By: Drew Hierwarter
“If we get four in a row, great, then we have to get five.” –
The current dominance of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus is nothing new in NASCAR’s top division. All it takes is the perfect combination of driver, crew chief, pit crew, and equipment, that’s all. Nothing to it.
Herb Thomas driving Smokey Yunick prepared
Cale Yarborough also won ten races in 1974 and three straight championships in ’76, ’77, and ’78 driving cars prepared by Junior Johnson. Johnson’s cars also carried Darrell Waltrip to three championships in 1981, ’82, and ’85.
The late Dale Earnhardt won seven titles, the first in 1980, the rest in pairs ’86-’87, ’90-’91, and ’93-’94. Then it was Jeff Gordon’s turn as he won four in ’95, ’97, ’98, and 2001.
In every one of those strings of success the one thing that stands out is that each of the winning teams had the best combination of people, the best organization, and the determination to work as hard as possible to reach their goal.
Today that description fits Hendrick Motorsports in general and the #48 team in particular.
The mastermind behind the current domination by the #48, crew chief Chad Knaus, is an admitted workaholic who is totally and completely focused on getting the team to the head table at the end-of-the-year championship banquet.
“When I go to the racetrack I don’t go there to play, I don’t go for a picnic. It’s not what it’s about. I’m there to race . . . I go to the racetrack and I worry about the 48 car and then go to my motorcoach and I work and I go to bed and get up in the morning and do the same thing.”
You can’t argue with success. Knaus’ analytical approach to the sport has rewritten the way a race team approaches each season. Just like the reward in a race doesn’t come until the last lap, the reward for the season doesn’t come until after the ten-race “Chase for the Championship at the end of year. And every year since the Chase has been instituted Knaus works to make sure his team reaches its peak in time for the Chase.
By contrast, Jimmie Johnson in the #48 just kept logging top five and top ten finishes and hanging around the top of the charts waiting for the Chase to begin. They paced themselves. In the six Chase races run so far, their worst finish has been 9th at
In spite of finishing second at
Re-read the quote at the top of the page. Don’t doubt for a minute that Chad Knaus means that and knows exactly how to go about accomplishing it. He’s not through by a long shot.