NASCAR

Losing crew chiefs would crush chemistry

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Steve Byrnes

Steve Byrnes is a host and reporter for NASCAR on FOX. A broadcast veteran, he has covered racing for more than 20 years. Follow him on Twitter.

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The No. 24 and No. 48 teams received the same penalties that the No. 8 team received: 100 driver/owner points, $100,000 fines for the crew chiefs and six-race crew chief suspensions. One points won't hurt Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson too badly, sitting 1st and 3rd respectively in the points. But crew chief suspensions will hurt. There's been so much positive energy between No. 24 crew chief Steve Letarte and Gordon this year. No. 48 crew chief Chad Knaus helped guide Johnson to a championship in 2006, and he's one of the more brilliant minds in the garage. Last year, current No. 25 crew chief, Darian Grubb, filled in and did a terrific job for a suspended Knaus, winning two of the first four races of the season. If Knaus and Letarte are suspended, who will be this year's Darian Grubb? Granted, Hendrick Motorsports has depth. They've got a lot of experience and a stable that includes former Cup crew chiefs Jim Long, Lance McGrew, Brian Whitesell. But suspensions will affect the momentum that has these drivers at the top of the sport. The penalties came down to whether or not NASCAR believed it was a blatant attempt to circumvent the template by massaging the fenders, the area between the hard points where the grid comes down on the car. On Friday, Hendrick Motorsports VP of development Doug Duchardt said they just misinterpreted the rules. But NASCAR determined that there was intent to gain an unfair advantage — which they determined with No. 8 team's bracket support for the spoiler — then the Hendrick teams will have the book thrown at them.

Speed Mail Steve

If NASCAR believes what Hendrick Motorsports is saying, then not being able to practice and qualify and starting at the rear of the field may suffice. But it will come down to whether or not there was intent to circumvent the inspection process and create more downforce, making the car run faster. While Gordon acknowledged that starting in the rear was a devastating penalty, nothing NASCAR can do will bring him down from the high that he's feeling over the birth of his daughter Ella Sofia. I can relate to Gordon's uncertainty before the birth and joy afterward. In 2002, my wife was having issues with preterm labor, and I didn't attend the 2002 race at Sonoma, Calif. Darrell Waltrip told me, "Byrnes, if you come to Sonoma, I'm going to put you on a plane and fly you back. You'd better not come to this race." I didn't go, and while I missed the NASCAR on FOX crew, I'm glad that I got to see my son Bryson's birth.


NASCAR on FOX and SPEED host and reporter Steve Byrnes has covered racing for more than 20 years.

Tagged: Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson

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