Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Knaus: "We Race Prototypes Every Week"

Knaus: "I don't pay attention to the chatter."
After claiming five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships in the last six years, crew chief Chad Knaus has finally divulged the secret to his team’s Chase success.

“Go really, really fast.
“It’s really pretty basic,” laughed the Hendrick Motorsports pit boss. “If you have fast race cars, fast pit stops and a fast driver, you should win the race. It’s pretty simple. We’re just going in circles.”
Preparing for a time of year he called, “better than Christmas,” Knaus said he looks forward to winning a sixth championship with Johnson and his Lowe’s Chevrolet team, many of whom have never experienced the taste of post-season champagne.
“We have a bunch of young players on the team this year that have really started to come into their own,” he said. “There are a lot of new people and a lot of new ingredients, and it’s been fun to watch these guys grow. It’s been a lot of fun and we have learned an awful lot about ourselves and each other as a team. For some of them, (this is) their first opportunity to get out there and battle for a championship.”
Knaus said that while much of his team is new to the demands of a 10-race Chase, simply wearing the blue-and-white Lowe’s uniform each week has exposed them to pressure.
 “The 48 is always in the spotlight,” he said. “They get used to it as the season goes along. We’ve been at this for quite some time, and over the years we’ve had have a lot of new people come to the 48 team, then leave to go to different places (or) move up within the company. (Car chief) Ron Malec does a very, very good job working with the guys on the mechanical side of things, and our pit coaches do a very good job of working with our (over the wall) pit crew.
“It kind of takes care of itself over the first 26 races of the season so that when we get to the Chase, our team is focused and ready to go.”
Chad and Jimmie gun for title No. 6 this week.
Five consecutive championships make Knaus and Johnson lightning rods for criticism in some corners, and frequent brushes with NASCAR technical inspectors have ensured equal numbers of boosters and detractors for the controversial crew chief. He insists, however, that he remains blissfully ignorant of all the talk.
“I don’t pay any attention to the chatter,” he said. “We have some people here at HMS that live on the gossip sites and listen to all the TV and radio people tell their stories and lies. I don’t pay any attention to it. I may get that stuff second-hand, but (even then), it doesn’t really bother me. Jimmie enjoys it, he likes getting into the banter a little bit, but I don’t.
“As a group, we don’t focus on that stuff too much. When things are going bad at the race track, we pay attention to what we’ve got going on. The people who spend time complaining or griping about us are taking away from their own effort.  They can’t help themselves.”
“We race prototypes,” explained Knaus. “Every week -- at every race track -- it’s experimental. (We never bring) a tried-and-true piece. If you do that, you’re going to get beat. We continually try to improve our product. We always have to get better from a race car standpoint, from a mechanical standpoint and from an engine standpoint. Getting into the Chase provides no reward at all if we’re not out there pushing.
Knaus trumpeted the fact that all four Hendrick Motorsports teams qualified for the 2012 Chase, even though it means the operation will not have a “guinea pig” to test new parts or chassis set-ups.
“We won’t have that, but that’s the way it’s supposed to be at Hendrick Motorsports,” he said. “We have four championship-caliber teams, and all four of them will get the same amount of championship attention.
“We are `Company Gung-Ho’ to try and claim first through fourth in points ,and we’ll determine the order at a later date.”
Photos: Autostock

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