motors — Hendrick Motorsports is aligned with Chevrolet — wasn't an issue.
"We believe in the appeal panel members, we believe in the chief appellate officer and we believe in that process. And that process exists, and we've been through hearings in the past when our decision has been altered, but that's what the due process is for," Helton said.
"Well, let me answer it this way. When we chose John Middlebrook as our chief appellate officer, we chose him based on our experiences with him for several years, his pragmatic approach to business and to his relationship with race teams and with NASCAR. The reasons that we chose the current chief appellate officer haven't changed. Our opinion and our belief in our chief appellate officer hasn't changed."
After the appeal on Tuesday, Hendrick said, "I felt from the very beginning that we were clearly by the rulebook, within the guidelines, and the car had been seen multiple times and raced everywhere we raced in 2011."
Helton reiterated Friday that the C-posts were in violation of the rulebook.
"First of all, I go back to the fact that some of our penalties were upheld. That tells you the inspection process was correct and there was an issue with the car," Helton said. "The pieces that were not upheld, if there's a way for NASCAR to be more clear, and we learn every time we go through a process, whether the penalties are upheld or modified, we learn from the process. We should because we've worked very hard to do this."
"If we can make it more clear, more understandable, more definitive to where it's more difficult to disagree with it, then we'll continue to try to do that. In this case, it came out this way."
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