Two is better than one. That phrase is common in NASCAR, meaning you can’t have a great driver without a crew chief to back him up. It has produced some famous pairings, like Inman and Petty, Petree and Earnhardt Sr., but what pairing is the most prominent duo in racing today? Many would say Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson. Together, they have fifty-three wins and five championships. This is the longest crew chief-driver pairing today, yet they don’t have a flawless history together. The most recent black-eye to their reputation happened Friday during Sprint Cup practice for the Shootout; while the #48 Daytona 500 car was in line for inspection, NASCAR officials noticed the C-post did not fit in the parameters of the rules. The team flew down a new part from Hendrick Motorsports, and many have alluded to penalties being given to Knaus after Speedweek activities. The thing is that the crew chief of the #48 is a repeat offender.
Back in February of 2006, Johnson completed his Daytona 500 qualifying run, and Knaus made an illegal adjustment to the rear window. He was suspended until March 22, yet his driver won the prestigious race and another race with sit-in crew chief Darian Grubb before he came back. Flashing forward to 2007, when the newest body style for the Car of Tomorrow on the #48 didn’t meet standards. Chad was suspended for six races and fined $100,000. Jimmie wasn’t allowed to qualify the car and started at the back for the race at Infineon. Eyebrows rose again last year when a pre-race talk at Talladega between Knaus and Johnson came over the radio, the head chief asking his driver to ‘crack the back’ if he won. The driver sounded appalled as he deadpanned, “Really,” when told to do so. This makes me wonder if the pair will be together for much longer.
The communication between the two was strained and full of bickering last year, something we don’t hear that often on the #48 radio. This shows that Jimmie is getting fed up with Chad’s attempt to ‘push the envelope’ time and time again. After being known as ‘vanilla,’ the driver is concerned about his image, and Chad isn’t helping in a good way. Something tells me that Jimmie is tired of getting caught up in controversy because of his crew chief.
Prediction? Chad Knaus isn’t leading the team in two years, but there is a way to prevent that from happening.
If Rick Hendrick was thinking about cutting ties with Knaus, it would’ve happened late last year because of Darian Grubbs’ availability. He must have faith in Jimmie’s crew chief if he didn’t jump on that opportunity. But, as of recent, it is obvious Mr. Hendrick needs to sit Chad and Jimmie down for another Milk-And-Cookies talk. The best thing is to re-establish the boundaries. There is something special with the Knaus and Johnson combination, you know, since they’ve won five championships in a row.
Can their success overshadow the infractions and penalties? Most likely yes, but what Chad does this year will be something to watch. After 2011, a five-year streak was broken, and questions were asked. NASCAR nation will be eager to see if the #48 can bounce back, and if they can do it legally.