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Memo: Fixing As Cool As Crashing

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, November 11 2009
Chad Knaus goes to work in the garages at Texas Motor Speedway. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Chad Knaus goes to work in the garages at Texas Motor Speedway. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Let’s see what’s in the Morning Memo today:

I would have loved to have had a front-row seat for what went on at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday. Not on the race track, but in the garages. Would have loved to have pushed up a nice, comfy-leather chair, ordered a pizza and sat and watched as the No. 48 team went to work on the car-turned-to-trash of Jimmie Johnson.

It was nothing less than high art.

Stick and ball types love to get all flowery and prosey over Michael Jordan dunks, the sweet swing of Derek Jeter, the magical moves of Walter Payton.

Pul-lease. Routine crap these days. Besides, the secret is in the $200, made in China shoes, right?

And even auto-racing media and fans love to go way overboard and link pit stops with ballet or sideways saves with supernatural intervention. Hey, it’s mere repetition and fear getting the job done and, sometimes, not.

But what happened in an hour and a couple of minutes in a garage stall at TMS should have been performed in the Louvre.

Johnson crashed on Lap Three at Texas. His car bounced off other cars and hit the inside retaining wall – the one without the padding.

Somehow, the three-time champ got the car moving again.

As Johnson steered toward the garage, the right front wheel was wobbling like a pirate on a grog bender.

Metal sheeting, fiberglass and tubing was either laying on the ground or desperately hanging onto what was left of the chassis.

Crew chief Chad Knaus did a brief freakout – slamming his fist down on pit box – and then went to work.

Moments after the wreck, there he was pushing the car’s carcass back into the garages and into the stall. The look on his face on the photo above says quite a bit about this guy.

There was no thought about packing the car into the hauler and sending it through the tunnel in an effort to beat the traffic. There was only thought about salvaging a point or two.

The team huddled, marching orders were distributed and the work began.

This was no Bear Bond job. This was a rebuild.

Saber Saws ripped through metal, suspension bars were torn free and tossed onto the concrete floors, hammers hammered, out came the smoking and buzzing welding equipment. You’ve got to figure that a few curse words were shouted.

Man, it must have sounded so sweet in that garage.

All the time, Johnson sat in the car thinking and planning. That was one eerie sight.

When the sea of tools and crew members parted and the No. 48 car backed out of the stall, the dang car looked not only good, but menacing.

It had new black quarterpanels covering bare-metal chassis parts. It appeared to be rolling straight a true.

Up pit road it went and then off onto the track where it no only maintained the minimum speed, but actually appeared to pass some other cars under power.

The work was done so quickly that my pizza probably would not have arrived in time.

Great show Chad, boys. Make  that; Bravo!

Memo to self: Send video of the 48 crew at work to the guys who work on my car and can’t seem to find source of this annoying front-end chunking.

Quiet, please

Did you get to see the video of world-class athlete Tiger Woods’s disgust after a heinous incident during a golf tournament in China? In that incident, somebody snapped a photograph of Tiger – during his shot! The rat! Good thing law enforcement folks in China know how to deal with that kind of thing.

I mean, seriously, are golfers such poor possessors of concentration that the sound of a camera shutter  is enough to throw them off their game? Isn’t dealing with distraction part of being an athlete? Should not an athlete be expected to possess as much mental focusing power as hand-eye coordination?

I remember being in the infield at Bristol during practice one time and asking crew chief James Ince: Is the noise of the engines echoing off the metal grandstands at all distracting?

Ince: “What?”

Memo to self: Call exterminator. How am I supposed to write with that darg ant walking across the cupboard door?

Two for three

This week at Phoenix International Raceway, Kyle Busch will again attempt to make history by becoming the first to win three races in NASCAR’s top-three series during the same weekend. He came up just a couple laps short last weekend in Texas.

This weekend, he will be joined in the effort by Kevin Harvick.

Man, how cruel would it be for Harvick to do it successfully the week after Busch fell flat? We probably won’t know as it is doubtful Busch will be around to tell us.

Memo to self: Look back over the season to find out just why it is that Busch did not make the Chase. It sure could use him.

Long day

Busch and Harvick may have a long weekend ahead of them but race fans will have a long Sunday ahead of them.

They have Phoenix and then they have the NHRA season-finale in Pomona. Three of the four NHRA championship races are Chase-like in terms of closeness – that is, not at all.

But Top Fuel is as close as it gets. One point separates defending champion Tony Schumacher and Larry Dixon. And talk about a storyline: The owner of Dixon’s car, Alan Johnson, is the crew chief who led Schumacher to the last five Top Fuel championships.

Think Johnson doesn’t want to prove that he can win without Schumacher? Think Schumacher doesn’t want to prove he can win without Johnson? Think again.

Memo to self: Take phone off the hook for final eliminations Sunday night.

Gordon on air

Robby Gordon will be the “Newsmaker of the Week” on The Race Reporters radio show, Wednesday, November 11, 7 p.m. ET, on www.PowerUpChannel.com.

The Race Reporters can be heard “live,” downloaded into an iPod, or accessed for listening on a delayed basis by clicking on the show icon at www.PowerUpChannel.com. Listeners can bookmark the show and sign-up to receive a free “E card” with news on upcoming guests, at the show’s page, http://www.modavox.com/voiceamerica/vshow.aspx?sid=1549 . The show also will re-air several times later in the week (check PowerUp’s daily programming listing.)

Personal memo: Eddie G., great to see you back doing what you do best and smiling while doing it. See you next year. Also, sorry the Fat Lady Sings thing didn’t quite work out.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, November 11 2009
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