Chad Knaus clears air with NASCAR

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- NASCAR officials met with crew chief Chad Knaus on Friday to discuss his asking Jimmie Johnson prior to the Oct. 23 Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway to damage the car if it wins.

Knaus was caught on NASCAR.com's RaceBuddy feed telling the five-time defending Sprint Cup champion that "if we win this race, you have to crack the back of the race car. Got it?"

Knaus admitted he made the comments. He added it wasn't an attempt to cover up anything illegal, that he was being cautious in case bump drafting knocked the tolerances of the car beyond what NASCAR allows.

Knaus said Friday's meeting at Martinsville Speedway -- with NASCAR president Mike Helton, director of competition Robin Pemberton and Sprint Cup series director John Darby -- was held simply to clear the air.

"I have a very clear understanding of what they expect and the way they expect us to conduct ourselves," Knaus told ESPN.com immediately after the meeting. "I meant no disrespect to NASCAR or any of the competitors by no means."

NASCAR officials said no punishment would result from Knaus' comments and that the purpose of their discussion with him was to gather information.

"As the sport's governing body, we were doing our due diligence to look into this and gain some insight into the comments Chad made before the race at Talladega," NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said. "We have a responsibility to the rest of the garage area to ensure that everyone is competing on a level playing field with the inspection processes we have in place.

"The 48 organization knows that from this occurrence that their car is likely to be a regular customer at the (NASCAR Research and Development) Center for post-race inspection the balance of this season."

NASCAR typically takes the winning car and one random selection to the Research and Development Center for further inspection.

Johnson obviously was caught off-guard by Knaus' comments, responding, "Really?"

Knaus responded by saying: "Yes, got it? You don't have to hit it hard, you don't have to destroy it. But you've gotta do a doughnut and you've gotta hit the back end, or somebody's gotta hit you in the ass-end or something. OK?"

Johnson said he'd never been asked that by Knaus before.

"At the end of the day, while Chad was trying to protect himself, he made a foolish statement," Johnson said Friday. "It certainly was something we didn't want to take place. You can tell by my reaction I hadn't heard that from him before."

Johnson reiterated that he and Knaus respect NASCAR and its inspection process, and reminded that the car passed inspection on three occasions prior to the Talladega race.

"Unfortunately, it happened for no reason at all," he said.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.