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Cup Notes: Hamlin Crew Chief Says ‘Take That” To Knaus

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 7 2010

Jimmie Johnson's pit crew had a tough day in Texas. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Nick Bromberg | Staff Writer

Fort Worth, Texas – Chad Knaus, crew chief for four-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, elected to sub in Jeff Gordon’s pit crew for his slumping pit crew during Sunday’s AAA Texas 500.

Johnson lost time on four of the seven pit stops that he had with his own pit crew and with Gordon out of the race, Knaus elected to make the move.

“Ultimately it’s my decision obviously but we needed to do something,” Knaus said after the race. “The 24-48 shop has always operated as a team and that’s the way that we see it. It’s sad that we have to do that but you know, in the interest of Hendrick Motorsports and what we’ve got to do, you’ve got to go do that stuff.”

That stuff, according to Mike Ford, Denny Hamlin’s crew chief, can be at least partially attributed to his team’s choice to pit in front of Knaus’ team.

It’s courtesy that teams battling for a championship attempt to pit away from each other, but Johnson pitted in front of Hamlin at Kansas, the third race of the Chase. That, Ford said, made the decision to pit in front of Johnson easy.

“Normally you would show some courtesy, but that courtesy was thrown out the window at Kansas,” Ford said. “Also knowing that you put the two pit crews toe to toe and those guys are going to make mistakes.  We’ve seen it this year, and we went beside them, and those guys faltered, and it made them panic and push to the point where they made changes.

“I think it worked out very well for us.  It kind of put us back a little bit early, but late in the day it didn’t affect us at all.”

Ford wasn’t done there.

“As far as watching what happened next to us, I’ll be honest with you, I stayed focused on what we needed to do,” Ford said. “We did see all that go on, saw them making mistakes, saw them studying us real hard, and when you put your focus on watching other people, you make mistakes, so I was glad to see that they are watching us and paying attention.  That means they are chasing.  And they made mistakes in doing so.

“We played our game.  I stayed focused on what we needed to do, and I feel like the – you know, that’s possible going in, and you watch it, so I think it was kind of a desperation move.  But it’s something that – I won’t say that race team – that Jimmie, Chad and Rick needed to do if they wanted to win a championship because they just took their team out of it.  They removed their team.  Their team got them to this point and they pulled them out, so this is more about trying to win a championship for the company and not the team.”

Knaus said that he hopes the 48 team pits the crew at Phoenix.

“I’m hoping to get back with the 48 guys (at Phoenix) and we get everyone’s confidence up and get this thing going in the right direction,” Knaus told ESPN. “It’s not what we want to do but sometimes things need to be adjusted a little bit and we had to do that today.”

Digital mistake: On Saturday, Kyle Busch had the car to beat, leading both practices before Sunday’s race. And on Sunday, he had a fast car too, driving up as high as fourth. But, like Saturday too, when he was unhappy with the final restart in the Nationwide race, Busch had a fast temper Sunday too and was penalized two laps for flipping off the NASCAR official that was in his pit box.

On lap 160, Busch spun by himself and didn’t hit anything. However, with minor damage and four flat tires, he had to come down pit road and appeared to beat the pace car to the line by a few feet to stay on the lead lap. But NASCAR deemed that Busch had sped to stay on the lead lap, a penalty of one lap, and that set Busch off, who made his gesture while in the pits a second time.

It didn’t help that Busch’s salute to the official was televised on his in-car camera, either, but Joe Gibbs Racing general manager JD Gibbs said he didn’t expect any further penalties.

“Yeah, I think overall it’s just he did something there that got caught on TV,” JD Gibbs said. “Everyone saw it and I think it was their way of saying, ‘Hey, here’s our game; if you want to play here’s the rules you play by.’  I’d be surprised if there’s any more penalties coming, but that was frustrating because we had a pretty good car and a pretty good — we thought we had a shot at having a good performance there.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 7 2010
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  • gopapa says:

    Mike Ford can’t make up his mind. Was he watching the 48 team watch his team, or was he staying focused on what his own team needed to do?

    Here’s hoping NASCAR parks Kryle Busch for the Phoenix race.