During the midst of a summer downturn, Rick Hendrick considered making a change that included severing Jimmie Johnson from Chad Knaus.
Speaking to the media at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the owner of Hendrick Motorsports was reminded of how Johnson and Knaus nearly split apart 11 years ago following Homestead in 2005, that Johnson said that he (Hendrick) had recently asked him (Johnson) and Chad if the relationship is still working, why he would do that and how much he was considering changes in that time.
“You know, every — I think it’s the toughest question when you have a relationship. It can be in a dealership, it can be in a race team, when you have two guys that have been so good and you try to decide is it time, and this year we started off really well, and then we hit a lull in the summer, and it was — we asked ourselves then, is this time, do we need to make a change,” Hendrick said.
In the end, he opted to keep the two together.
“But when you see things that are so close, I think that’s when they work harder, and we really just sit down and work hard together and try to identify weaknesses, and I think they have both made a commitment, they want to retire together,” he added. “They want to finish their careers together.”
Knaus has sat on top of the 48 war wagon since Johnson’s rookie season in 2002. He’s been apart of all six of Johnson’s championship seasons and all but two of his 79 Sprint Cup Series victories. The enduring partnership these two share is rarely seen in NASCAR today.
“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,” Knaus said Wednesday during a media teleconference. “It’s been a great ride.”
But their relationship hasn’t always been rock solid. It almost came unraveled at the seems following the 2005 Ford 400. Hendrick brought Johnson and Knaus into his office for what was supposed to be a meeting on how they would split up, and ended up mending their relationship over a plate of milk and cookies on a Mickey Mouse plate.
The two are on the verge of history where they could join Richard Petty and Dale Inman as the only driver/crew chief duo to have won seven titles together.