The Johnson & Knaus relationship is now well established
Braselton, J.A.; Jimmy Johnson stood at the entrance to the lounge inside a team conveyor casually eating out of a Pringles can. Upon noticing his arrival, Chad ran Knauss in his chair to face the driver who had collaborated with him in seven NASCAR Championships.
“Apparently, you and I need to have a discussion,” Knauss told Johnson. “I’m going back to Charlotte.”
“I’ve heard that before,” Johnson laughed.
Knaus had earlier learned of an interview published last week in which she made unintended headlines in a lengthy profile of “In Depth with Graham Bensinger”. Among the podcasts promoted ahead of the TV show, “Johnson revealed the details of his feud with former crew chief Chad Knaus, which ultimately eroded their relationship and forced a separation.”
Johnson and Knaus won 81 races together, as well as a record seven Cup Championships and five straight races from 2006 to 2010. Their relationship has always had its ups and downs, and Rick Hendrik is best known for offering milk and biscuits afterward. 2005 season and ordered them to stop fighting like a pair of young boys or he separated them from each other.
The meltdown didn’t actually happen until 2018, when the crew chief was transferred from the 48th team he had created 17 years earlier after more than two losing seasons.
“When times were tough, Chad went back to the crew chief as he was when we first started,” Johnson told Bensinger. “Detailed management, explaining where I am making mistakes, what I need to do, and how I need to work on it.”
The strained relationship broke up, Johnson claimed, at the start of the 2017 season when he told Knauss he wanted to live in Colorado — about 1,800 miles from Hendrick Motorsports in Charlotte.
“Things started getting personal after that, and his question where my heart is with the team and the time and effort I wanted to put in to be with the team was really the starting point,” Johnson told Bensinger.
Johnson’s quotes posted before the show’s release made headlines at NASCAR but Knauss heard nothing of the interview until he was asked about it during an interview with the Associated Press at the Petit Le Mans sports car race in Road Atlanta.
Johnson retired from NASCAR after the 2020 season and spent the past year as an IndyCar rookie and working in IMSA sports cars, Knaus was the strategic planner for the 48th Cadillac assembled by Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports to run in four endurance races.
“I mean, I think we’re fine,” initially confused Knauss replied when asked by the Associated Press.
It took several attempts to explain the context of Johnson’s comments, and then Johnson finally arrived, surprised by the conversation he had just entered. Lucknows explained that a “lead writer” had chosen a few audio clips from a lengthy, in-depth interview “as a clicking sound, to gain traction for the show,” and that his notes were about their relationship three years earlier.
Knauss wasn’t really bothered and Johnson was worried, after eating a second can of Pringles and then a bag of fine Ranch Doritos while standing in the hall entrance, he went looking for something else to do during the long day of waiting around. a path.
Knaus left for now to reconsider the break-up of the best major driver and crew combination in NASCAR history.
Johnson drove only one additional season in NASCAR after the split, and Knaus was another driver’s crew chief for only one year. He’s now a director at Hendrick and vice president of competition.
“It was work, it was hard, right? I mean, we went through it and there was a lot of time we had to maintain our relationship,” Knaus told the AP. “But every relationship needs maintenance, a period, and we’ve gone through ups and downs throughout our careers. Even when times were good, it wasn’t always good, right?”
But nonetheless they have always managed to qualify and both remain committed to linking Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt with seven cup titles. They hit the mark in 2016, and despite Johnson winning three of their first 13 races the following season, he and Knauss were headed toward their final breaking point due to Johnson’s desire to move his family to Colorado.
It’s ancient history now for Knauss.
“You know, the Aspen thing, man, look, that’s what it is,” Knaus told The Associated Press. “It’s tough from my point of view. I’m older now and I’m in a different place. But when I look back and look at what I was at that point, I was in it and living it every day and in a crunch. You can start to feel like a single parent – the person Who the child comes to play on the weekend, you know, everything is great, but the child does not want to play with them every day.
“It feels like you’re going through it and it’s been hard because (things) weren’t going well and you feel like you’re in the storm on your own.”
Knaus now oversees Hendrik’s four current drivers, including Chase Elliott, who has not moved from his hometown of Georgia. When asked what made Elliott’s permanent title acceptable when Johnson could not move from North Carolina, Knauss said it was ostensible.
He recalled a period of time when Jeff Gordon lived in his prime in Florida without it hurting his career or his relationship with crew chief Ray Evernham, as well as Elliott’s continued progression from rookie to 2020 Cup champion.
“It’s all about the environment and when everything is going well, there aren’t many problems to solve,” Knaus told The Associated Press. “But if you’re not doing well, it’s all in question. It’s a team sport and you get to a point where you feel left out. Still, I knew he was a great race car driver and that he would give me everything he had every weekend. Just like I did from for him.”
Knaus later moved to the Action Express podium to call up the #48 qualification on Atlanta Road. Kamui Kobayashi qualified the car, and Johnson sat behind Knaoss wearing a headset to listen to the session.
Knauss indicated Johnson’s interest.
Johnson replied, “Are you good, my friend?”
“Well, I was until I found out you hated me,” Knaus was deadlocked.
The two started laughing, both satisfied with the current state of their relationship.
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