Did Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson try to cheat again?
In a week where the #00, #56 and #47 teams already got busted for cheating, and all three crew chiefs were suspended for the rest of the year, it appears more cheating might have been in the works -- at the #48 team of all places.
Based on a chat overheard prior to Sunday's Talladega race, it appears Chad Knaus was concerned about the back of his car, telling Jimmie to damage the rear end of the car if he won the race. Knaus did not deny telling Johnson to do this.
"If we win this race, you have to crack the back of the car," Knaus said on the recording. "Got it? ... You don't have to have to hit it hard, you don't have to destroy it. But you've gotta do a donut and you've gotta hit the back end, or somebody's gotta hit you in the ass-end or something. OK?"
His not-very-believable explanation is that the move would have been to "cover our bases," but I doubt it. There was no doubt some hanky-panky going on, and Chad didn't want to incur any penalties as a result.
We shouldn't be surprised by this. Chad has cheated before, and always tries to blur the lines between what's allowed and what's not allowed. All good crew chiefs do, to a point. He was just stupid enough to get caught on tape this time. (Next time, I bet he uses hand signals).
The bottom line: Johnson and Knaus are desperate, as they know they title hopes are pretty much done ... something they are not used to. Maybe this is a sign they can't handle the pressure, a la Denny Hamlin falling apart at the end of last year.
I'm not going to pretend Knaus is the only crew chief to contemplate such a move, but actions like this do somewhat lower my opinion of him as genius crew chief who's won five titles ... it makes me think: How much of it was legit, and how much was possibly cheating?
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