Daytona 500: Chad Knaus - Friday media visit

CHAD KNAUS, NO. 48 LOWES/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET CREW CHIEF, met with media to discuss and explain the over-the-wall and pit crew changes made during the off-season for the No. 48 and No. 88 teams.

TALK ABOUT CHANGES FOR THE 2011 SEASON "We've got some new guys. We've got three of the guys returning to the No. 48 team from last year, in different positions; but we do have three new guys that we brought on board. Some with experience; some without. And it's pretty good. We're pretty excited about it. Stevie (Letarte) and I worked really hard on it during the off-season to try to get a little bit of depth into our pit crew group and I think we're getting down that path and it's looking really promising for us."

HOW LIKELY IS THE CREW THAT YOU HAVE NOW GOING TO BE THE SAME GUYS FOR THE 500? "We're hoping it's the same group of guys but we've got the ability now and the depth that we feel like if we do need to make some changes or interchange some of the guys or the players between the teams of with some of our second-string guys that we can. So the possibility is there but we're hoping we're starting with who we think our starters are going to be for the first part of the season."

IF YOU DECIDED TO PUT TWO NEW GUYS IN AFTER PRACTICE, COULD THAT SHAKE IT UP IN A BAD WAY TOO, OR MAKE THEM UPTIGHT ABOUT LOOKING OVER THEIR SHOULDER? "Well that depends on how you look at it. The way I see it, competition is healthy. If you're sitting on an NFL team or an NBA team or a baseball team of whatever it is, there's somebody that wants your job. That's the way we want it hear. It's that way for the people that go on the road. It's that way for the drivers and the crew chiefs and why shouldn't it be that way for the pit crew guys? So, we want to have that because we feel like we're going to get more out of those guys from a training perspective, from a focus perspective, and then a little bit less complacency out of it.

"So, we're really excited about the way it's coming about. It's quite simple. If you don't buy into it and you don't like it, you don't have to be a part of our team. That's the way that it is. The guys that we've got like it and embrace it and they're enjoying it. I've seen more effort come out of our weight room and our training facility than I've seen in years and it's really, really exciting to see."

IS THIS A SITUATION WHERE YOU MIGHT CONTEMPLATE SETTING A ROSTER ON A WEEKLY BASIS JUST TO MAINTAIN THAT LEVEL OF COMPETITION? "Absolutely.

"In another sense, I kind of hope that it does because that means that we've got guys that are pushing the other guys to the level that they're better than they are on a weekly basis and improving themselves and improving their performance. If it gets to that, it's there. And they all know that. They're made aware of that. We've talked to all of them. We sat down with the starters last week and said look, you've got the opportunity to start for the No. 48 car this year, but don't think just because you've got that is that it's going to be any less challenging for the rest of the season."

HOW DO YOU MEASURE THAT LEVEL OF COMPETENCY? HOW DO YOU MEASURE? IS IT STRICTLY BASED ON HIS TIME? WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT? "No. No, it's not like that. This is something we've been working on for a long time and there are a lot of things that come into play from a mental standpoint, from a physical standpoint, what they do in practice, how they perform at different race tracks and at different venues. You see, this opens up a whole new aspect of things that we've never been able to do. If we can keep our roster as full as what we need it, we're going to maybe have the ability to have a different pit crew at a track let's say like at Dover or Martinsville as opposed to the tracks like Daytona or Fontana where the pit boxes that are real big versus the ones that are really small. Maybe you need a different type of person. This is going to give us those opportunities; just like you've got guys who play better on AstroTurf than they do on natural grass. So it's going to be neat. It's going to be fun to watch how it evolves."

IS IT LIKE OTHER SPORTS NOW? DID YOU GET THIS IDEA FROM BASEBALL OR FOOTBALL OR BASKETBALL? "Yeah, absolutely, that's exactly what it's about. You have to realize that we don't make rash decisions. The decisions that we made last year that contributed to the pit crew, that's something that happened over a period of time. That's not something where we had one bad pit stop last year and we pulled everybody out. That's not how it works. That's something we have been working on for quite some time and I think Stevie has been a huge, huge help with this. He's the one that really started to work with the Turner (Motorsports) guys and help us develop a nationwide farm team, so we're really excited about it."

WAS THERE A LOT OF INTEREST FROM THE OUTSIDE? "Absolutely. You'd be shocked how many people showed up. We had an open combine and we had people from every team in NASCAR and just about every Nationwide team and Truck teams, and some people that were just athletes in general from other sports who wanted to come in and see what it was about. It was really excited to see the amount of interest that we got when we said hey, we're going to have open tryouts. We had a lot of guys; veteran crew members from the Cup Series and Nationwide Series come in and they were just as humble as can be. They went through all the drills and did everything they could to try to prove their worth."

WAS IT LIKE A SCOUTING COMBINE? "That's exactly what it was."

WHAT DID THAT ENTAIL? "It was very extensive. Pit stops were a very, very small part of it. You've got to realize that attitudes and effort from the people out there is what makes the big difference. We can teach people to do pit stops. It's how they handle the pressure and how they do things and how they have the athletic ability to sustain over the course of 39 events you know. It's really difficult. So we had a lot of different things. We had emotional quotient tests, we had some physical aptitude tests, we did do some pit stops. And that's how we made our decisions. Our decisions weren't made just off of what they could do over the wall and changing tires on the car."

SO DO YOU HAVE MORE CREW GUYS NOW? A BIGGER POOL? "Well, NASCAR helped us out a little bit by eliminating one or two so we were able to replace and move some people around and shuffle them around. Our roster really isn't much bigger, it's just a little different?

WHAT WAS THE TIMEFRAME ON THIS? "Well, we honestly started toward the middle or end of last year looking at people. And talking about how we were going to approach the 2011 season. And it's starting to come to fruition. I'll tell you right now, if you guys think we're going to go out there and have the fastest pit crew on pit road starting at Daytona for the Daytona 500, you're probably mistaken. It's going to take a little bit of time for these guys to gel and get it going. It's just like any cohesive team; it takes time for things to happen. We're going to give it some time and watch it mature and see how these guys do."

QUESTION INAUDIBLE "That's what's difficult about our sport. We talk about it time and time again about how if a driver is ill, we make him get in the race car and get out and drive. And injury like Denny Hamlin had, he still had to get out there and drive, otherwise he loses his driver points. So this is a way for us to try to help the team. If a guy has some stress at home and he can't get to the track. If he has a sick child or if he's sick or if he's injured, to give the guy some time off. We've had a lot of guys over the years get hurt (and even) myself personally. When I was changing tires I had knee problems and I had to continue to change tires because I was their only option. And we've got guys like that. Jeremy West was a fantastic tire changer. He had back problems two years ago and he had to sit out. And we were in the middle of the Chase trying to find a tire changer. We don't want to leave ourselves in a position where we have to try to make some type of knee-jerk reaction to try to find a tire changer when we feel like we can just open up a roster just a little bit to get some good talent in there to back them up."

DID THE LOSS OF THE CATCH CAN MAN AND THE IMPLICATIONS THAT COME FROM THAT CAUSE YOU TO REVALUATE THE CRITERIA FOR THE INDIVIDUAL POSITIONS? "Oh, yeah. Absolutely. It's different. The fueling process is a lot different. The mechanism is difficult to say the least right now, but we'll get it. We'll get it all squared away and it's going to change the way we do a lot of things. The catch can man played a very pivotal part as far as making adjustments on the race cars. It's going to be a lot more difficult this year. So we're going to have to look at the choreography of it a little bit and change some things around and it's going to take time. We've got to get to the race track and see how people do it and probably learn from them as well."

STARTING OUT, WHO DO YOU EXPECT WILL MAKE THE ADJUSTMENTS ON THE BACK OF THE CAR? "Right now, it's probably going to be the rear tire carrier who will be doing the majority of the adjustments."

LIKE THE OLD DAYS? "Very similar to the old days, that's right. Maybe I can come back." (laughter).

WHEN MIKE FORD FIRED THAT SHOT ACROSS YOUR BOW, HOW MUCH DID THAT GALVANIZE THIS TEAM'S RESILIANCE AND HOW MUCH DID THAT CARRY OVER TO THIS SEASON IS SHOWING PEOPLE THIS TEAM'S NOT DONE. "It' didn't have a huge impact. Everybody made that into a larger story than what it was. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. They are a fantastic race team (No. 11) and I love racing against those guys because I like competition. I thrive on competition. So, what he threw out there is what he felt. He said it in the heat of battle and I've said things in the heat of battle that I wish I hadn't. So I've gotten in a lot of trouble for it from time to time (chuckle), but it's the way it is. And I welcome any challengers, that's for sure."

ON THE RESILIANCEY OF THE NO. 48 TEAM "I think this team is tough. We've got the depth at Hendrick Motorsports that allows us to go out there and make changes and seamless changes to our cars and our race teams where it doesn't affect us too much. With the way the rules are now being as tightly constricted as we are on the race car side and not being able to test, I think with the place we've got we are able to make a lot of changes to our race cars and our race teams."

HAS THAT BEEN THIS TEAM'S BIGGEST STRENGTH? "Yeah, I think that's the biggest thing we've got going for us is the willingness to change throughout the course of time and being able to do that without hindering any type of progress we've got going on at that time."

ARE YOU ACTUALLY GOING TO HAVE BACK-UP GUYS AT THE BACK OF THE PITS DURING A RACE IN CASE A GUY DOESN'T DO WELL? "Yeah, absolutely. Our back-up guys will be at the race track filling other various roles so if we do need somebody they'll be there, whether they're behind the wall catching a tire or running tires or maybe handing over the second can of fuel, whatever it may be, those guys will be at the race track on a regular basis in case we need them."

WHY IS THE NO. 48 TEAM MAKING THIS MOVE AND NOT THE OTHER TEAMS? "Well, like I said, Stevie and I have worked on this for a long time. Stevie has been a huge factor in this and he is spearheaded a lot of it. I couldn't even stay for the combine that we had because I had to go to Las Vegas for the banquet, and Stevie ran the combine. So this is a combination between the No. 48 and the No.88 that we have this pool of guys. It's not just the No. 48. It's the No. 48 and the No. 88 that are going to have this group of guys working."

IF THIS WORKS, IS THIS THE NEXT ERA OF COMPETITION? DO YOU EXPECT OTHER TEAMS TO FOLLOW WITH YOUR GROUND BREAKING MOVE? "I can tell you right now, everybody in the garage is doing something similar to this. Just about every team in the garage has some type of developmental system setup. Scouting system.

"There is a lot of that goes on, it is just that this is the first time that it has gone to this level. It is nothing really new. It is growing everywhere. It wasn't that long ago that people didn't have gyms at their facilities. Now they have gyms, they have trainers. They have pit crew practice facilities; all of that. So it is growing industry-wide."

SO THEY WILL HAVE UNIFORMS ON AND SITTING ON THE "BENCH" IF YOU COMPARE IT TO STICK AND BALL SPORTS? "If need be, that is what we will do. But hopefully we have the sense enough to know what is going on before we get to the race track so we don't have to do that mid-race. But we've done that before. We have taken people out mid-race. Not just us; when I say we, I mean we as an industry; we as a group. We see it happen constantly. It is part of it. It is nice to have that depth and we have the pool of players to pull from if we need them."

IS THIS THE 24/48 GUYS? ARE THE GUYS INTERCHANGEABLE? "It is the 48/88 team and yes, the guys are interchangeable. We operate as a team as we have said before. We have a resource there that we can move some people around if we need be in different situations. Like I said, you just don't know what is going to arise and we have got the ability and the flexibility with what Mr. Hendrick allows us to do to do what we need to do there."

HOW DO YOU BALANCE THAT AND ALLOW TIME FOR GUYS TO WORK TOGETHER AND GEL? "If you look back over history, we are pretty tolerant and we give people a lot of opportunities. But, it is going to take time. When I say these guys have to gel you have to realize these guys have only been working together for a month and a half. Give me a break, we have to give them an opportunity. When I talk about these guys gelling, I am not necessarily talking about the six guys going over the wall, I am talking about the 16 guys that we've got working as a unit because right now we are doing pit stops at the shop.

"You can pull one tire changer out and put another one in there and not lose any time. That is a way to get the whole group to gel and the whole group to work as a unit and that is what we are working towards. We are not working on trying to get the starters to be the only part and get their own little click going, that is not how it is going to work."

YOU SAID EVERYONE HAS A DEVELOPMENT TEAM, YOU HAVE HAD SOME ISSUES WITH DEPTH IN A PIT CREW, WHY IS IT FOR AN ORGANIZATION THAT HAS BEEN SO STRONG, THAT YOU GUYS MAY HAVE BEEN BEHIND THE CURVE? "I don't think that is a fair statement. If you go back and look at Richard Childress, they had the exact same thing last year. That is not a company flaw by any means. It is just something we are trying to improve on."

DENNY HAMLIN SAID YESTERDAY THAT HIS TEAM LOST THE CHAMPIONSHIP, YOU DIDN'T WIN IT, WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE TO THAT? "I don't know, we have the trophy (LAUGHTER)"

OF THE 16 GUYS OF YOUR OVER-THE-WALL PIT CREW, HOW MANY OF THOSE HAVE ANOTHER ROLL WITH THE TEAM? "I didn't bring my roster, I don't know. It is probably 50/50 right now I'd say. I don't know for sure, but in that area"

ARE THE 24/5 DOING SOMETHING SIMILAR? "Yes, they have a very similar format that there are working on. I don't know that they are quite as far along as we are, but they are working on it so they are going to have the exact same situation. I don't know if it is going to be exactly the same but it is going to be a similar situation over there."

ARE YOU GUYS GOING TO BE ABLE TO GAIN SPOTS ON PIT ROAD LIKE YOU WERE IN THE PAST WITH THE NEW NUMBER OF MEN OVER THE WALL? "I think what you do on pit road right now is going to be really, really critical. With the new fueling that you have got, the amount of fuel that you are going to take in the race car, you can go light on fuel and gain some time on pit road by a couple of seconds. If you have got the nerve to that and not get full of fuel and not go out there with a light fuel load, you could potentially do some really danger to a lot of guys and get some stuff done. It is going to be interesting to see how it plays out. It is going to be a new dynamic this year that we are all going to have to learn how to play. It is going to be track specific and situational by every means. If it is a track that you are just going through tires and every time a caution comes out and you are going to want to pit, say it is Atlanta, you are going to handle it completely different than you would say at a track like Fontana where you don't necessarily need really good tires all the time. So it is going to be unique."

-source: team chevy

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Denny Hamlin , Chad Knaus