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Jimmie: Knaus Will Decide When To Step Down

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 24 2014

Jimmie Johnson said crew chief Chad Knaus not in danger of being fired but... (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Chad Knaus, the only crew chief Jimmie Johnson has known while winning six NASCAR Sprint Cup championships, isn’t on the chopping block.

But Johnson, who was eliminated from this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup championship on Sunday at Talladega, Ala., made it clear that he knows the day is coming when there will be a different pit boss calling the shots for his No. 48 Chevrolet.

“Yeah, that day is out there,” Johnson said Friday as he began preparations for Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway. “I think a crew chief’s lifespan is much shorter than a driver’s. They live in dog years and drivers can carry on much longer.

“I’ve been accused of being loyal to a fault in the past, that’s me. I have no plans or desires to make a change. When Chad decides he’s had enough of being the guy on the box, it will be his decision to step down. As far as I’m concerned, we’ve made it 13 years in this thing. I want to see it go as long as it can.”

Johnson admitted that the public and media’s perception is that there is a lot of tension between him and Knaus. But he added that looks and sounds can be deceiving.

“We’re honest with each other and know each other well enough to work through the bad times,” Johnson said. “It might not be pretty, and I’m sure you guys have heard things on the radio that got your attention. We’re like family, and we fight like family.

“We can call each other out on that stuff, and you only hear a piece of it on the radio. There is plenty more that goes on behind closed doors and in meetings. It’s more of a timeframe of when Chad says, ‘I’ve put in my time here as crew chief and I need to slow down a little bit.’”

2003 Cup champion Matt Kenseth has struggled mightily over the years at the .526-mile paperclip-shaped Martinsville oval. But the Wisconsin native’s fortunes seemed to change last season after he jumped to Joe Gibbs Racing.

On Sunday, Martinsville Speedway will award the race winner with a grandfather clock for the 50th consecutive years.

That’s a trophy Kenseth would like to see show up at his front doorstep next week.

“To be able to win at Martinsville for, especially the way it was my first however many years coming up here would definitely be a career highlight,” said Kenseth, one of eight drivers still in contention for this season’s Sprint Cup championship.

“Honestly, which none of us is this lucky, but if you got handed a menu before the season started, winning a race at Martinsville would be in my top-two or three wishes for sure. That would certainly be a career highlight. I haven’t been real close to winning here expect for last fall — we had a pretty good shot, we just had too long of a run at the end there and Jeff (Gordon) got by me. Certainly that’s something I want to do.”

Timothy Peters won Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway in dramatic fashion.

He hopes to duplicate that feat this weekend at his home track as NASCAR goes the sport’s largest track to its smallest.

Last week’s victory was the eighth in his career in NASCAR’s truck division.

“The thing about wins in the Camping World Truck Series is you never know when the next one is going to come,” said Peters, when asked where the Talladega victory ranks in his career accomplishments. “All of them are very important. When you go to victory lane all of them are magical, enthusiastic.

“I look at Talladega, and all eight wins that I have been fortunate to get, and they’re all a push. Obviously, the Martinsville win stands out because it’s home for me and I’ve had a lot of success with the Late Model here as well as the truck.

“That one would definitely be number one on my list, but all of them are equal just because they’re so hard.”

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NBC will return as a NASCAR TV partner in 2015. Jeff Gordon hosted the popular NBC program Saturday Night Live in 2003.

If asked by his friend, SNL creator Lorne Michaels, to host the show again, would the four-time Cup champion consider accepting the offer?

“It was an opportunity of a lifetime (in 2003) and I had a blast,” Gordon said. “I was also scared to death to do it. But, I’m glad that I did it.

“If I have any requests, just let me go through a Ricky Funk skit. That was my favorite thing that I did on the show. And I thought it was pretty funny.

“I would love to get the opportunity to do that again. But it’s one of those things where you can’t turn it down. If you’re asked, you have to do it. It’s just too much of an honor and an opportunity that you can’t say no.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 24 2014
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