CHASE FOR THE NASCAR SPRINT CUP
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
NOVEMBER 16, 2016
CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media via teleconference today to discuss this weekend’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, winning a seventh series title and many other topics. Full Transcript:
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Chad Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports.
Chad, thank you for joining. You and Jimmie have won six championships together, but this is the first time the team will race for the championship under the new Chase structure. Does it feel any different heading into this weekend as part of the Championship Four as you look for a record‑tying seventh championship?
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, it’s a little different for sure. Obviously we’ve been able to go down to Homestead and bid for the championship in a lot of different scenarios, with a points deficit, with a points lead, and this is definitely unique, starting at zero and just going out there for the best man to win. I’m comfortable with it. I’m looking forward to it.
Quite honestly I think the Lowe’s Chevrolet has been fast over course of the last handful of weeks. Our pit crew has been performing very well. Jimmie is very comfortable and in a good state of mind.
I’m really excited about it. I’m looking forward to getting down there for sure.
Q. Chad, obviously Jimmie winning a seventh championship this weekend if that were to happen would put him in some pretty elite company. What do you view your history in the sport, your legacy in the sport, and what do you want that to be?
CHAD KNAUS: Me personally? I guess I really don’t know what I want my legacy to be. I guess just to be remembered as a real racer, I guess, more than anything. I came in, and I was a grass‑roots racer from the Midwest who got an opportunity to work on some what was then Winston Cup cars in Alabama and then got an opportunity to work on the 24 car of Jeff Gordon and was able to work my way up methodically. For people just to remember that I started out as a racer and ended as a racer is probably my biggest goal.
Q. What would it mean to you to win seven titles with the same driver? I don’t believe that’s been done before.
CHAD KNAUS: What’s really cool about it is if we were able to pull this off, it would be seven titles with the same driver, same crew chief, same sponsor and same team, which would be even more phenomenal. It’s been an honor to be able to work with Jimmie, Lowe’s and Hendrick Motorsports throughout this portion of my career. Looking forward to it extending a long time.
But being able to represent this company and our associates the way that we have has been a lot of fun. To Jimmie personally, obviously he is by far one of my best friends, and to be able to have seen him grow and mature into the driver and the family man that he is has been awesome. It’s been a great ride.
Q. You often talk about just kind of focusing race to race, and there’s Jimmie with his helmet that says seven and has the photos of Dale and Richard. I’m curious, did you look at that and cringe at all, or do you understand ‑‑ he talks about that he needs a target out there, he needs something to go for, and that kind of helps him with that.
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, I didn’t know anything about it. I don’t know if he kept it from me intentionally or not, but when the first one showed up sitting on top of the race car, I think I saw, gosh, maybe Matt Yocum taking a photograph of it, I was like, why are you taking a picture of Jimmie’s helmet, and then I saw it, and I was like, oh, boy.
Look, everybody gets motivated differently. Everybody has different things in their mind that gets them going in the morning or continues to motivate them throughout the course of the day. Jimmie, I think it’s not only a motivation for him to have that stuff on his helmet. I also think it’s a show of respect to the people that he is chasing. I think it’s a pretty cool thing. That number seven goes pretty deep into the roots of the 48 and Hendrick Motorsports, and it’s pretty cool having that on his helmet.
Q. In talking to Jimmie, he seems very ‑‑ well, he’s always very kind of cool and collected and everything like this, but he seems like he feels more confident because you guys have had a few weeks to prepare for this, winning that first race so that you could concentrate and look at your notes and be ready. But he even says that he feels just a good sense of calm about it. Would you say that’s a fair way to describe how the team is, and how do you think he got to that point?
CHAD KNAUS: He’s definitely as calm as I’ve ever seen him going into any event, be it a championship, going to a Martinsville race, a Fontana race, whatever race it may be. He feels prepared, and I think his confidence and his calmness comes from being prepared. He’s done a lot of diligence in watching films, getting prepared, understanding the race cars, what we’re doing with the cars, and that’s something that hasn’t just happened over the course of the last four weeks. It’s something that started weeks and weeks ago. He has had a huge push to understand the team more, be more involved with the team, and by him doing that, it’s actually risen the performance of the whole 48 team, and I think that’s a pretty impressive thing.
So he sees the work. He sees what’s changed in our race cars, how we’ve developed the speed. That’s given him confidence knowing that when he shows up at the racetrack that he’s going to have a fast race car, and that’s where that confidence comes from. It’s just preparedness.
Q. Chad, what are the histories of the two cars you’re bringing this weekend, and secondly, with this tire we saw short pitting at Texas to quite a degree; how do you anticipate short pitting potentially playing a role this weekend?
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, we’ve got two great race cars we’re bringing this weekend. It was a tough battle trying to figure out which one we wanted to bring, but we brought one that we feel very confident in. It’s got a good race history, and I think it’s going to be a good race car.
As far as the short pitting, Goodyear does a fantastic job of bringing great tires to the racetrack. It’s the same tire we had at Chicagoland, same tire we raced at Texas. I think both those races produced great exciting races, so I think short pitting will come into play for certain because the tire falloff is so high. You’ll see a two‑second falloff in lap time in just a 20‑, 25‑lap run, which is pretty amazing, which is good. That’s not a bad thing. I think it’s awesome because I think that definitely provides opportunity for strategy, and definitely activity on pit road. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Obviously there’s challenges. Short pitting can produce the opportunity for cars to get caught a lap down if a caution comes out, crazy scoring debacles like we’ve seen before, so there’s going to be some excitement from that standpoint.
Q. So is the car you’re bringing to Homestead, the primary, was that your Texas car or one that won this year or anything?
CHAD KNAUS: It’s a good car.
Q. You guys had some early success in the season with two wins in the first few races, but statistically this has been a very underperforming season for you guys and Hendrick Motorsports in general, including during the summer where Hendrick Motorsports was having weeks where none of the cars were finishing in the top 10. At what point during the season do you feel that your performance really started to turn around to the point where you could compete for the championship?
CHAD KNAUS: Sure, that’s a good question. I think about Indianapolis was the turning point for the 48 car. Now, albeit we didn’t have very good finishes throughout the summer months, that’s not necessarily indicative of how we raced. We had some very strong performances, much like I said at Indianapolis. Were we as fast as the guys that were perfectly up front? No, not really, but we were running in the top 5 and we passed a lot of cars there, so I think that was a great start for us.
Pocono we had some good races, so on and so forth. Once again, I don’t know that we had the finishing results that we wanted, but we were starting to show signs of performance. Once we got a little bit later into the season, Darlington showed up, Michigan, tracks like that, we really started to put some finishes together and some very, very strong performances.
So I think about that time of the year. But yeah, it’s no secret that we were not performing the way we wanted to throughout the bulk of the season as a company, so we all buckled down. I think the crew chiefs have put their heads together very well, and really started to work well together. Not that we weren’t before, but we just did it with more vigor than what we had in the past, and I think that’s a direct reason why we have the results that we do now. I think all of our teams are running great. I think at one time, Sunday, last week, we were first, second, third and fifth, I think, so the best showing we have had in a race competitively like that in a while.
I think everybody at Hendrick Motorsports is doing a great job of pushing our performance and making that a priority, and it should carry on, I hope, into next season.
Q. You crew chiefs are more intense, obviously, than the drivers, and we’ve heard through the years that the drivers talk a little smack and cut up with each other. Do you and Todd or Dave or Adam, do y’all have any backroom smack talk that’s going on? Do you issue any challenges, or is it all business all the time for you?
CHAD KNAUS: I don’t. I don’t really correspond with anybody else other than people on the 48 team or people at Hendrick Motorsports. I’ll be honest with you, other than a casual hello or a congratulatory note after they win a race or a good job, guys, or something along those lines. I don’t really have a lot of correspondence with anybody else in the garage to be quite frank. There really isn’t any banter from my standpoint.
The other guys, they may. I’m a little older than most of those guys, so that could be why, too.
Q. Have you talked to NASCAR about the pulling up to pit rule, and do you have any clarity on that going into Homestead?
CHAD KNAUS: Nope.
Q. When I was talking to somebody that was at the ’94 Rockingham race when Dale Sr. clinched the title, they said that half the crowd was rooting against senior to tie Petty, and I’m curious if you have any sense, and what will it be like if possibly you have a crowd that’s maybe half rooting for you and half rooting against you on Sunday?
*Due to technical difficulties with the audio connection, this question was dropped.
Q. Just real quickly, you’ve won so many titles, but this is the first time you guys are going to be racing against three other drivers in one race. It’s so different than what you’ve done before. Do you guys have any extra powwows about this type of thing, or is it just that’s what the circumstances are? How do you go about that because this is so different from the other times?
CHAD KNAUS: You know, you say it’s different, but it’s really not. It’s not like you’ve got four football teams going to play football against one another for the Super Bowl, right. This is what we do every single week. We race against 39 other competitors every week when we go to the racetrack, so it’s not so unlike what we do every single weekend.
Obviously being cognizant of where the other three competitors are throughout the course of the event is going to be a premium, but you really can’t approach it any differently. How’s this: It’s my first time doing this, so I don’t even know if I need to approach it any differently. Some of these other guys have done it a couple times. Probably Adam Stevens probably has a better idea of how to approach it than honestly I do, but from our approach with the 48 car, we’re going to show up at the racetrack, we’re going to go and we’re going to qualify the best we possibly can, we’re going to work on our car as much in practice as we possibly can to make it fast, and then we’re going to go race for 267 laps and let the chips fall where they may at the end.
Regardless of whatever happens down there, this team has performed very well this year, and I’m excited about getting down there and doing this. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
THE MODERATOR: Chad, thank you for joining us today, and good luck this weekend.
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