Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus are 1-0 when they reach the Championship 4 of NASCAR’s most recent Chase format, but don’t let that stat mislead you.
After successfully navigating NASCAR’s elimination-style Chase format for the first time, giving Johnson his NASCAR record-tying seventh Cup championship, Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, appreciates its difficulty.
A different mindset
“It’s definitely different. You know, in years past, as we’ve been (at Homestead) battling for this, you kind of had your bogey and you knew or had a feeling about what it was you had to do throughout the course of the race, and you could almost strategize or kind of conduct your race around that,” Knaus explained.
“With what's going on now in this format, man, it is a challenge. We came in here with a mindset of really kind of what we do every single week of going out there to try to put ourselves in position to win the race and capitalize on situation when they arise.”
Fighting back from pre-race setback
As it turned out, that mindset was much-needed on championship weekend.
Before the season finale even began, Johnson was sent to the rear of the field after NASCAR determined the No. 48 crew made improper modifications to the car after it had completed pre-race inspection.
Johnson began the race in a hole and then received a late-race boost when Carl Edwards and Joey Logano – two of the three drivers competing for the championship with Johnson – wrecked with 10 laps to go.
Johnson finally made his way up front and passed Kyle Larson for the lead in overtime to win the race, and the championship.
“To be able to get up there, get clean air at the end of the end, Jimmie was actually able to do a fantastic job,” Knaus said. “We ran well, but we just couldn't broach into that top five the way we needed to throughout the course of the day, and the guys worked hard, and it was awesome.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to do this.”
Conquering every version of the Chase
While none of Johnson’s seven championships include one under the old season-long points format, he and Knaus have won titles in all three versions of the Chase.
“This format is unique. It’s different. It did give us an opportunity to breathe and rest and relax a little bit after Charlotte, after Martinsville, which was honestly nice,” Knaus said of the team’s win at Martinsville which locked them in the Championship 4.
“It really was. Not that we took any of those other races lightly in the least little bit. We didn’t for sure. Man, we put ourselves in position to win a lot of those races, which was great.
But it’s a unique format, man. It’s a challenge. You guys came up with a good one on this, that’s for sure.”