Woody: Is Knaus Indispensible?
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 email@example.com Comments