The two Hendrick Motorsports cars failed an initial inspection Friday in Sonoma, Calif., when NASCAR officials found unapproved modifications to the fenders on their Chevrolets. NASCAR refused to let either driver on the track the entire day, and neither was allowed to qualify.
But the fenders were fixed, the cars passed inspection Saturday and were allowed to race Sunday. Gordon, the four-time series champion, finished seventh while defending Nextel Cup champion Johnson was 17th.
Gordon remains the Nextel Cup points leader after the deduction, but his margin was cut to 171 points over Denny Hamlin. Johnson dropped from third to fifth.
But both will have to race through the summer without their crew chiefs. Chad Knaus and Steve Letarte are not eligible to return to the track until Aug. 15. The crew chiefs also were placed on probation through the end of the year.
Car owner Rick Hendrick said he was disappointed and called the penalties "excessive."
"Right now, all of our options are being evaluated, including our personnel situation and a possible appeal to the National Stock Car Racing Commission," Hendrick said in a statement. "We'll take some time to decide on a direction and make an announcement regarding our plans for New Hampshire later in the week."
Gordon and Johnson are the most dominant drivers in NASCAR this season -- they've won four races each -- and Hendrick Motorsports has 10 victories this year.
Hendrick traveled to California after the failed inspection, and argued his crew chiefs were operating in a "gray area" of the NASCAR rule book as it pertains to the new Car of Tomorrow.
"I don't necessarily say they bent the rules -- I think they thought they were working inside an area in which they could," Hendrick said. "It's going to be tough, as we go forward, on what's intentional and what's accidental and how they handle it, so you're definitely going to have to show up with these things measured up."
But NASCAR has insisted this season that there no longer are any questionable parts of the rule book, particularly when it comes to the COT. Teams were warned in March that any infractions dealing with the car were subjected to a loss of 100 points, a $100,000 fine and a six-race suspension.
NASCAR adhered to those guidelines last month when it penalized Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his crew chief, Tony Eury Jr., for modifications found on the wing of their COT at Darlington Raceway.
Now the Hendrick teams have been hit with the same penalties, although many believed Knaus -- a repeat offender -- should have received a stiffer punishment.
This is at least the 15th time Knaus has been penalized for something during his crew chief career, and this was his fourth suspension since 2001. He sat out four races last season when NASCAR found illegal modifications following Johnson's qualifying run for the Daytona 500.
Johnson went on to win the 500, and again at Las Vegas, without Knaus. The two reunited in March and went on to win their first championship.
Story Courtesy: AP Wire Reports & CBS.sportsline.com