By admin | May 31, 2011
By Richard Allen
Last year in the middle of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season’s next to last race, Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Chad Knaus made a somewhat controversial call by exchanging Jimmie Johnson’s pit crew for that of teammate Jeff Gordon’s over-the-wall gang. The Gordon crew had become available after their car had crashed. The move was eventually made permanent. In the end, the move proved to be a good one as Johnson went on to capture his fifth consecutive title one race later.
Knaus walked away from the season having been vindicated despite criticism he received in some circles for the move.
After Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 Knaus may well be considering a similar, but perhaps less dramatic, move for the 48 team. The HMS crew was less than spectacular for much of the race and capped their evening off by leaving an adjustment tool in the rear window of the car at a critical juncture. A car leaving its pit stall with equipment attached is subject to a penalty which forced Johnson to restart well back in the pack. Ultimately, the Chevrolet blew an engine late in the going which relegated the team to a 28th place result.
As Johnson was coasting to the garage area Knaus was heard to say, “Jimmie, you brought your work clothes today but we had a Keystone Cops routine going on in here(pits),” over the team radio.
Johnson still ranks 3rd in the overall standings. While one bad race may not decide the fates of these crew members, Knaus does not tolerate mediocrity for long as is evidenced by his record as a crew chief.
So, are changes in personal soon to be forthcoming for the five time defending champion’s team? There will no doubt be a few extra reps in pit crew practice this week. Knaus has definitely shown he is not afraid to make a move. Based on past history, the 48 guys had better perform well in Kansas.
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