Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Curious Case Of Chad Knaus

After five years of uninterrupted dominance, the wheels have finally come off Jimmie Johnson’s Lowes Chevrolet. The five-time and defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion is currently seventh in points -- a whopping 50 behind leader Carl Edwards -- and with just four races remaining before the Sprint Cup is awarded at Homestead Miami Speedway, it appears that Johnson’s title run has finally come to an end.

While a 26th-place finish last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway effectively sealed Johnson’s on-track fate, a pre-race conversation with crew chief Chad Knaus has spawned a firestorm of off-track controversy, as well. Moments before the command to fire engines, Knaus leaned into the #48 Chevrolet to engage in what he thought was a private moment with his driver. Unfortunately for Knaus and his Hendrick Motorsports team, a microphone installed in the car for’s RaceBuddy application captured the conversation, in full.

"If we win this race,” said Knaus, “you have to crack the back of the car. Got it?"

“Really?” replied Johnson.

"Yes,” explained Knaus. “You don't have to have to hit it hard, you don't have to destroy it. But you've gotta do a donut and you've gotta hit the back end, or somebody's gotta hit you in the ass-end or something. OK?

"You'll be alright,” assured Knaus. “(We) can't take any chances."

Knaus' comments have prompted speculation that the #48 team may have been operating outside the rules Sunday. Knaus is an easy target for such speculation, having been caught outside the letter of the NASCAR law at least twice in the past. In 2006, the #48 team made illegal adjustments to their car’s rear window following a Daytona 500 qualifying run, earning Knaus a hefty fine and multi-race suspension. In June of 2007, Johnson was not allowed to qualify at Infineon Raceway, after NASCAR officials discovered issues with his car’s fenders. Johnson was forced to start at the tail of the field, and Knaus was fined $100,000 and suspended for six races.

Johnson defended his crew chief in a Monday interview on ESPN’s NASCAR Now, saying, “We're afraid of the tolerances following the race when it's over -– when you win the race and go to inspection. If you have significant damage… from the bumping and the contact, you're fine and NASCAR knows that's happened within the window of racing. (But if) you come back with the car moved around and you're outside of where the tolerances are, you've got an issue. So Chad was just making sure that I was aware of that.”

Johnson correctly stated that his Lowes Chevrolet passed multiple inspections at Talladega, saying, “"That car passed inspection after qualifying, (and had) been through inspection quite a few times. So it's not like we have an issue. NASCAR hasn't come to us and said, 'Your car is illegal.' We've not done anything wrong in that sense.”

Previous guilt does not prove current wrongdoing. But Knaus’ “crack the back” order raises legitimate doubt about the #48 car’s legality Sunday, especially since Johnson drove to Victory Lane with no self-inflicted body modifications following his April 17 victory at the same track. With the exception of minor changes in restrictor plate size and cooling system pressurization, NASCAR’s superspeedway rules did not change between April and October. The sanctioning body’s stringent body tolerances were the same last week as they were in April, and both races were contested with an equal amount of potentially bumper-damaging bump drafting.

With no changes in NASCAR’s rules and regulations, the question must be asked. What was Chad Knaus so afraid of?

The world will likely never know.


  1. Anonymous10:20 AM

    Wonder if he did that on purpose just to get people talking ? Since it passed tech, or whatever it was was hidden really really well?

  2. Anonymous10:51 AM

    I agree he did it to get people talking...Knaus is way to smart to have not known that the RaceBuddy mic was live...Knaus knows how to "bend the rules," yes, he has a history doesn't he!?! But I also think he likes to stir the pot too!

  3. Anonymous10:58 AM

    he has achieved what he wanted, get everyone wondering what he is up to, good job Chad!

  4. Anonymous12:33 PM

    He said it to Jimmie because he is still try n to win a championship, and he's pushing the limits on the tolerances. Can't afford to loose points because the rear quarter is 1/100000000 to low. @badream

  5. ElBobbo12:42 AM

    Good heavens no! Chad Knaus may have bent the rules? Stop the presses we have a new front page!............but seriously.....yawn.

  6. Anonymous7:25 PM

    speculation does not prove guilt... enough said