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Woody: Is Knaus Indispensible?

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 2 2009
Chad Knaus spent has played a part in helping Jimmie Johnson win four championships. But how big of a part?. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Chad Knaus spent has played a part in helping Jimmie Johnson win four championships. But how big of a part?. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Is Chad Knaus a good crew chief?

Yes he is.

Has he contributed to Jimmie Johnson’s many triumphs?

Yes he has.

Is he vital to Johnson’s continued success?

No he’s not.

Knaus was unquestionably a strong asset during Johnson’s drive to a record four-straight NASCAR championships. He’s cool under fire, knows how to set up and adjust a race car, and generally makes good calls on pit strategy.

But I suspect that Jimmie would have won this year’s championship – along with the previous three – with a lot of other capable crew chiefs hunkered on top of the box on pit road.

This is not intended as a slap at Knaus, but I’m amused at some of the things I’ve been reading since Johnson’s record-smashing performance this season. Some make it sound as though Jimmie was just another part installed in the car by his genius crew chief.

It’s similar to the over-blown hype we heard about Ray Evernham steering Jeff Gordon’s success. When Ray bailed, what happened? Jeff marched on to another championship.

It’s the same with Johnson. In a juggernaut like Hendrick Motorsports Knaus is an asset, not a necessity.

Given the powerful Hendrick program, coupled with Johnson’s incredible driving talent, a change in crew chiefs would barely cause a hiccup.

Chad is merely the caddy that hands Tiger his club.

Knaus is signed through next season and boss Rick Hendick said he expects to secure him to a longer-term contract. There’s no question that Knaus deserves the job security.

But if I were him I’d be careful about playing too much hard-ball in these shaky economic times when teams. There are lots of capable crewmen standing in the unemployment line.

Knaus has been a part of a record-breaking four-year run. But put him atop the pit box of, say, Robby Gordon, and see how much mechanical magic he’s able to muster.

A crew chief is only as good as his car and driver, and Knaus has been fortunate to work with one of the best combos in NASCAR history.

Knaus is smart – smart enough to realize how good he’s got it. As his old mentor Evernham discovered, a great driver with a great team can keep rolling along if his crew chief decides to change scenery.

For Knaus, the grass doesn’t get any greener on the other side of any other fence.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 2 2009
4 Comments

4 Comments »

  • Rmann5 says:

    This article is funny. Gordon no where near Evernham era. This is the exact scene. Chad leaves, Jimmy sucks. Now the crew is more important than driver, Martin didn’t like Chads setups. Martin superior driver to Johnson but never had the equipment, Now watch.

  • curt tillman says:

    your crazy thinking jj would have won 4 in a row without him

    chad’s a racer’s racer and everyone in the garage knows it

    ask any short track racer

    i’m from
    rockford il
    home of john darby and his tech crew

  • Marybeth says:

    Since Chad hasn’t signed yet, do you know who is competing for him…? I am guessing that it is Toyota team.
    Do you suppose if Chad moved on to another team, would RH reassign Lance to JJ…?
    Marybeth

  • Snakebit says:

    How many championships has Gordon won with and without Everham??
    looks to me that the crewchief is a BIG part of the success.
    I agree Jimmy would have won a championship with-out Chad, but 4 in a row NO WAY. How many races did Jimmy win in stockcars before he was paired with Chad? I have always said Chad is a chip off the old block (Ray), and I truely beleive that if Ray and Jeff would of stayed togeather they would of bad history.