Knaus - Hendricks Motorsports teleconference, part 1

Chad Knaus, crew chief, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS Hendricks Motorsports February 21, 2006 Chad Knaus, crew chief, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS driven by Jimmie Johnson discusses penalty issued by NASCAR for a rule violation during the ...

Chad Knaus, crew chief, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS
Hendricks Motorsports
February 21, 2006

Chad Knaus, crew chief, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS driven by Jimmie Johnson discusses penalty issued by NASCAR for a rule violation during the qualifying session for the Daytona 500.

NASCAR has fined Knaus $25,000 and suspended him from all NASCAR events until March 22, 2006. Knaus has also been placed on probation until Dec. 31, 2006. The penalties were issued because of an unapproved template modification to the rear window area, violating Sections 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing) and 20-3.12.1 (A) (unapproved template modification.) of the 2006 NASCAR Rule book. The violation was discovered during Feb. 12 post-qualifying inspection for the Daytona 500. On Feb. 13, NASCAR ejected Knaus from further participation in Daytona 500 activities as a result of the violation.

Introduction:

Jesse Essex , Manager of Media Relations, Hendrick Motorsports:
"To clarify, we will not be issuing a formal statement regarding the penalties NASCAR announced today. Hopefully this teleconference will answer all of your questions.

KNAUS: "Hey everybody. First of all, thanks for getting on this call so we can talk about this a little bit. Obviously, first off I have to say how proud I am of the job that Ron Mellick, Darian Grubb and the entire crew did in my absence at the Daytona 500. Jimmie (Johnson) really stepped up to the plate and took on a lot of responsibility of the team upon his shoulders. He drove a great race. The guys called a great race. The preparation for that race is something we have been working on for a long, long time. Without me being there, those guys had to make a big jump to make sure all that stuff happened and they lived up to the task at hand. I am very proud of those guys. It was a big hole we got ourselves in to obviously to lose our qualifying time and had to race our way up through the 150. We were guaranteed a spot initially but the starting spot pit pick is very, very important and they did a great job there. It was a good deal for those guys to be able to do that.

"It was unfortunate that we went through this. We pushed it a little bit too far. We got caught with something that NASCAR didn't like and they imposed a penalty upon us and we have to accept that. We have to continue to move forward as a team and try to win the championship. That is what we are going to do. We have got a great task at handout there trying to beat everybody. There are some very competitive teams out there and that is a tribute to NASCAR by setting the standard out there for the teams. It is up to us to put a product out there that will win races. That is something that is difficult. Sometimes it gets clouded you lose sight of certain things. The rulebook says what it is and the procedures are what they are and we have to stay within those guidelines. We got pinched there a little bit. We are going to pay the penalty and then move on.

"I have apologized to everyone out there. Lowe's, everyone at Hendrick Motorsports, my teammates, the Lowe's employee owners and then all the race fans. It is not something I am happy about, it sheds a bad light upon me and Hendrick Motorsports and that is not the way we live. We do a lot of great things as a company for racing as an industry. We do a lot of great things as a company for people in general and I want to make sure that everyone always views us in that light. That is what we are going to do.

"I am really proud of my race team. They are the strongest race team out there. I think that Darian has proved himself in the past and really proved what he is capable of doing on Sunday. Shoot, we have the best driver out there in NEXTEL Cup competition and the best team and the best sponsors. I think that this is only going to help us a whole and I am looking forward to the rest of the season."

Q: DID YOU DO IT INTENTIONALLY?

KNAUS: "You know, there are a lot of things out there that can be called intentional, unintentional, what ever you want to call it. The fact of the matter is that when NASCAR went back through the inspection process, the car didn't fit. How that happens is pretty irrelevant. The car just didn't fit. So we have gotten punished for that, we are serving the penalty for the thing that happened and that is what it is. It didn't fit."

Q: CAN YOU EXPLAIN EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED?

KNAUS: "If you look back, I think that NASCAR put out in their statement exactly what they feel happened and if you go back and see what they said, I think you can just go off of that. They put it out there the way that they see that it worked, how it happened, whatever happened and that is what we are talking about and we are just going off what they said."

Q: AND YOU DON'T AGREE WITH THEM?

KNAUS: "I didn't say that. I just said they put out their statement and that is what we are going to abide by."

Q: ARE YOU RELIEVED TO GET OUT OF THIS WITHOUT A POINTS DEDUCTION WHILE HALL OF FAME RACING RECEIVED A POINTS DEDUCTION?

KNAUS: "I don't know what went on with the Hall of Fame Racing situation, that is their issues to deal with as a company. I would honestly say that losing the head coach of the team, crew chief or leader to an organization is probably more detrimental than any points you could possibly take away. Obviously, as we won the race and everything went picture perfect, it was a day that was meant to be and it was going to happen whether I was there or anybody else. I think it was a day that was written before we ever even showed up. I think in the immediate future, the next three races, it could be very detrimental me not being there. We are just going to try the best we can to get through it."

Q: Do you think they can win without you there?

KNAUS: "Absolutely. We have the depth in our organization that can carry this team at a high standard that is has held for the last four years. Jimmie is an incredible driver, he is more switched on now that he has been the last four years we have worked together. He is ready to go out there and win the championship. The depth that we have got in our team is incredible. We promote from within. We have got three guys that are on the road full time that started off as tire specialist and moved their way up to mechanics, road mechanics, lead mechanics and stuff like that. Ron Mellick has been with me for years. Jimmie is, as I have said many times, the best driver out there. I have complete confidence in Darian and all the guys on my team that they can go out there and win races and run well. I will be back here watching it on my couch listening to Track Pass.

Q: DO YOU THINK A TRACK LIKE CALIFORNIA OR VEGAS WILL BE MORE DIFFICULT THAN DAYTONA?

KNAUS: "Yes, absolutely. But it is more difficult for everyone there. More difficult for me when I am there. When you go to a track like, those kinds of race tracks where it is a lot of contributing factors - you have to have horsepower, you have to have aerodynamics, you have to have all those things. You have to have good pit stops, good pit strategy, good tire pressure, good everything. You have to have all that stuff lined up ready to go. It is going to be difficult, but it is difficult when I am there. It won't be any different I feel."

Q: ARE YOU GOING TO ALLOWED TO COMMUNICATE WITH THE TEAM ON A REGULAR BASIS DURING YOUR SUSPENSION AS YOU WERE DURING DAYTONA?

KNAUS: "I don't really know what that means but the only communications I had with them during Daytona was when they were driving home from the race track. When Jimmie was going to where he was staying, we would talk on the cell phone after the garage closed and that was it. I called them one morning to make sure a couple of them were up and out of bed, they tend to oversleep a little bit. That was really the extent of it."

Q: THE REASON THIS WAS ASKED WAS BECAUSE JIMMIE SAID AT THE DRIVERS MEETING THAT YOU WERE ON A CONFERENCE CALL AND YOU WERE ABLE TO STAY IN CONTACT.

KNAUS: "The communication level we have is per NASCAR. What they allow us to do is what we are doing. We are following that protocol and we are not going to take it any further. We are not going to do anything that would jeopardize or push us into a further difficult position with NASCAR. I think Jimmie's talking about putting his cell phone on speaker, putting it on the counter and talking is his conference call. That is about what it was."

Q: DID JIMMIE KNOW YOU WERE TRYING SOMETHING WITH THE CAR AND IF NOT, IS THERE ANY RISK OF HIM BEING SURPRISED BY SOMETHING THE CAR DOES WHEN HE GOES OUT TO MAKE A QUALIFYING RUN?

KNAUS: "Drivers don't know what going in these race cars, ever. Those guys are nuts. They are great guys. I love Jimmie to death and Jeff (Gordon) and every driver out there. I respect them for what they do, but to be quite honest for those guys to hop in those cars and go at the speed that they do have no idea what is in them, I think they are all insane. They have to go out there and react and do whatever. It doesn't matter whether you are at Martinsville or Daytona. Jimmie isn't really in to or know about what is going on with the race cars. He shows up drives, gives his feedback to the team and goes home."

Q: WITH YOUR REPUTATION OF BEING ONE OF THE MORE INNOVATIVE GUYS IN THE GARAGE WHICH IS COMPLIMENTARY BUT IS THAT NOW ALMOST BAGGAGE NOW THAT NASCAR IS WATCHING YOU MORE CLOSELY?

KNAUS: "It is a tricky deal, that is a tricky question. The deal is this - I love what I do for a living. I love this sport. This sport has taken me from a small town - Rockford Illinois - to living up near the lake in Mooresville North Carolina. I want to be in this sport for a long time, I want to see it continue to grow. The teams and the drivers that were together 14 years ago when I first started are nothing compared to what they are now. We have these huge shops to work from. I want to see it grow to the next level. I want to see it go to the Car of Tomorrow. I want to see it go to the flying cars of 2030 or what ever is to come. I want to be here a long time, that is what I want. So if I have gotten that little bit of a label, I need to try and change that to make sure that I am here and am successful for years to come."

Q: HAVE YOU APOLOGIZED TO JIMMIE JOHNSON FOR FORCING TO HAVE TO ANSWER ALL OF THESE QUESTIONS BEFORE AND AFTER HIS VICTORY?

KNAUS: "Of course, I have apologized to Jimmie, Dude. We are like best friends. He is a great friend of mine. When all of this stuff first started going down, we talked about it and I said to him 'Look Dude, I am sorry. It is going to be a little bit crazy for a while.' The most important grief for qualifying and what happened for qualifying but there should be absolutely no grief for what happened with the Daytona 500 victory. That car went through NASCAR inspection a multitude of times and it went through without a flaw. Those guys went out there with Darrian as the crew chief, Ron Mellick as the car chief and Jimmie Johnson as the driver and that crew to service that vehicle, and they won the Daytona 500, no questions asked. And then they went through technical inspection again. So, the apology was there, yes I apologized to him. But I don't want anybody to take that away from them. They did an incredible job, they deserve that victory and anyone who tries to say it isn't deserved is false."

Q: WHAT ARE YOU ALLOWED TO DO AND WHAT ARE YOU NOT ALLOWED TO DO FOR THE NEXT MONTH?

KNAUS: "Well, I can come to work. They like that. Mr. H likes it when I'm working. So I'll come into Hendrick Motorsports every day and I'll do some work there. I'll have my butt sitting on the couch watching the race on TV. I'll have my laptop up listening to Trackpass and monitoring everything there. That's really it. I can't do any more than what your average fan can do."

Q: ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT WHAT THIS MIGHT DO TO YOUR REPUTATION?

KNAUS: "I don't know what's going to happen there. I've developed a reputation of being a person who goes out there and gets everything that he can. Good, bad, or indifferent, some people like it and some people don't. Hopefully it doesn't hurt my reputation. Hopefully if I get out of here and time is served and we go on to win this championship and everybody realizes it without any issues, then hopefully that image will change."

Q: SINCE YOU'RE ON PROBATION UNTIL THE END OF THE YEAR AND ALL THE OTHER CREW CHIEFS GOING WIDE OPEN, DO YOU HAVE TO BE LESS AGGRESSIVE ABOUT WORKING IN THE GRAY AREAS?

KNAUS: "I think that's obvious. As far as what everybody else does in the garage, well shoot, you guys (the media) know more about that than I do. We do everything we can to build the best race cars out there and be as innovative as we possibly can - not only from my standpoint, but as a group. That's why we work together so well and why we have such a cohesive group of guys. We're not going to go out there and pull punches. We're going to take the best product we can to the race track week in and week within the guidelines and specifications of NASCAR. That's what we're going to continue to do. That's the only way we're going to be able to be successful in motorsports and the only way we're going to be able to win this championship is to do our jobs to the best of our ability. So no, we can't change it."

Q: THERE WAS TALK ABOUT YOU AND JIMMIE NOT WORKING TOGETHER ANYMORE. HOW DID THAT COME UP AND WHERE DOES IT STAND?

KNAUS: "I have no idea about that. Look, Jimmie and I are great friends. We have a great time together. I don't know where that came from. Mr. H has put it out there that we're talking about a longer contract to keep me on this deal for a long time. I have never wanted to go anywhere else. I have never worked with a better driver or a better group of guys. I've been with this team since it was a baby and I feel like I've raised it from infancy. And just being away from it for the Daytona 500 was painful enough. I can't imagine actually leaving this team and not being a part of it."

Continued in part 2

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson , Chad Knaus
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Hall of Fame Racing