Those who are fans of HMS claim that justice has finally been done, while those who are anti-Hendrick claim there is a conspiracy theory.
In this case, it isn't NASCAR who has given them the advantage. In fact, NASCAR levied the fine and penalties in the first place, and those penalties were upheld last Tuesday when Chad Knaus, Ron Malec and Rick Hendrick, along with NASCAR appeared before the Appeal Board.
This week, however, it was a panel of one who heard the evidence. That one person was John Middlebrook, former CEO of General Motors.
The question I have is, what did he see or hear in the evidence that everyone else missed?
Hendrick has said all along that the inspection was not an official inspection and that it was visual only, with no measurements being taken. However, the Appeal Board of last week felt it was obviously still a valid inspection.
NASCAR.com reported the following:
Hendrick said his company produced "about 20 photos" and 10-15 pages of detailed documentation proving that they had attempted to comply with NASCAR regulations regarding the C-posts at every turn. Knaus earlier contended that the same C-post configuration had been run on the No. 48 car on all four restrictor-plate races last season, and that each time the car had passed multiple inspections both at the track and at NASCAR's R&D Center.
Hendrick said his team also argued there were other cars at Daytona whose C-posts were called into question during visual inspections and that NASCAR allowed those teams to then work on their cars before presenting them for inspection again. He said the No. 48 car was not given that same opportunity -- and insisted that the car had not been altered in any way after passing a detailed inspection at the R&D Center itself in January, prior to taking the car to Daytona in February.
The points penalties levied against the team were reversed, moving Johnson from 17th in the points to 11th. The six week suspensions against Knaus and Malec were also overturned, meaning that Knaus will be on the pit box in California this weekend.
However, the $100,000 fine levied against Knaus was left intact, meaning that Middlebrook found that there was a rules infraction of sort. Additionally, Malec and Knaus will be on probation until May 9th.
It's difficult to interpret the decision that Middlebrook has presented. On the one hand he has found that the team didn't cheat, yet on the other hand, upholding the penalties infers that they did cheat.
Whatever the decision, there are happy fans and really, really pissed off fans. What category do you fit into? And do you agree? Or are you like me and thinking it is all just a little too pat.
I think I see some black helicopters.