CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS EXTENDS CONTRACT WITH HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS THROUGH 2010. BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH KNAUS: ON ALWAYS BEING HIS INTENTION TO STAY WITH HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS: "Absolutely, it was my intention...
CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS EXTENDS CONTRACT WITH HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS THROUGH 2010.
BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH KNAUS:
ON ALWAYS BEING HIS INTENTION TO STAY WITH HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS: "Absolutely, it was my intention to stay Hendrick Motorsports. I guess I was asked about it back in May and I told you guys that we hadn't spoken yet. I was under contract until the end of next year. It was a little premature to even think about it. Typically a crew chief works on a year-to-year basis much less a four-year deal like I have been working under. Typically in this sport you go to get the sponsor secured, then you get the driver then the crew chief is next in line. I just took that long for it to happen. No reasons other than just a it takes a little time to get these things done.
ON RUMORS CIRCULATING AROUND HIS POSSIBLY LEAVING HMS: "No, nothing was happening. I hadn't been approached, or anything like that. It was just a lot of rumors in the rumor mill...things that show up in the media center, I don't know, for whatever reasons. I have had ever intention to stay at HMS. I love Mr. Hendrick. He is a great friend and mentor of mine. He is the guy I have built quite a relationship with; he has turned me into a great adult and helped me become a great leader. I owe that to him to at least give him four more years. It a great thing, a great deal. I love my guys. Jimmie are getting along better than ever. It is awesome; it is a good thing.
ON THIS ANNOUNCEMENT GIVING TEAM MEMBERS SENSE OF CONFIDENCE: "I hope so. There are always rumors and there is always talk out of your control. Guys might think 'His contract is going to be up the end of next year, do I need to start looking at some different options?' and things like that. My guys are very excited and very happy with what they have got as a team and I think this is going to make them even strong and bind together even tighter especially leading up in to this chase. It is just perfect, perfect timing all the way around."
ON BEING A LIFER AT HMS: "I would have to say probably. Obviously the relationship I have got with the Hendrick family goes way beyond a working relationship. I have been there for the better part of 10 years and by the end of this contract, it will be the better part of 14 years. That is a long time and that is something I am proud to say I have been there that long anfd I have learned what I have at HMS. I have grown in to being a part of it. I hope to only make my roots deeper and after my crew chief years, maybe I will sit behind a big hardwood desk somewhere, I don't know."
ON POINTS DISCUSSED DURING NEGOTIATIONS: "There are specifics there that I don't want to get in to but Jimmie is signed up through 2010 as is Lowe's and now I am. I think that is a marriage right there that you really don't want to mess with a heck of a lot. Lowe's is an incredible sponsor. I don't think you guys can even begin to understand what those people at Lowe's do for us. They care about what we do. They have incentive plans for the guys that work in the shop. It goes way beyond what they do for Jimmie and myself and for Mr. Hendrick. It is what they have got to give to the guys and the amount of time they spend with them. They actually enjoy racing. It is not like some of the sponsors you see out there who don't even show up at the race track. They just put their name of the side of it and us it for a commercial. They really enjoy it and I want to continue to be a part of it, it is really exciting. When I go into a Lowe's store and people recognize me, that is pretty trick. That is a neat deal man."
ON MULTI-YEAR DEALS EXTENDING TO CREW MEMBERS, ETC.: "Engineers usually get a multi-year contract. Anywhere from two to three years, that has been standard operating procedure for us for several years. We have got guys signing contracts or renewal deals right now. Pit crew members it is a little more difficult to so. Sometimes you will sign those guys through a couple of years, but that is hard to do with an athlete and that is what those guys are. There are injuries you have to take in to consideration. There is just wear and tear on their bodies, some of them just can't perform or you don't know if they are going to be able to perform long term. A driver and the crew chief, we aren't in a position to go out there and get hurt and lose a little bit of what we have got. Those particular guys, it is tough for them.
ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON "We have a friendship that goes way beyond what happens at the race track. He's a guy that I can grab by the collar and have a serious talk with and it goes both ways. If he's got a problem with something I'm doing he'll come and pull me aside and we'll talk about it. That's something a lot of these guys don't have. They're intimidated by the crew chief or by the driver and the communication level isn't as deep as what we have. That's something that I don't know why we have, but we have it.
We've always been very open with each other. That's why it's successful. We would be foolish to go and make a change. I'd be silly if I wanted to go and get some other driver. Obviously there are some things about Jimmie that I don't like and there are things about myself that he doesn't like. But when you've got 80 percent of what you like in one person, why would you change it to find that other 20 percent when you're probably not going to find it."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT DOUG DUCHARDT COMING TO HMS AND WHAT BENEFITS HE BRINGS AS THE FORMER DIRECTOR OF GM RACING? "I think it's a great thing. Doug Duchardt has been a huge asset for us at Hendrick Motorsports if nothing else, for helping us transition from a racing team to a corporate level. That's what we've got to do, obviously. The Cup series has changed so dramatically. It used to be a bunch of racers that traveled around the country in pick-up trucks and vans. We went racing, and that was a cool thing to do. Well now, it's a business and we're representing huge multi-million dollar corporations and Fortune 500 companies. You've got to have that and Doug offers that."
WILL CREW CHIEFS BEGIN TO RETIRE EARLIER? "Oh, I hope so (laughs). Being a crew chief is a wonderful job. I love it and there's nothing else I could do, to be honest with you, because I don't know anything else. But it is painful. You go 36 weeks and you've got 75 guys back at the shop that you try to keep happy and you've got one guy on vacation and the next guy is sick and the other guy has to take his kid to school and then you come to the race track and you've got to worry about all the stuff at the track. It's stressful - no doubt about it. But I love it. I hope that when I'm 40 or 41 years old I can scale back a little bit, but if not I'll just keep being a crew chief and hopefully be winning championships.
HAVE YOU BEEN APPROACHED BY TELEVISION? "TV is fun. I enjoy it. I can't wait to maybe go a little bit further with it. It's definitely not going to interfere with what I do in racing. Racing is my life. It's what I really, really enjoy. TV is more of an outlet for me and I do enjoy it. You never know. Maybe five years down the line if people still want me, maybe I'll do some TV.
WHAT YEAR DID YOU START BEING A CREW CHIEF? "In 2000."
HOW HAVE THINGS CHANGED SINCE THEN? "Oh, a lot. Obviously, we're a lot more recognized than we were back then. The pressure is a lot higher. Expectations are a lot higher. If you don't go out there right now and perform - you can see it already. You make changes right away. Look at the crew chief situation over at Roush with the No. 99 and the No. 6 with just six races into the year and bam! What were we, six races into the year and man, they pulled the plug? It was like if you don't go out there and perform you're going to get sat down. It's tough like that. And that's probably the biggest thing is that okay, we'll give him a year and let them get acclimated with one another and then we'll see what they can do. Not any longer. It's get it done or we'll make a change."
WAS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE FOUR OR FIVE CLEAN MONTHS BEFORE RE-SIGNING YOUR CONTRACT? "That had nothing to do with it. We get paid, and Rick Hendrick will be the first to tell you to go out there and win races. If we don't win races, we're not doing our job and we're going to get penalized. We're going to have issues. That had absolutely nothing to do with it."
ON THE TIRE FOR SUNDAY'S RACE "The tire is pretty scary right now. We're probably have a competition caution on lap 15 or somewhere in that area, just for NASCAR to see what the tires look like. But the more rubber we put on the race track, the better the tire is going to be. Right now we can only go about 6 to 15 laps and the tire is going to be down to the cords. But I feel like it's going to get a lot better."
HOW DOES THAT THROW YOU OFF IN YOUR DECISIONS AND STRATEGY FOR THE RACE? "You just have to wait and see how it plays out. We have to make sure we're being as conservative as we can and still be competitive. Obviously we've got to finish this race and that's the most important thing. That's our goal. If we can get a top 10 finish this weekend, it's going to be a great weekend for us and that's what we want to do."
SO YOU'VE GOT TO FINISH THIS RACE "It's going to be tough. I think you're going to see mostly four-tire stops, which will make it a little bit easier probably to call the race throughout the majority of the race. When you get to the end of the race, you should try to do two tires, but I don't think so - I think it's going to pretty much be four tires all day long."
IT SEEMS LIKE WHEN THE TEAM'S PERFORMANCE FALLS OFF, IT'S SEEMS LIKE IT'S THE CREW CHIEF IS ALWAYS THE FIRST GUY TO GO, NOT THE DRIVER "Yeah, and I think it is what it is. This is a bizarre sport. It really is. It only takes one thing to switch and then turning the team on. Finding that switch is very difficult. And keeping the lights on is even harder for a long period of time. The drivers typically have a lot more money invested in them, so it's easier for the teams to go ahead and make a change at the crew chief level to try to find that switch, that energy, and get it started back up again. It makes sense to sit that crew chief down or give him another job or fire him or whatever and keep the driver on because he's costing you $10 million a year, say, in souvenir sales and other stuff they've got out there. It's easier to keep him and get rid of the crew chief."
DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT EMPLOYEE RETENTION FOR NEXT YEAR? "No. What you'll see, and this has happened in the past, is a company will come in and overload and get a lot of people on and they'll really try to staff up to get some stuff built and get some stuff done. But then as soon as they get up and running, they'll start to weed out the people they don't want and start getting rid of people. One thing about Hendrick Motorsports is they are a great company and people don't want to leave the organization. So I feel good and all our guys are happy."
DID YOU HAVE SEVERAL PEOPLE LEAVE RECENTLY? "No. We had a couple people leave and then they called a few days later and said they wanted to come back."
THEY WENT TO TOYOTA? "Yeah. They always do (laughs).they always want to come back. They think the grass is always greener. It's easier to go somewhere to make just a little bit more money. But when it comes down to it, and you realize what you've got and where you're at, you kick yourself in the butt for leaving. I left Hendrick Motorsports a few years ago to try to ramp up my career...so that I could go out and learn to be a crew chief. As soon as I left, I wanted to come back. Everybody that's left always wants to come back. You can ask anyone. There are people right now that work for other teams and they would love to come back and be a part of what we've got at Hendrick Motorsports."
DID YOU LET THE GUYS BACK WHO LEFT? "Nope. Hopefully they'll tell the others on the team and nobody else will want to leave."