Knaus thriving in management role at Hendrick Motorsports

BRASELTON, Ga. (AP) — Again on top rated of the pit stand in his normal habitat, Chad Knaus rattled off a listing of guidance to his crew forward of qualifying for the Petit Le Mans at Street Atlanta.

“Make confident we you should not have upside down windshield wipers,” he radioed. “One detail I really don’t like is to glimpse like a fool.”

Yup, exact same old CK.

But also, possibly a little distinctive?

It has been a comprehensive 12 months given that Knaus was promoted from crew main at Hendrick Motorsports to vice president of level of competition, and his depth and interest to depth have not waned.

Only he appeared looser at Street Atlanta, around a a few-day weekend that culminated with a 10-hour endurance race. He partnered with Jimmie Johnson for a NASCAR report-tying seven Cup championships, but this edition of Knaus just isn’t so rigid.

He can make jokes — a ton of ‘dad jokes,’ but Knaus is now a 50-year-previous father of two toddlers — and typically appears to be more easygoing.

Knaus as soon as dumped his pit crew in the center of a playoff race with Johnson. When they received the 2008 championship, his celebration was delayed because he 1st had to assemble the sheets of his meticulous notes that experienced been swept away in the wind. But at Street Atlanta, this variation of Knaus allowed The Affiliated Push to sit atop the pit stand and accessibility approximately all the things.

Together with a virtually unobstructed see of his notes.

Satisfy IMSA Chad.

“That’s not Chad Knaus down there, no way. That’s a full new Chad, racing sporting activities cars and acquiring enjoyable Chad. Diverse person completely,” mentioned Steve Letarte, a former crew chief for Jeff Gordon and as a result Knaus’ closest associate at Hendrick Motorsports. But they were rivals, also, and the Johnson vs. Gordon 2007 championship battle is viewed as a single of the greatest in NASCAR heritage.

Letarte walked away from the grind following the 2014 year — he never ever led Gordon previous Johnson for a title — for a fewer-stress filled task as an NBC Sports activities analyst.

Knaus hardly ever slowed.

He remained atop the No. 48, the team he built from scratch around Johnson in 2002, for an additional 4 years. And when his and Johnson’s up-and-down performing marriage at last fractured over and above restore, Knaus left the No. 48 after the 2018 time for a two-12 months stint as crew main for William Byron.

Then he went into administration, considerably less weekends absent from house, not so significantly tension to continue to keep all the things managing at the large stage he needs. This time in IMSA? It is really 4 endurance races in the No. 48 with Johnson in a collaboration concerning Hendrick and Action Express Racing. The strain stage has been kicked down quite a few notches.

“I likely seem additional comfortable, I am a very little more mature. But I never have my hands in almost everything,” Knaus instructed the AP. “I am below to aid support and perform with Jimmie and the fellas, but the Action Convey men, they do the meat of the operate and they ask me to do the strategy. Which is interesting, you know?”

Don’t be mistaken, although, Knaus is even now very really serious about get the job done and successful.

In a new behind-the-scenes part at Hendrick, Knaus led the opposition department for an corporation that mixed to acquire 17 of 36 races and set two motorists in the championship 4. He was in North Carolina in the Hendrick “war room” aiding with method when Kyle Larson won the Cup time finale at Phoenix Raceway to clinch Rick Hendrick’s 15th championship. It was Larson’s 10th points-paying out victory of the year — equaling the mark Johnson and Knaus set in 2007.

He alternates NASCAR weekends at the keep track of with Hendrick basic manager Jeff Andrews, so the 4 IMSA stamina races have been Knaus’ only prospect this yr to dip again into the thick of levels of competition. Hendrick gave him the occupation as he was even now settling into his other position.

“It came together really brief, we had been getting a conference in early January with Mr. Hendrick, and I went up and gave him a hug and in Mr. Hendrick trend, he pulled me in tight and reported, ‘Hey, I will need you to go down to Daytona with Jimmie and operate the 24-hour race,’” Knaus said.

“I did not know it was going to flip into this. None of us did.”

The No. 48 completed 2nd in its debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona. It would have scored an additional podium in the Twelve Several hours of Sebring but Knaus admittedly “didn’t know all the rules” and Kamui Kobayashi experienced exceeded his greatest drive time by the time he crossed the end line in third. The penalty dropped the team to seventh, previous in class.

“I blew Sebring,” Knaus shrugged.

That’s good. IMSA is the place Knaus is seeing other varieties of motorsports up-near for the to start with time in his vocation, and the exposure is important for a Hendrick group tied closely to Cup. NASCAR will debut a new spec race motor vehicle next year, and its structure has similarities to the GTD course autos in IMSA. No current NASCAR groups compete in that sports activities automobile course, but enough dabble in both Xfinity, Vehicles, IndyCar or sporting activities automobiles that Hendrick could use some versatility.

“It’s truly been eye-opening. We have a incredibly slender emphasis for Hendrick Motorsports, we do not mess with Xfinity. We do not mess with vehicles,” Knaus advised AP, “and it’s served us perfectly. But it has still left us, in my thoughts, a tiny vulnerable going into the 2022 period with the (Future Gen) car since everyone else that we are racing versus has some style of a tie to other racing. We don’t have that at HMS.”

There is no very clear end recreation. No person has said if the No. 48 will operate sports cars in 2022, and Knaus explained it really is untimely to think about a full-time IMSA entry. He’s all for increasing into yet another collection but said “it’s genuinely hard to deviate from the model that we have got, proper? It’s just done effectively for us.”

Even if Hendrick determined to start out a athletics car workforce, Knaus isn’t really absolutely sure working it would be the proper match — “I do not know if I have that in me” — because he would not know the series well, same for most everyone at Hendrick. He thinks HMS would have to seek the services of from outside the business to get started a crew.

He’d still want to be element of it, though, since looking at Larson acquire the finale about laptop or computer screens from afar remaining Knaus sensation “really torn.”

Larson primarily operates with the aged No. 48 crew crew chief Cliff Daniels was mentored by Knaus, and at the very least 5 other crew users labored below him. When they received the title with a late closing pit end, the next-fastest quit for the No. 5 workforce the total year, Knaus would have favored to celebrate with his previous fellas.

He spends most of his time at a desk these times, but Knaus insisted his internal flame burns as incredibly hot as at any time.

“I really like it. I delight in the heck out of it, my push is not in query,” he claimed.


Extra AP automobile racing: and activities