The Frontstretch: Nipping Knaus In the Bud by Thomas Bowles -- Monday May 22, 2006

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Nipping Knaus In the Bud

Bowles-Eye View · Thomas Bowles · Monday May 22, 2006

 

Chad Knaus winding up in the rumor mill is about as new as someone crying on Oprah. It’s something that you always expect to pop up once a month on the news with the only thing changing being the answers to the question of "What is it this time?"

Now, Chad Knaus actually contributing to his appearance in the rumor mill"¦well, that’s a whole different story. Perhaps, you might say, it’s the hidden surprise of the All-Star Weekend.

2006 hasn’t been a banner year for Chad. Suspended for four weeks following a qualifying violation at the Daytona 500, Knaus watched humbly from the sidelines as fill-in crew chief Darian Grubb led Johnson to two wins, a second, and a sixth to start off the year. Still, since Knaus returned to the track, the 48 team has continued to stay solid—- Johnson has a win at Talladega to go with his All-Star Challenge triumph, and six Top 12 finishes in the last seven races. Sure, the 48 bunch has been overshadowed at times by Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth, two teams clearly positioning themselves for the Chase and running up front week in, week out—- but it’s Johnson who’s leading the points, with Knaus at the helm.

With a third straight appearance in the Chase all but a lock this early in the season, you’d certainly think everything would be peachy over in the 48 camp, controversy over that suspension long forgotten. Apparently not. While both sponsor Lowe’s and driver Johnson trotted out this week with a contract extension that would keep both a part of the 48 car through 2010, Knaus was a notable omission from that PR photo op. Instead, Knaus finds himself with a contract expiring after 2007, something he’s not too happy about.

"I would like to work something out and stay (at Hendrick)," Knaus claimed this week when asked. "There just aren’t any talks to do that right now."

Would Hendrick really let his top crew chief go? Just the fact Knaus felt it necessary to speak out on the subject during the start of Silly Season means it’s very possible. Don’t forget, Toyota’s new teams are drooling over any capable crew members available, and they have yet to come out with that marquis crew chief name that’ll both get them good PR and spearhead their chassis development, a role Ray Evernham helped serve back when Dodge got into the sport. Someone of Knaus’ caliber would be a steal at a time when Toyota has already landed their "big driver" in Dale Jarrett.

From the outside looking in, allowing Knaus to leave Hendrick in any way, shape, or form would be a big mistake. Certainly, Johnson’s performance during the early part of the season was outstanding with Grubb at the helm; but it’s not like Knaus wasn’t allowed to talk to the team during the suspension, and the cars at those races came with heavy advice and setup support from the suspended crew chief. Make no mistake, despite Grubb’s success during that time there was no question as to who remained, and still remains, the heart and soul holding the 48 team together: Knaus.

While Johnson and Knaus have not yet won a title, the duo is poised to make a fifth consecutive run at a championship. Who else can you name that’s been in position to make a run at the title five years in a row? No, I can’t think of anyone either. Their 21 wins together since the start of 2002 is more than any other crew chief-driver combination during that span. It’s one thing when a crew chief leaves a driver after every goal has been completed, as was the case when crew chief Ray Evernham left Johnson’s Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon—- the two had three championships and two Daytona 500 wins together. Technically, Knaus and Johnson don’t even have Johnson’s Daytona 500 win to share, as Knaus wasn’t at the track when it happened. Breaking up such a solid pair before they took the championship they covet so much is the type of move that leaves you with that empty, hollow feeling of what went wrong instead of what’s going right.

The distraction Knaus of leaving or being signed away would certainly be enough to kill off the chances of Johnson winning the title in 2006. If Hendrick feels a change is necessary, his track record of success is such that you find it hard to criticize or question the man’s decisions. In this case, though, if I were in Hendrick’s shoes I’d have Knaus on the phone on Monday morning, pronto; with your best team and your best chance at a championship on the line, this is one Knaus you’d want to sign on the dotted line, wouldn’t you think? We all know Toyota’s not going to take long to make their move.

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Terri Sanislo
05/22/2006 06:08 AM
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As far as Chad’s commenting on his contract situation meaning something: I think you read too much into it. I feel that Chad is basically a pretty honest person, and I’m sure some media-type stuck a mic in his face and asked him about his contract. Now, knowing that whatever he said was going to be jumped on by the media, no matter what he said or how he said it, he chose to be honest and said nothing was in the works. So it is the media that has waaaayyyy overblown an answer to a question with all sorts of intimation that Chad is unhappy that he’s not been signed to 2010, like Jimmie has been. I think he was answering a question that he was asked, and now it’s the media that’s taken it and run with it.

They’ve got to keep their jobs somehow, so may as well make something out of nothing.

Charlie D.
05/22/2006 06:27 AM
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I think there is too much being read into this contract thing with Knaus.

A contract is not like a single piece of paper that these guys sign. You know there is paragraphs, sub-paragraphs the to-whits, therefores and henceforths to be worked out by the lawyers and such. I guess what I’m saying is maybe with doing the thing with Johnson and the rest Knaus will be next.

You have to know that Knaus has job security even if it isn’t with Hendrix, but I see Knaus not going anywhere unless someone makes him an offer he just can’t refuse and Hendrix can’t match it.

Knaus my have had his feelings hurt, but it would suprise me if he doesn’t get a bigger and better contract after all is said and done.

Amy
05/22/2006 06:48 AM
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I think the bottom line here is that Johnson has said publicly that he wants to keep Knaus as his crew chief for as long as possible. Given Rick Hendrick’s track record of keeping his drivers happy in the crew chief department (remember, that’s why Jeff Gordon signed at HMS in the first place-because he could bring Ray Evernham as his crew chief; also the 5 and 25 teams has a chief swap last year at a driver’s behest), if his driver wants this deal, it’ll more than likely get done, unless Knaus himself wants to leave the organization. It’s not unusual in any sport for a team to focus on one major contract at a time, nor is it unusual for teams not to want to have major contract negotiations interrupt in a crucial point in the season. What I’m saying here is it’s too early for the 48 fans to panic, and it’s too early for the “haters” to do the happy dance. If it’s not done six months or a year from now-that’s a different story.

Barbara
05/22/2006 07:48 AM
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What was all the beating and banging on the #48 car Saturday nite for? Did it make the front end lower so he could win perhaps?

Clance McClannahan
05/22/2006 12:57 PM
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Chad is no different than any other Crew Chief. He just got caught. The man is a genious. I think he may have been putting feeler’s out that he may be available. I think the Big “H” should hasten to resign or take the chance of losing him. Personally I think it would be awesome to see Chad be Dale Jarrett’s new C.C. Imagine the possibilities there…

Willy
05/22/2006 04:55 PM
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yeah, what was all that beating on the #48?, hey didn’t get touched in that big crash, hmmmmmmmmm
Oh yeah, the genius of Chad Knaus

JOHN WYCKOFF
05/26/2006 09:02 AM
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Let’s it face it if Chad is such the genious everyone says he is then why did he get caught. You have look at it from the sponsors standpoint too. How many more times do you think that Lowes is going to take being put in a bad light because of Chad so called genious work. Hendrick has to look at this from all sides not just what Jimmie Johnson wants.

 

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