Chasing Chicagoland in Chad Country
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 12, 2012) – Jimmie Johnson is good at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Like, really good. So it’s a little odd that the driver with the best driver rating, who has finished in the top-10 in eight of the 10 races he has run at Chicagoland, has never visited victory lane there. He has come close – a lot. He finished second or third in four of those races at the 1.5-mile oval. Compounding the frustration is the fact that the track is considered crew chief Chad Knaus’ home track.
Knaus grew up in Rockford, Ill., just northwest of Chicago. His dad John was a racer and Knaus followed his father around the local Midwest tracks as a young boy. By the time he was 14, the younger Knaus foreshadowed his future success in NASCAR when became crew chief for his father. That year, the elder Knaus captured the 1986 Rockford Speedway championship in Late Models with his son calling the shots from the pits.
Winning in the Chicago area obviously isn’t an issue for the crew chief of the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevy, and neither is it for his five-time champion driver. Johnson’s first and only victory in the Nationwide Series came at the track in 2001 while running for Herzog Motorsports. Knaus and Johnson will do what they can to change their luck in the sport’s premiere series where they have only finished two races outside the top-10 (July 2007 and 2010).
Johnson also would like to cross Chicagoland off the list of tracks on which he has never won, which includes Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.
Sunday’s first race of the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship looms large as the quest for the No. 48 team’s record sixth title begins. The team will be chasing that elusive win at Chicagoland, a place where Knaus & Company would like nothing more than to own just a small piece of property adjacent to the track – the little area known as victory lane.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, Driver of the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports:
Talk about going to Chicago. “I always like going to Chicago. I think the city is great and I know there are a lot of race fans in the area. We’ve never won there, which is kind of frustrating, especially because we’ve been close so many times. It’s also Chad’s (Knaus, crew chief) home track. We really want to give him a win there. We’ve won in California (Johnson’s home state) several times and it’s time he gets to experience winning at home. I feel like we owe him one and we’re going to do everything we can to give him that opportunity this weekend.”
How is the track? “The track is great. It’s got a lot of character now because the surface is a little older. In looking over my notes earlier this week, it’s bumpier and I was searching around for different lines last time. I think it’s going to be a great race. The fact that it’s the first one in the Chase will make it even more exciting for the fans.”
CHAD KNAUS, Crew Chief of the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports:
What does racing in this area mean to you, being from Rockford, Ill.? “We raced all throughout the Midwest when I was growing up. Going to the tracks, especially Rockford, taught me the importance of structure, regiment and getting things right. It also in many ways taught me what it takes to compete for a championship. We worked hard and had fun, but a lot of the things about being a crew chief today I learned back in my days at Rockford and around the area.
Source: Jimmie Johnson media