Continued from part 1 Q: CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH DARIAN GRUBB AND WHAT YOU SAW IN HIM WHEN HE FIRST JOINED HMS? KNAUS: "Darian is great. He's a very intelligent guy. He has a Mechanical Engineering degree. That really ...
Continued from part 1
Q: CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH DARIAN GRUBB AND WHAT YOU SAW IN HIM WHEN HE FIRST JOINED HMS?
KNAUS: "Darian is great. He's a very intelligent guy. He has a Mechanical Engineering degree. That really doesn't mean a whole lot. That's just a piece of paper. But you've got more so is the fact that he's a racer. He's worked in the production world. He's built race cars. He's done stuff like that. He's an awesome guy. He sits right there with me on the pit box. He actually took on a new role this year of being the lead guy for the No. 24 and No. 48 shop as far as the engineering goes - overseeing both team individual engineers and then being a liaison between the No. 5 and the No. 25. He has stepped up and taken on that role. I still wanted to keep him on my pit box throughout the race to help me call the race and the fuel mileages and watch what's going on because he's a great extra set of eyes. I've won a lot of races with Darian on my side, and we're going to win a lot more."
Q: DO YOU CONSIDER WHAT YOU DID TO BE CHEATING?
KNAUS: "Here's the deal. NASCAR put the car through the inspection process after qualifying. The car did not fit the template. We're going to accept what they saw and what they've described in their press release and we're going to go with it. That's really it."
Q: WAS THERE SOMETHING ON THE CAR THAT YOU THOUGHT WAS WITHIN THE RULES OR WAS IT SOMETHING THAT YOU KNEW IF NASCAR SAW IT THAT IT WOULD BE WRONG?
KNAUS: "You just heard my comments from the last question and I'm standing by that one."
Q: WOULD A LOT OF THESE PROBLEMS END IF NASCAR SAID THEY WOULD DISQUALIFY THE WHOLE TEAM AND NOT LET THEM RACE FOR A MAJOR INTENTIONAL VIOLATION DURING QUALIFYING?
KNAUS: "That's tough because there has got to be room for NASCAR to make a judgment call. They're in a tough situation. They've got to deal with a lot of creative people and a lot of guys who work in a lot of different areas, and then evolve as a sanctioning body also to put the best product out there for the fans to watch. For them to do something like that is very difficult. They've got to do what they feel is correct with the infraction. It's all got to work. The larger the penalty should goes with the larger problem. That's the way it should be."
Q: COULD YOU SEE A PENALTY BEING THAT SEVERE IN SOME INSTANCES?
KNAUS: "That would have to depend on what it was and who it was. This sport has changed. You have to be respectful of the sport making the evolution to what it is. There were guys back in the day that are heroes today that did things that were far more serious than what anybody has done in the past eight years of motorsports. And they continued to work in the sport and to prosper. So things have changed. The penalties and the race cars and the sponsors have changed. Everything in this business has changed so much in such a short period of time that it's hard to grasp how much. When our salary budget for just our employees has gone up threefold in the last four years, that's pretty tough to grasp. We've all got to make adjustments."
Q: ROBERT YATES SAID THIS VIOLATION WAS SO SEVERE THAT YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN THROWN OUT OF THE SPORT
KNAUS: "I'm not going to touch what Robert said there. He's got the right to his opinion. If that's his statement, I don't really have a response to it."
Q: ON THE SEVERITY OF THE HMS PENALTY COMPARED TO THE PENALTY HANDED OUT TO THE HALL OF FAME RACING PENALTY FOR A PARTS VIOLATION
KNAUS: "I don't know. We're going to accept what NASCAR deemed necessary for the penalty. You don't second-guess what they say unless you feel as though you need to. We accept what it is they said and the severity of it is what it is and we just move on with it."
Q: YOU APOLOGIZED TO JIMMIE, BUT HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT WHAT HE HAS HAD TO DEAL WITH IN THE WAKE OF THIS?
KNAUS: "I hate it. It's a terrible thing. I don't want this to overshadow anything. From a media standpoint and what's happened with the car, it's been blown way out of proportion. Obviously I got in trouble for something during qualifying. This was not during the qualifying race or the Bud Shootout or the Daytona 500. So this should have no bearing on what this team has accomplished. Jimmie shouldn't have to deal with it a damn bit. He's won the Daytona 500 man, and he should be held up by his shoulders right now and I know he feels that way. He's happy that he won it and he's sad that I'm not there celebrating with him."
Q: BUT YOU HAVE SEEN THAT HE'S NOT BEEN ABLE TO GET AWAY FROM ALL THE CHEATING TALK
KNAUS: "He would never get away anyway. He's going to run all the way across country tomorrow to do LA, so he would never get away. He just has to deal with it."
Q: WERE YOU SURPRISED WHEN YOU FOUND OUT THE CAR FAILED INSPECTION?
KNAUS: "I was surprised, yeah. I was shocked. And the worst thing was - you guys don't know because you're not down there in the middle of it - but the Shootout had been rained out and we had to get Jimmie and the team and the car ready for the Shootout. I came back and the car that I thought was going through post-qualifying inspection process was covered up. So I was shocked."
Q: IF THIS WAS YOUR FIRST OFFENSE, DO YOU THINK IT WOULD BE GETTING THIS MUCH ATTENTION?
KNAUS: "I think if we ran 25th every week, we wouldn't be getting this much attention."
Q: WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT JIMMIE AND THE PEOPLE QUESTIONING HIM, DO YOU WANT TO SAY TO THEM THAT THEIR PROBLEM SHOULD BE WITH YOU AND NOT HIM?
KNAUS: "Absolutely. Jimmie is a race car driver. Jeff Gordon is a race car driver. They show up and drive race cars. They don't build them. They don't go through the inspection process. You don't see those guys fixing the car when it doesn't meet the templates during the inspection process and stuff like that. You see the teams and crew chiefs doing that. Jimmie shouldn't be going through any of this. I hate it that he is. I've said it numerous times. I apologized to him one-and-one. But it's something we've got to deal with as a team and move on. If it gets bad or ugly, which it won't, it would hurt us in our championship bid. And that's not going to happen. I'm too big a person and Jimmie's too big a person and this is too great of a team to let this be anything more than a four-week suspension and then move on and go win the championship."
Q: WAS THIS TOTALLY NEW TECHNOLGY OR WAS IT USED ON THE CAR LAST YEAR AND TOTALLY OVERLOOKED BY NASCAR?
KNAUS: "We got in trouble for the template not fitting the race car properly after inspection this year and that it really it."
Q: SO NO COMMENT ON WHETHER IT WAS USED LAST YEAR?
KNAUS: "No, it was used last year, we got in trouble this year. If it would have been wrong last year, we would have gotten caught with it last year. That it is plain and simple. Their inspection process is very thorough. If we had done something wrong, we would have gotten in trouble last year if we had it and we didn't"
Q: DOES HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS PLAN TO APPEAL THE PENALTY? ANSWERED BY MARSHAL CARLSON, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS -
KNAUS: "No we do not plan to appeal the penalty."
Q: HOW HARD WAS IT FOR YOU TO WATCH IT ON TV?
KNAUS: "How many kids do you have? How did you feel the first day they left for kindergarten the first day they rolled out? Did you cry, were you upset when they were rolling out? Were you sad? I can tell you right now that throughout that whole race, I have never been prouder of my guys. They went through all the kindergarten years, they went through all the high school years, and they went through all that stuff with me the last four years. They have all become great leaders, independent leaders of their own departments. To see those guys carry out what they did during that race, and watch them work flawlessly, I mean flawlessly through out that whole race, pit stops, pit calls, strategy, preparation of that vehicle throughout all of that week and throughout all of practice, I was as proud of a person I could have possibly been. I couldn't have been happier to see a race team be so successful and when they pulled in to victory lane, I was happy. But I am not going to lie to you, I had a little tear in my eye wishing that I was there."
Q: HOW DOES THIS TEAM CONTINUE THIS MOMENTUM FOR THREE MORE RACES WITHOUT YOU AT THE TRACK? COULD IT PUT YOU BEHIND FOR YOUR CHANCE AT THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
KNAUS: "This is a really good question. This is something I think this team thrives upon. I don't know, I think maybe we are all a little sick. I don't understand it but whenever this 48 team has a little bit of an adversity or challenge put out there in front of them, they seem to step up. You have to understand they have set the goal very high after winning the Daytona 500, the biggest race of the year, without me being there. Our goals as a team were to run in the top-10 for the first half of the first 26 races and to establish ourselves in the top-10 in points. The goal for the next three weeks I am gone is to go out there and to run competitively, run in the top-10 and to make sure we are established. Then it will all shake out when we get closer to the final ten events. The first 26 races are relatively irrelevant as long as you are in the top 10 and that is what we are shooting for and I feel like those guys can carry out those goals and move on."
Q: WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THE TEAM FACES THE NEXT THREE WEEKS WITHOUT YOU?
KNAUS: "The challenges are going to be everything. From making sure the guys get to the race track on time, making sure the car is setup properly; making sure everyone makes it to the airport on time. There are a lot of things they are all individually step up and do. You know, that is the thing, there are a lot of things you don't realize the crew chief now days, from my stand point, it is not just setting up the car. It is watching the guys, making sure they all dress right, they are clean shaven, and all that kind of stuff that truly contributes to the performance of the team and the perception of the team are all the responsibility of these guys now. Each person is going to have to take on a little bit of extra responsibility for their areas to take a little heat off of Darian who has stepped in as crew chief and allow him to do what is important to the team and that is call the race and set up that race car for Jimmie. That is going to be the task, but I feel that all my guys are mature enough, they have been with me long enough to know what I expect and they will do it without a hitch."
Q: WHERE YOU YELLING AT THE TV DURING THE RACE.
KNAUS: "No I wasn't yelling? I wasn't physically kicking the TV. After I thought about it, I probably could have done that but honestly, I was sitting back just watching it. It was getting kind of dark in Charlotte and the lights were off and I was just kind of sitting back in my little TV room watching the race. Just chilling out."
Q: WAS IT VERY, VERY HARD?
KNAUS: "It was extremely painful. This team is the most important thing in my life and Jimmie is one of the most important people in my life. That is whether he is driving my race car or we are going out to eat. To see those guys go out and do that was an incredible feat and I loved it for them. But damn, I wanted to be there with them."
Q: HOW MUCH HAS THIS FUELED YOUR DESIRE TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500 NEXT YEAR?
KNAUS: "That would be pretty nice wouldn't it? I want it pretty bad. You know we have focused this winter on a car that would race and win the Daytona 500, not necessarily qualify great. We had a car that qualified really well and had a car that raced incredibly. We followed through with our plan and that was to try and win the Daytona 500. Jimmie had a lot of reality last year with a lot of things that happened to him during restrictor plate races. The badgering he had to deal with and he and I had some long discussions over the winter about how we thought we could go out there and win some of these plate races. We put all of that together from his driving style to what we needed in the race car and what we needed from the engine shop and we put it all together and made it happen. We went down there with the best package we possibly could with that as our goal and were able to do that. We are going to do the exact same thing next year and hopefully we will have this teleconference again and we will be talking about something different next year.
Q: DO YOU FEEL ANYTRUST HAS BEEN BROKEN BETWEEN YOU AND JIMMIE OR IS IT OVER AND DONE WITH?
KNAUS: "I am pretty sure it is over and done with. Jimmie and are fine and our bond is as strong as ever. I know he trusts me and if he didn't trust me, I wouldn't be here. This team is too good and is going to be too successful to not have their leader and their driver not be on the same page. Jimmie and I have been on the same page since the first time we met and had lunch here in Charlotte with others from Hendrick Motorsports talking about whether I was going to be the crew chief or not for the team. We have continued that way and are going to continue that way, thick or thin. Jimmie has made mistakes on the race track that could have potentially cost us races and I have never left his side or questioned him. We may have discussed it. But the same thing with this issue, he will stand by me through thick and thin, I will guarantee it. We may discuss it, we take a different approach to some things, but we are together."