Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Chad Knaus said he was "deeply saddened" and "disappointed" by NASCAR's heavy-handed penalty this week for the illegally modified C-posts found on Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 car at Daytona International Speedway.
Knaus, who was suspended for six weeks along with car chief Ron Malec and fined $100,000, said Friday he "really didn't expect" NASCAR to have an issue with the C-posts and did not believe he was taking a risk with the parts.
The penalties are currently under appeal, so Knaus will still be crew chief for the 48 team at Phoenix.
"We do everything we can to build the best race cars we possibly can to bring to the racetrack, and that's what we do," he told a group of reporters at Phoenix. "Unfortunately, they didn't like something and we've got to address that."
The identical car raced at all four restrictor-plate races last season – it won the spring Talladega race – and was inspected multiple times without issue, Knaus said.
But if that's true, then it's also the same car Knaus told Johnson to intentionally damage if he won the fall Talladega race.
Knaus, a crew chief with a history of pushing the limit and occasionally getting caught, said NASCAR only did a visual inspection of the car and never put the templates on to take an actual measurement (though it's worth noting NASCAR said this may have been an area that was in between the templates).
"It was just a visual inspection at that point," Knaus said. "We never actually got the opportunity to present that under the templates. So it's unfortunate. There's a bit of subjectiveness to it. That's why we're going through the appeal."
When a reporter asked if it was acceptable for a team to be penalized without ever getting its car actually measured, Knaus said that would be part of the appeal process.
"We'll just have to talk about it at that point," he said. "(NASCAR has) a good set of structure and standards that are in black in white, and some areas that are not."
Knaus, who has run afoul of NASCAR and been suspended multiple times in the past, said he wasn't sure if NASCAR put him under more scrutiny than other crew chiefs.
"You know, I don't know," he said. "That's difficult for me to say. You'd have to go ask NASCAR about that."
A backup plan for who would crew chief the No. 48 car in case the appeal fails has not been determined, Knaus said. The crew chief also wouldn't say who was responsible for the illegal C-posts on the car.
Despite a 25-point penalty which left Johnson with -23 points entering Phoenix, Knaus said he expected the 48 team to overcome the setback and rise to the occasion by still contending for the championship.
Though he's been penalized for various offenses over the years, the 40-year-old Knaus said he wasn't worried about how he would be viewed by the public.
"Honestly, I'm here to do the best I can for the 48 team, and that's all that really matters to me," he said. "As far as my reputation goes, I'm really not too concerned about that."