When it comes to the Hendrick
Motorsports mantra “stronger together,”
Chad Knaus showed just exactly how far
that extends. In fact, you might say Knaus,
crew chief for Jimmie Johnson, put his
money where team owner Rick Hendrick’s
mouth is. And Knaus won big doing it.
The year was 2010 and the track was
Texas Motor Speedway. The Chase for the
NASCAR Sprint Cup was entering the home
stretch and Johnson was in a dogfight for
the championship with Joe Gibbs Racing’s
Denny. Johnson’s crew had a series of bad
pit stops, so midway through the race,
Knaus ordered a wholesale switch of pit
crews, taking Jeff Gordon’s crew for
Johnson’s No. 48 and sending Johnson’s
crew to Gordon’s No. 24 team.
Hamlin won the race, while Johnson
finished ninth. Afterwards, Hamlin’s
then-crew chief Mike Ford ripped on the
Hendrick organization for being selfish.
“I think it was kind of a desperation move,”
Ford said. “But it’s something that – I won’t
say that race team – that Jimmie, Chad and
Rick (Hendrick) needed to do if they wanted
winning the title with Johnson as Hamlin’s
championship charge came off the rails in
the final two races.
In Phoenix, one week after Texas, Hamlin
had to make one extra pit stop for fuel,
which cost him a shot at victory. Then, in
the Homestead finale, the JGR driver made
an unforced error, bouncing off Greg Biffle’s
Ford early in the race, while Johnson went
on to finish second in the race and capture
his fifth consecutive championship.
As Johnson did his celebratory victory
lap, Knaus sat upon his war wagon on pit
road and held up a hand-written sign that
said, “The best team won.” The word
“team” was underlined.
Today, nearly six years later, Knaus says
the decision to switch crews is proof positive
of what “stronger together” really means.
“I like the fact that we used the 24 pit
crew to go out there and win the
championship,” Knaus says. “I thought if
anything, that demonstrated teamwork
within this company more than anything
we had done to date.”
Hard to argue with that logic. Or the result.
Talking about a single-team ethos is one thing; demonstrating it is quite another. Cue Texas, 2010...
to win a championship, because they just
took their team out of it. They removed their
team. Their team got them to this point
and they pulled them out, so this is more
about trying to win a championship for the
company and not the team.”
Naturally, those comments didn’t sit well
with the Hendrick squad, so they got
revenge the best way they knew how – by
(BELOW) Whatever it takes... Jeff
Motor Speedway in 2010. For
Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus,
it’s ultimate proof of the “one team”
ethos at Hendrick Motorsports.
Chad Knaus has been Jimmie Johnson’s
Sprint Cup crew chief since the six-time
champ’s ’02 rookie season. As well as those
titles, the duo has 75 wins, and counting.