Six-time Sprint Cup winning duo looks set to remain together despite pressure of 2014 failure.
Jimmie Johnson has reiterated that there is no immediate end in sight to his successful relationship with crew chief Chad Knaus at Hendrick Motorsports, with whom he has worked since 2002.
Speaking at Daytona on the eve of Speedweeks on Thursday, Johnson said he has yet to reach the point where he would consider splitting up one of the most successful partnerships in NASCAR history.
“We haven’t had THE discussion,” said Johnson of the potential for a break-up. “I know that his time is probably going to expire before mine, it’s just the dog years that crew chiefs live in. We’ve always talked about that, and it’s been open.
“I’m going to do everything in my power to get him to hang on for as long as I can. I keep joking with him, trying to prime the pump early, ‘Hey buddy we started this thing together, let’s end together.’ I don’t know if we’ll be lucky enough to get that."
But last season was far from Johnson-esque. Yes, Johnson had a solid four-victory season, but was knocked out of the play-offs in the second round and finished outside of the top 10 in the Cup point standings since his first full year on the tour.
Last year rumors persisted about Knaus possibly taking an ownership role in a race team. This year’s buzz has the veteran crew headed to the FOX Sports broadcasting booth to join Jeff Gordon in 2016.
Knaus embodies the description workaholic. In his early days in NASCAR, team managers had to force him to take a break and leave the shop. And that didn’t change in his early days at Hendrick Motorsports either.
Johnson believes that once Knaus settles down, the constancy he’ll find in his personal life will help balance the business side of the equation.
“He loves to work, he loves his TV work. I’m happy he’s engaged, and from my experience having home life anchored down and stable is great for me and I think it’s going to be good for him as well.”
Chase format ‘harder’ than ever
Johnson has admitted that the changes to the Sprint Cup’s Chase format has made it harder than ever for him to score his seventh title.
“It’s harder – the fact you’ve got to win the last two to beat Kevin, that’s where I put the weight in saying that it’s harder,” he admitted. “Sure, [in the early rounds] you can sneak in at 16th, sneak in at 12th, so it’s more forgiving in that scenario. But in the other scenarios it’s harder.”