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Knaus to know his fate today

The party will come to a halt quickly today for Daytona 500 champion Jimmie Johnson and the rest of his No. 48 team when NASCAR announces the penalty for crew chief Chad Knaus.

However, team owner Rick Hendrick said at Monday morning's champion's breakfast that he doesn't plan to appeal the sanctions if he doesn't consider them excessive.

Knaus was expelled from the speedway after qualifying last week when Johnson's car did not fit a NASCAR template during inspection. Johnson was forced to start from the back of the field in his qualifying race Thursday and earned ninth spot on the grid. He won the 500 Sunday with interim crew chief Darian Grubb.

Knaus, suspended two races last season for improper changes to Johnson's car, is expected to be suspended 3-5 weeks and fined for his latest indiscretion. Johnson and Hendrick said they accepted him being sent home, served their penalty without question and are looking forward to moving on after today's announcement.

Any suspension should only limit Knaus from having contact with the team at the track. He would be allowed to work on the car at the shop during the week and talk with his team until it leaves for the next race.

BRANDON'S OWN: Okay, so Denny Hamlin didn't exactly grow up in eastern Hillsborough County but on Nov. 18, 1980 he was born in Brandon and, for two years at least, thatwas home.

Many of Hamlin's relatives still live in Brandon and the Nextel Cup rookie has a huge following there. After winning last weekend's Bud Shootout, the 25-year-old also had some big expectations. This weekend's two races weren't exactly what he and his fans were hoping for.

After being sent to the rear of the field in Saturday's Busch Series race for what NASCAR officials called aggressive driving, Hamlin got the full rookie treatment in Sunday's 500.

Hamlin started 17th and moved as high as seventh but couldn't gain enough confidence from other drivers to push any further.

"Help was the biggest thing we were lacking," he said. "We just struggled all day trying to find help and track position. Every time we got track position we got shuffled out and it would take us all the way to the back."

The perfect example of that was in the final 20 laps. Sitting 13th with 50 miles to go, Hamlin got shuffled out and wound up 30th.

NEW NUMBERS: NASCAR, with the help of STATS Inc., broke out a new stack of statistics to tantalize fans and terrorize teams Sunday.

Using 18 scoring loops around the track, the series produced a box score, showing each car's position at the start, the midpoint, with 20 laps to go and the finish. The stats showed each driver's highest and lowest position in the race, and the number of times they passed (and were passed) under green flag conditions.

The most intriguing part of the package was the driver's rating. Naturally, Johnson was top rated with 118.4 (out of 150), followed by third-place finisher Ryan Newman (114.2) and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished sixth but had a rating of 103.5. The only other driver with a rating of more than 100 was Tony Stewart (fifth place) at 103.1.

QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: After honorary pace car driver and talk show host Jay Leno mentioned he had driven as fast as 140 mph, grand marshal James Caan was asked what his fastest stint behind the wheel was. The 65-year-old actor, currently starring in the television show Las Vegas, shrugged off the question, saying he wasn't sure. He then quickly added: "But I used to drive 140 mph just to get to my dope dealer."

- MIKE READLING, Times correspondent