As The Engine Revs - A New Installment in the Continuing Saga of Problems in NASCAR
In the continuing saga of cheating - or as the teams claim "inadvertant, honest mistakes" - we now find our way to Hendrick Motorsports and teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.
This installment brings us to illegal front fenders on the No. 24 and No. 48 cars and the drivers banned from practice and qualifying. The teams were, however, allowed to alter the fenders and get the cars back through inspection on Friday. Saturday morning brought official approval.
``Everything is fine,'' said Doug Duchardt, vice president of development for Hendrick. ``We're way behind, but we'll just go out there and prepare today the way we would on any Saturday and hope for the best.'' ohnson and Gordon will start 41st and 42nd in the 43-car lineup for Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350.
For Johnson the key is to concentration.He also can't focus on the time the two lost..
``We can't get that back,'' he said. ``We just have to make sure that when we do get on the racetrack that our heads are in the right spots, we're focused on the right things and we do the best job that we can.''
According to Gordon, a five-time winner, series point leader and defending champion at Sonoma, it wil be difficult to try to drive to the front on a difficult road circuit that winds through the hills of Northern California wine country.
What makes things worse is that this is the premiere of the Car of Tomorrow on a road race track. ``We're really put into a bind here and we're going to do our best, that's all I can say,'' said Gordon. ``You know we're going to do all we can to make the car as fast as it can be and to try to come up through that field the best way, smoothest way possible while trying to stay out of trouble and trying to play the right pit strategy.
``We'll try to do everything in our power to get the best finish out here we can. I'll be honest, right now it's a little hard for us to be realistic about a win. It's more about being realistic about trying to get a top 10.''
It still remains to be seen what further penalties the team, and in particular crew chiefs Chad Knaus (Johnson) and Steve Letarte (Gordon) could face further penalties from NASCAR after officials return home Monday.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was docked 100 points and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. was fined $100,000 and suspended six races after NASCAR discovered illegal brackets on the rear wing of the No. 8 COT Chevrolet last month at Darlington Raceway.
You'd think these guys would get this figured out, wouldn't you?