Monday, April 13, 2015

Right Sides Only: Texas Winning Crew Chief, Chad Knaus

Six-Time has become a master of the six shooter. For the fifth time, the No. 48 team led by Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus picked up the checkered flag at Texas Motor Speedway, site of the Duck Commander 500.
Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs

Knaus, donning a Stetson in the post-race media conference, explained how the 1.5-mile track certainly falls into the category of those that suit Jimmie's driving style.

"Yeah, you know, as far as how we perform here at Texas, I think it's -- this is a racetrack that definitely falls into Jimmie's liking. It's a track that you've got to be able to as a driver to search and try to find a different line. Obviously 500 miles here there's a huge swing in track conditions, and I think with the way that Jimmie is able to describe what he's feeling in the race car and with what our guys are able to do from our engineering standpoint, being able to keep up with the racetrack and adjust to the racetrack and try to get the car better throughout the course of 334 laps around here. It's a good race for us. It's a lot of fun. We like coming out here. Obviously it's cool to see the confetti and the fireworks and all that stuff.
"As far as the race, it went really well. We were very happy and very pleased with the tempo and how things were going, pit stops were solid, all was working well two thirds of the way through the event and then we had that caution after a short run and that kind of mixed up everything. I opted to pit from the lead. That was probably a mistake at that point.  Kind of got stuck in traffic but then we were fortunate enough to get a couple quick cautions shortly after that, and we were able to adjust to the race car and make it better in traffic and Jimmie was able to drive up there, and we did a great job."
Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs

The win was the 72nd for the duo, which places them in the eighth position on the all-time wins list. It was also another feather in their hats for the most wins at 1.5-mile tracks. 

Their previous win this season was also at an intermediate track, Atlanta Motor Speedway, but other trips to 1.5-mile speedways haven't paid dividends for the No. 48 team. Did the team's performance in Fontana and Vegas have any effect on their preparation for the first night race of the season?

"I had a lot of confidence coming into Texas based off of where we had been in Fontana, where we were in Las Vegas and where we were in Atlanta. I did. I felt like we were going to be okay. You know, we did -- we've done a lot of hard work, and I felt like we were going to be okay. Our intermediate program, again, it's probably as good as it's been in the last year. We're making huge, huge gains, but we need to be a lot better yet."

Though Kevin Harvick is among those with impressive runs at 1.5-mile tracks, Knaus isn't worried about the performance of the No. 4 team.
"No, not really worried about the 4. I'm worried about the field in general. He's just a part of the mass that we're trying to stay ahead of, or be ahead of I guess I should say. Qualifying, you see some very, very strong efforts from the Penske guys, you see the 4 car, and actually a lot of the Stewart-Haas cars here this weekend were really fast in qualifying. We've got to do a better job of leapfrogging those guys.  If we're two, three tenths behind the 2 and the 22 and a couple of those other guys, we've got to figure out how to eclipse that. We have to get that two tenths, and then we have to be two tenths ahead of them, and so we've got a long ways to go."

If he isn't worried about the No. 4 team, then he was at least somewhat concerned early in the race.
"He [Jimmie] had committed to the bottom of the racetrack. The 4 car had jumped up to the top about eight laps into a run, and Jimmie stayed at the bottom. I asked him, 'Why did you stay on the bottom?' and he just felt like it was too early to go up there and defend and start blocking the 4, so he was being a gentleman racer. I wasn't really worried about him being a gentleman racer, but I was just like, 'Well, I think you'd be faster if you moved up top.'"

Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs
Only Johnson and Harvick have multiple wins so far this season. Both drivers compete using Hendrick equipment, so realistically, does Knaus think any other drivers are capable of matching those drivers on the track?  

"I hope not. Yeah, I wouldn't say that. You go back and you look at the performance of the 22, Kentucky last year, they were very, very strong. I think Brad has been super solid. I think you're going to see these ... Toyotas come up here pretty soon, so I think you're going to see a shift. I can tell you from my standpoint and what we're doing at Hendrick Motorsports within our group, we've got a full-court press on right now to get our performance where we feel like it needs to be, and we're not even close to where I want to be yet."

Hmm. Two wins, and they aren't even close to where Knaus wants to be? If one considers their history, that may not look good for the rest of the field.

    Stacey Owens lives just outside Music City USA. She's always wanted to be a NASCAR writer, so working as a columnist and support editor for Skirts and Scuffs allows her to live that dream every single weekend. 
    The sole NASCAR enthusiast in her home, she's hopeful that one of her three daughters might also harbor an appreciation for NASCAR, but it isn't looking good so far. 
    Her other interests include country music, though she can't carry a tune; collegiate football, though she needs a lot of work on her spiral; and Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life.


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