David Poole, Charlotte Observer
DALE JR.'S GUIDING FORCE
Twenty-five years ago, a fire ruined the house in Kannapolis
where 8-year-old Kelley Earnhardt and her 6-year-old brother,
Dale Jr., lived.
That 1981 blaze not only sparked an upheaval of the family
dynamic, it also forged the bond that makes this sister and
brother one of the most formidable business teams in NASCAR.
"It has just always seemed to come down to Dale Jr. and me," said
Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, who is married with two children.
"She has always been the one Dale Jr. would go to when he needed advice," said
Brenda Jackson, their mother.
Earnhardt Jr. recently called his sister the most important
person in his life.
"She has always
made sure I was doing what I was supposed to be," said the defending champion
of today's USG 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. "It would be very, very hard
for me to find somebody who I feel as comfortable with."
Kelley is president of JR Motorsports, which fields the Busch
Series team owned by Dale Jr. and handles the business and
marketing interests that are separate from his job as driver
of the No. 8 Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Dale Earnhardt's third wife, Teresa, took over as president
and CEO of DEI after her husband's death in 2001. She and Kelley
recently completed a deal assigning to Dale Jr. the rights
to ownership of his name and signature as trademarks, rights
that had been controlled by DEI.
"In the world we're in, other people usually don't own the rights to a
living person's name," Kelley said. "As it got out (that) this was
an issue between DEI and Dale Jr., the business world started asking, 'What's
going on with that?' "
Jackson is more direct. "I am not sure," she said, "that
everybody was going down the road they would have if Dale had
still been here."
Things, Kelley said, just became "more difficult" after
But Kelley and her little
brother have dealt with "difficult" since they were kids.
A new way of life
Brenda Jackson was Brenda Gee before she became Earnhardt's
Earnhardt and Latane Key, the mother of Earnhardt's oldest
son, Kerry, were divorced in 1970. A year later, Earnhardt
and Brenda were married. Kelley was born in 1972, and two years
later Dale Jr. came along. After Earnhardt and Brenda split
in 1977, Kelley and Dale Jr. lived with Brenda as Earnhardt
tried to make a living in racing.
Earnhardt was the Winston Cup Rookie of the Year in 1979 and
won the 1980 championship. In May 1981, while he was still
a long way from being a legend, he was in a better position
to take care of the kids than Brenda was after the fire. Brenda
eventually moved to Virginia and married Willie Jackson, a
firefighter in Norfolk.
Kelley and Dale Jr. moved in with Earnhardt and faced a new
way of life.
"Dad was there when he could be," Kelley said. "But he was
still making the kind of sacrifices he had to make to become what he wanted
Earnhardt and Teresa Houston were heading toward their 1982
wedding, traveling to tracks all over the country.
"Dale Jr. and I stayed with nannies or relatives," Kelley said. "We
didn't have that normal childhood, where the father comes home at 5 o'clock
for dinner. It pretty much put Dale Jr. and me into survival mode."
Kelley "pretty much raised me," Earnhardt Jr. said.
After showing a streak of rebellion in his early teens, Dale
Jr. was sent to a military school. Within a couple of weeks,
Kelley asked to be sent there, too. She wanted to look after
Kelley and Dale Jr. later shared race cars, with Earnhardt
providing just enough so they could compete as long as they
worked hard to do it. Kelley eventually gave up driving. Dale
Jr. went on to win two Busch Series titles for DEI and then
moved to Cup as its flagship driver.
"Dale Jr. just trusted Dad to look after his things," Kelley said. "He
looked at what Dad and Teresa had done and saw they certainly knew what they
were doing. Everything was just kind of done for him. They handled his business,
even his checking account."
Then, the world changed again.
When Earnhardt died, Teresa inherited the job of running the
NASCAR empire and protecting the legacy of the seven-time champion.
"Teresa wants to protect what we do with (Earnhardt's) name," said
Richie Gilmore, vice president for motorsports at DEI. Teresa has granted few
interviews since Earnhardt's death, and through representatives declined comment
for this story.
Dale Jr., meanwhile, became the family's on-track standard-bearer.
He inherited many of his father's fans, along with the pressures
and opportunities that accompany the Earnhardt name. But the
emergence of Dale Jr.'s popularity created opportunities. In
working to seize those, Dale Jr. wanted back some of what he
had ceded to his father.
"It was sort of a trade with me signing my last contract with DEI, and
it never got done," Dale Jr. said. "It just took longer than it should
have or than I wanted it to."
In speaking of her dealings with DEI and her stepmother, Kelley
chooses her words carefully.
"Our personalities are certainly different, and the ways we approach business
are different," Kelley said of Teresa. "Dale Jr. and I are very proud
of what our dad did, and we want to continue to help DEI in reaching his vision
for that company. But we all have to work toward that with the same manner.
"Sometimes it just doesn't make a good team when you look at decisions
from different ends of the spectrum. I don't think there's anything negative
about the way we do business or the way Teresa does business. Sometimes we
just look at it very differently."
Gilmore grins when asked about how he sometimes finds himself
between Kelley and Teresa.
"They're both strong people," he said. "They can be a powerful
force when they agree on something and go in the same direction. In a lot of
ways, Dale Jr. is fortunate to have both of them."
Kelley said the deal over trademark rights changes nothing
about Dale Jr.'s relationship with DEI as driver.
"But it does create the flexibility needed for Dale Jr. to be involved
in other aspects," she said, "such as ownership of his own race teams
or entertainment opportunities, like a nightclub or the radio show he does
for XM. It provides business opportunities beyond his driving years."
Through 2007, Kelley said, there is "a process with DEI
on how we work together on those various opportunities."
"After 2007," Kelley said, "JR Motorsports and Dale Jr. are
able to negotiate the terms of those processes with DEI - or any other team
that we would consider driving for.
"Our ultimate goal for Dale Jr. is for him to be at DEI the rest of his
career, under the right circumstances. But we haven't always been able to do
business with them the way we would like to. Having ownership of his name makes
that part of our life easier in the event we ever have to drive for someone
else. But that is not our goal."
Siblings a successful combo
Dale Jr.'s mother works for her children's company. Jackson
moved back to North Carolina after her husband retired.
"I am a very, very lucky woman," she said. "I've got two bright,
beautiful kids that I am very proud of. I get to interact with them almost
Compared to what Kelley does, I do very little for the company.
But I do get to know what's going on."
Jackson said her kids amaze her.
"If I ever have anybody I need to fuss at I want her in my corner," Jackson
said of her daughter. "She's able to separate personal stuff from the
business stuff and her standards are very high. She conducts herself that way
and she expects that of everyone else.
"Dale Jr. just gets bigger and bigger. I am very proud of his accomplishments,
but as a mother I am proudest of way he handles himself with honesty and the
way he cares about his family and his friends."
It's no wonder, Dale Jr. is told, that he has no steady girlfriend
- at least not one anyone knows about. She would have to pass
muster with his mother and his sister first.
"There have only been a couple they've had any kind of good impression
of," he said with a smile. "But when you get down to it, they are
a pretty good jury."
The way Kelley and Dale Jr. complement each other, perhaps
they should be twins.
"Dale Jr. is humble and shy and does not like conflict," Kelley said. "He
would just as soon give up something as to have a fight over it."
On the money, Dale Jr. said.
"Without Kelley being there, a lot of things never would have happened," he
said. "I let a lot of stuff go, I just try to keep everybody happy because
it seems when everybody is satisfied everybody is moving forward. I just try
to keep it going that way."
Kelley, however, digs her heels in by reflex.
"I am going to fight for what I believe in and for what's right," she
Jackson jokes that sometimes it seems like Kelley has three
children - her own two and Dale Jr.
Kelley, however, knows enough about deals to know the one she
has with her brother is a good one.
"I look after him as if it's my life, too," she said. "I can
do that for him, because I trust him and know that I'll always be taken care
of. If I need something he'll be there for me, too."
HAMILTON FORGES AHEAD
Forget that image of the valiant hero, battle with stoic nobility.
For Bobby Hamilton, fighting cancer has been a nasty, difficult
Thirty-two times, Hamilton has laid strapped to a table with
a hard plastic mask, molded to fit him, covering his face,
neck and upper torso as, for 20 minutes at a time, radiation
was fired at the cancer cells in his neck.
Once, about three-fourths of the way through, Hamilton began
waving to signal for the treatment to stop. Mucus in his throat
had built up to the point where he couldn't finish. He had
18 seconds left.
"They've won," Hamilton
said. "I am pretty strong, but they have beaten the crap out of me. I
don't mind telling you that. I wouldn't wish this on anybody."
That's not a concession.
His medical report is replete with optimism, and Hamilton's
resolve to return to NASCAR Truck Series competition, perhaps
as soon as the final race this year, is as strong as ever.
His matter-of-fact honesty, always a trademark, also has not
changed through weeks of chemotherapy and radiation at Vanderbilt
On March 17, Hamilton announced his diagnosis to stunned reporters
at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He ran in the Truck race that night,
then went to the hospital on Monday. He had his final scheduled
treatment June 7.
Hamilton had severe blistering on his neck and sores in his
mouth. The swelling in his neck was so bad at one point he
couldn't swallow. His white blood cell count dropped and doctors
warned that even the most mundane form of infection could turn
into a major issue.
"I don't mind telling you I've sat up and looked at Lori (his fiancee)
and said, 'I just don't understand it,' and then burst into tears," Hamilton
admits. "It's like, 'What am I doing wrong?' "
When people hear you've seen Hamilton, they invariably ask
how he looks. He looks like he's had one heck of a fist fight,
and that the foe most certainly got in his licks.
On good days now he can swallow sips of liquid. Wednesday he
tried to take a small pill and couldn't get it down. Twenty-four
hours later his throat still hurt like the pill was still stuck
He weighed about 200 pounds when this started. Doctors told
him to gain as much weight when he could still eat, and he
made it to 213. He then went down to as low as 169. Now, he's
at 180, taking nutrition through a tube in his stomach.
Despite their toll on his body, the treatments have done the
job. The prognosis is encouraging, but his lead physician,
Dr. Barbara Murphy, doesn't talk in absolutes.
"She's very careful about that," said Hamilton's fiancee, Lori Shuler. "She
doesn't say, 'Oh, you're cured of cancer. You're 100 percent clean.' "
A group of doctors at Vanderbilt's cancer center was split
on whether Hamilton should have surgery to check for lingering
cancer. Dr. Murphy came down on the side of surgery, and now
it's scheduled for Thursday.
It's still a long road back. Hamilton is weak, but after the
surgery his rehab will pick up steam and he vows to start reclaiming
the strength sapped from him over the past five months.
"The doctor told me that I'd take two steps forward and then one back," Hamilton
said. "My problem is I haven't learned. I've learned a lot, but not enough.
"Last Sunday I had such a perfect day. It was like nothing had ever happened
to me and I went all day long. But then it took me two or three days to get
He came to Bristol on Wednesday to see his Truck Series teams
compete and wound up going to the infield care center to get
two intravenous bags of fluid. Shuler nearly took him to the
emergency room, but he was better Thursday.
In June, not long after the final treatment and while the worst
of the side effects were raging, Robbie Loomis called. Loomis,
who'd worked at Petty Enterprises when Hamilton drove the No.
43, wanted to stop by on the way to the race in Sonoma, Calif.
He brought Richard Petty, Kyle Petty and Dale Inman along,
and they sat around and told stories and laughed.
"I think about that day a lot," Hamilton said. "That meant
a lot to me to have them come by. Dale Inman walked up to me and said, 'I think
about you every day.' And his eyes teared up."
Fellow Truck series driver Jack Sprague called. "He said,
'I don't handle this kind of stuff well. Just get better.' " Hamilton
Hamilton's son, Bobby Jr., has struggled, too.
"He walked in my office the other day," Hamilton said. "I was
in there filing away some bills. "He looked at me and said, 'Why is your
neck swollen again?' I said, 'What?' He said, 'Right there.' I said, 'That's
just where I was bent over.'
"I keep having dreams that stuff has come back," Hamilton Jr. told
Shuler remembers a woman at the hospital.
"Her neck was all blistered up and she'd had surgery," Shuler said. "She
said, 'You don't know me but I am a fan of yours. I have the same thing as
you do and it doesn't always turn out to be this ugly.' Bobby got up and went
around and hugged her and said, 'You're beautiful to me.' I was just crying."
Hamilton said he doesn't know how to put into words how he's
changed. But he tries.
"I know that I treat people differently," he said. "Anybody
who's not in a coffin deserves the same respect as anybody else in this world.
You're a life, and every one of us is fighting for his life every day. Even
if you're not dealing with something like this, you're trying to feed your
family and live your life."
If you saw Hamilton right now, even without knowing he's having
surgery this week, you'd say there's no way he'll be back in
a truck race in November.
But if you know anything about him, you wouldn't bet against
"Bobby Jr. asked me 'What if you get halfway through the race at Homestead
and get tired?' " Hamilton said. "I said, 'I'll park.'
"My goal is to race. If I take the green flag, then I've won."
THE YEAR THE ALL-STAR RACE WENT SOUTH
Exciting, controversial moments from two decades of all-star
competition can be found on just about every list of great
moments in NASCAR's Cup history.
"The Pass in the Grass" in 1987, Davey Allison's crash as he won
the first all-star event at night in 1992 and Jeff Gordon's victory in 1997
in the legendary "T-Rex" car are part of a rich history in the event
that will mark its 22nd year with Saturday night's running of the NASCAR Nextel
All-Star Challenge at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Then, there's the 1986 race.
The Winston won by Bill Elliott at what is now Atlanta Motor
Speedway is the only time the event has been held anywhere
other than the 1.5-mile track here, and it also might have
been the least competitive, with Elliott leading all but one
But its true distinction is The Winston in 1986 had the smallest
crowd in the event's history, and one of the smallest crowds
for any Cup event in the sport's modern era.
"It was bad," NASCAR
vice president Jim Hunter said.
Laughably bad, said Roger Bear, who worked for R.J. Reynolds
Tobacco's sports marketing arm at the time.
"I told Mike Helton that day that we didn't need to turn the public address
system on," Bear said. "We could just gather them all in a little
huddle and talk to them."
Helton, now NASCAR president, was president of Atlanta International
Raceway in 1986. The Winston was his last event before going
to work for the France family.
"It was a good experience," Helton said. "A lot of times in
my career I've learned what not to do, and I learned a lot that time. But it
was worth a shot."
Crowd estimation has always been less than an exact science
in racing. On May 11, 1986, the "official" attendance
estimate for The Winston was 25,000, but people who were there
scoffed at that number. The standing joke is that it would
have taken less time to introduce the crowd to the drivers
than the other way around.
"There might have been - might have been - 4,000 people there," Bear
said. "But I will bet there were less. You could have drawn a better crowd
for a Saturday night short-track race at Hickory Motor Speedway."
Bear swears it wasn't until a couple of months before the race
that he and T. Wayne Robertson, who headed up Sports Marketing
Enterprises for RJR, realized May 11 was Mother's Day that
"I blame it all on President Wilson or President McKinley, whoever it
was who declared Mother's Day should be a holiday," Bear said. It was
Wilson who issued that proclamation.
Racing on Mother's Day is still considered marketing taboo,
even though Darlington (S.C.) Raceway has done OK with racing
the night before for two years. And, unquestionably, the 1986
running of The Winston suffered from being on that day.
But there were other factors in play.
"First of all, it was the second running of it," Helton said. "Obviously
the first of anything has a bigger aura around it than the second of anything.
You don't know until you try things like that."
Bear said RJR desperately wanted the first all-star race at
Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, but balked because Bristol
didn't have many seats, and because the winner was going to
collect a then-unheard of $200,000.
"We were just scared there wouldn't be anything left of the cars if we
did it at Bristol," Bear said.
So what's now Lowe's Motor Speedway got the inaugural event
in 1985, which Darrell Waltrip won. But the intent was to move
the race from track to track the way baseball holds its all-star
game in a different park each year.
"The second year, the question was where to have it," Bear said. "We
still wanted to go to Bristol, but we were still scared to death of what would
happen if we ran it there. Atlanta seemed like a big market and the track was
Coca-Cola was celebrating its 100th anniversary in 1986 and
Atlanta, which had also bid on the inaugural, tried to tie
The Winston in with those activities.
There were, however, complications. Early in its history, the
Atlanta track had fallen into the same financial woes that
its sister track here had. Both tracks had been in bankruptcy
at one point. In Atlanta, Walter Nix had led a group of investors
in bringing the track back to solvency, but Bear said Nix wasn't
exactly extravagant in the way he spent on promotion.
"We probably erred, and when I say 'we' I mean 'I,' " Bear said. "I
just assumed they would try to promote the race. I found out that was not true.
Right from the start, you were pretty sure it was going to
RJR paid the purse for the race, as Nextel does now. Bear said
RJR paid for virtually all of the promotion, too, although
Helton said Atlanta's proposal to host the race included a
budget for promotion that the track exceeded.
Jeff Byrd, now president of Bristol Motor Speedway, worked
at Sports Marketing Enterprises at the time but was dealing
with projects outside of the NASCAR program. Byrd joked that
things looked so bad a few weeks before the race that Bear
considered things like busing in soldiers from military bases
and giving them free tickets just to get people in the stands.
One inducement tried
was giving everyone who attended a rose for Mother's Day. "We had enough
roses left over to supply the Rose Parade," Bear said.
Advance ticket sales were, to be kind, slow. Still, people
who work at race tracks tend to hold out hope for miracles.
"Back in that time, your walk-up crowd was a big deal," Helton said. "Still,
advance sales still gave you an indication what was going to happen. You could
pretty much tell what the walk-up could be if the weather cooperated.
That morning, we pretty much had an idea that we probably didn't
need as many ticket-sellers as we wished we might."
At some point, those connected with the event began to accept
the fact that it was what it was.
"Finally, you were just saying, 'Let's get this done and get out of here,'"
Bear said. "Bill Elliott won the race and that went over
well there in Georgia. We had a couple of really, really good
parties that week. I got to meet (then-Atlanta Mayor) Andrew
Young, somebody who I had admired, and sat next to him at dinner
"I think the people who were there had a really good time. There just
weren't very many of them."
Bear said the Atlanta debacle changed RJR's thinking about
the all-star race. It returned here for the 1987 race that
featured Earnhardt running through the corner of the infield
grass and still keeping the lead.
"After a couple of years back in Charlotte, we wouldn't have dreamed of
going anywhere else with it," Bear said.
After RJR's departure as the sport's title sponsor, speculation
grew rapidly about the idea of moving the all-star race. That
talk has quieted some, especially in the past year, with NASCAR
Chairman Brian France saying during a visit to Charlotte last
month there's no clear reason the Challenge, as it's known
now, should be moved.
"It certainly becomes more difficult to go back to the original game plan
when you have as much consistency and repetition as the all-star event has
behind it today," Helton said. "I think what's happened since its
origination is that the industry has grown and the influence the industry has
to the Charlotte area has grown even more.
"If there's going to be an all-star event and it has a 19-year history
of being in one location, moving that takes a great deal more debate than it
might have 15 years ago."
IT'S A ROUGH RIDE
Denny Hamlin had just whipped the field to win Sunday's Pennsylvania
500 at Pocono Raceway and he was talking about all the valuable
lessons he's learned in his rookie season of Nextel Cup competition.
"It's all about patience," Hamlin said. "Tony has really talked
to me about it over the past few weeks."
Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, and the guy who once again
during the race exacted his own brand of instant justice by
causing a wreck that very likely ended Carl Edwards' hopes
of making the Chase for the Nextel Cup, even when Edwards had
nothing to do with the incident Stewart was reacting to?
"It's an oxymoron, I know," Hamlin said.
Right, and chip off the first three letters of that word and
you get a good description for what the reigning Cup champion
has been driving like.
"I expect to be raced the way I race other people," Stewart said
after he was involved in an incident, for the second straight week, that wouldn't
have happened if he'd simply not decided to act like Judge Judy in an orange
"I think I'm pretty fair," Stewart said. "Ask some veterans
and ask the guys that I run up front with every week and I think I'm a pretty
fair driver to those guys. If I'm wrong on that, I'll quit. I'll retire tomorrow."
Fair, of course, is where you go to buy funnel cakes. Substitute "smart" for "fair" in
that offer, and Stewart would be looking at the shortest farewell
tour in NASCAR history.
Last week at New Hampshire, Ryan Newman had fresh tires and
was looking to get a lap back by passing Stewart. But since
Newman had made himself tough to pass earlier in the race,
Stewart decided not to give him an inch. Both drivers acted
like they were fighting for a spot in line for extra milk at
recess and wound up wrecking.
Sunday at Pocono, Stewart and Clint Bowyer were racing for
position. Bowyer, without question, got too high and crowded
Stewart, who scrubbed the outside wall.
Stewart is absolutely right to say Bowyer was being too aggressive
for it to be so early in the race.
"The problem is they don't learn give and take in the Busch Series," Stewart
said. "This is the Nextel Cup Series. If they would all learn a little
give and take, none of us would have been in this position. Carl (Edwards)
ended up with a bad day because of it. I ended up with a bad day. Four cars
ended up with a bad day because one guy couldn't have patience and use give
No. No. No. No.
Four cars ended up with a bad day because Stewart wasn't willing
to consider the possibility that Bowyer might have simply overdriven
the corner and made a mistake. Instead of walking up to Bowyer
at Indianapolis in two weeks and saying, "Hey, rookie,
here's why what you did at Pocono was a bad thing,"
Stewart went for the immediate lesson in "give and take."
First, he gave Bowyer gesture. Then he took his No. 20 Chevrolet
and swerved toward Bowyer's. Whether Stewart barely touched
him or plowed into him is irrelevant. Bowyer swerved away from
Stewart and hit Edwards' Ford, wrecking both cars.
Flash forward three months. Stewart's battling for his second
Chase title in a row and third overall when suddenly, and for
no reason, his car gets wrecked because two other cars are
jacking around. You'd be able to measure Stewart's reaction
to that on a Richter scale.
Stewart was right, though, about one thing he said after the
"All I know is if the No. 3 car was here, a lot of these problems wouldn't
be happening," Stewart said, referring to the late Dale Earnhardt. "He'd
have had it all settled by now and we wouldn't have to worry about this."
That's quite likely true, because if Stewart did to Earnhardt
what he did Sunday, somewhere down the road Stewart's wrinkled-up
car would have a grille full of concrete and a splotch of black
paint on its rear bumper.
Stewart Issues Apology
After speaking with Clint Bowyer on Monday, Tony Stewart apologized
for his role in a wreck on Lap 31 in Sunday's race at Pocono:
"I'm taking 100 percent responsibility for the final incident that occurred
on Lap 32 between myself, (Bowyer) and (Edwards). It was totally my fault," Stewart
said in a statement.
"At the same time, there were circumstances that led up to that wreck,
and after talking with Clint this morning, we both have a better understanding
as to what happened. I reacted, causing the wreck that I take responsibility
for and regret."
RULES ARE A PUNCH LINE FOR NASCAR
Did you hear the one about how NASCAR is cracking down on cheating?
Stock car racing rules enforcement officially became a joke
Tuesday when NASCAR announced the rest of its penalty against
Chad Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson, for the No. 48 Chevrolet's
Daytona 500 qualifying violation.
Knaus is suspended for three more Cup races after also having
to sit out Johnson's win in the 500 on Sunday. He is suspended
until March 22. The season's fifth race, at Bristol, is March
26. Knaus was also fined $25,000 and placed on probation until
The punch line, though, is that neither Johnson nor car owner
Rick Hendrick lost points.
Wait, it gets funnier.
Terry Labonte, driver of the No. 96 Chevrolet, and Bill Saunders,
its owner, were docked 25 points for having an unapproved carburetor
modification on their car in the same qualifying session. Crew
chief Philippe Lopez was fined $25,000.
That team, Hall of Fame Racing, said it would appeal.
Hendrick Motorsports, on the other hand, won't appeal the penalty
stemming from the fact that the rear window on Johnson's car
was tricked up to deflect air over the rear spoiler on its
It should be overjoyed.
Losing Knaus for four races is not small potatoes. He's one
of the sport's best crew chiefs, and his chemistry with Johnson
and their team is a big reason that team has won 19 races since
2002 - more than any other team.
But Knaus wasn't at Daytona and the team still did well. Knaus
can still work at the shop, and his cell phone and computer
still work. He's not cut off from the team.
After saying for the past couple of years it will use points
to show how serious it is about enforcing rules, NASCAR split
hairs in taking them from Labonte and not from Johnson.
"If we have a part or piece that's illegal that we can lay our hands on,
that's when we take points," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president
Knaus spoke to reporters shortly after the penalties were announced.
He was asked several times, whether he thinks what he did was
"There are a lot of things out there that can be called intentional," Knaus
said. "The fact is that when NASCAR went back the car didn't fit the templates.
How that happens is pretty irrelevant."
Knaus said he's apologized for putting Johnson into a position
where he must defend the team's honor.
"But there should be absolutely no grief over the Daytona 500," Knaus
insisted. "They went through inspection several times without a flaw and
then they went out and won the Daytona 500 no questions asked."
No, questions were asked. That's the problem, and instead of
giving a definitive answer with its penalty, NASCAR half-stepped
its way into an indefensible position.
Funny how often that happens, isn't it?