Published November 20, 2014
The only people concerned about Chad Knaus re-upping with Hendrick Motorsports were his competition.
There was never a doubt Knaus would remain the crew chief of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet.
"Chad and I made a promise a long-time ago that if I'm driving, I'm driving his race car," Jimmie Johnson said.
However, the stark reality that Knaus will continue leading the four-time championship squad for the next five years will lead to many sleepless nights among the other crew chiefs in the garage.
Under the Knaus' leadership, the No. 48 team has not just been competitive, they've been dominant.
He's smart as he can be," says team owner Rick Hendrick. "But his attention to detail -- he's just so focused. It can be 11 o'clock at night and he's in there working. He's smart. When you have those kind of work habits and you're never satisfied with not winning. He's puts a lot of effort into it. He has a lot of talent."
From the No. 48 team's rookie season in 2002, the Knaus led squad has never finished worse than fifth in the point standings. The following two years, Johnson finished second in the point standings and the team's performances seemed effortless -- although things were far from perfect behind the scenes. During this current nine-year stint Knaus has enjoyed with Hendrick, he's had to learn to entrust others with a variety of responsibilities. Lightening his load has enabled Knaus to concentrate on building better race cars.
"Chad has been able to really work on his people skills and getting people involved with him," Johnson said. "With the opportunities he had as a crew chief beforehand, he was one guy doing a lot. At Hendrick Motorsports and in today's world of being a crew chief, you can't take on all the roles yourself.
"When we first started, he did a lot more than just calling a race and trying to lead his guys. He was in there building shocks and working on the surface plate and helping with bodies and doing a lot more than he really needed to. It really wasn't until 2005 when we had that milk and cookies meeting, part of the conversation in that was for Chad to let go of some of the control and bring guys in around him that he trusted, and delegate."
By 2006, it was game on. The No. 48 team won its first of four titles and under the Chase for the Sprint Cup format, no other squad has been as consistent. Despite NASCAR suspending Knaus for a total of 10 races in 2006 and 2007, he's still responsible for calling 47 of the teams wins in 290 starts -- including 18 in the postseason.
"The people he has assembled around him are no different than the people I had surrounding me in '99," said crew chief Todd Parrott of his magical championship season with Dale Jarrett. "I know because I've been there. When you have a team that is as dedicated and a driver who is on his game as much as Jimmie Johnson, that's an amazing combination."
Knaus' decision to stay the course with HMS secures that organization's domination for the near future. Despite the No. 48 team sharing quarters with the No. 24 team, Knaus has established himself as the alpha crew chief at HMS. With the one-team concept at Hendrick Motorsports, solidifying the No. 48 staff will continue offering residual rewards to the other squads.
"They're a successful team," says Steve Letarte, crew chief of the No. 24 team who shares a building with Knaus. "Any time you can keep a successful team together it's a step in the right direction."
For Knaus, the future is clear. He'll continue building his dynasty at Hendrick Motorsports.
"I'd have a hard time thinking I'd ever go somewhere else," said Knaus. "This No. 48 team and the No. 24 team are very important to me and I'm glad to be a part of that and I want to stay here for a long time to come."