By admin | September 1, 2008
By Richard Allen
Based on the results from the Auto Club Speedway it looks as if Chad Knaus knows something about how to make the Car of Tomorrow go fast. The Hendrick Motorsports crew chief had his #48 car for Jimmie Johnson running like a California dream Sunday night.
Johnson led 228 of the 250 laps in the Pepsi 500 on his way to an uncontested victory. The car was simply untouchable all day and night, which is unusual for a race that begins in the day and ends at night. Typically, there are comers and goers in these type races.
Even when Johnson found himself back in a bit of traffic after caution flag pit stops he simply put the hammer down on his Chevrolet and in turn put the hammer down on the competition. Traffic, sunlight, darkness, nor anything else seemed to bother the car or its driver.
The question that arises in my mind after watching one car so completely overwhelm the competition is, where were his teammates? Over the last couple of years while Johnson has battled fellow HMS driver Jeff Gordon for wins and titles, the organization has prided itself on the sharing of information. They have been quick to point out that no one driver has anything the other drivers in the organization do not have.
On Sunday, Johnson clearly had something the other Hendrick drivers did not. Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ran between 11-15 just about the entire 500 miles of the race on their way to 11th and 15th place finishes respectively. Casey Mears was never really a factor as he placed 26th.
One other time this season has a car appeared so dominant. That was Johnson in the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That performance was somewhat overshadowed by the tire debacle that took place there. The #48 team used the same car for that race they used on Sunday night.
So, what has Chad Knaus figured out about the Car of Tomorrow? And, why are Johnson’s high profile teammates not able to keep up?
Of course, it could be that he is sharing whatever he has put into this one car with the other HMS crews. Perhaps Earnhardt and Gordon do not like the way the car handles quite as much as Johnson does.
Or, it could be that Knaus has saved the best for Chase time and he wants to become a crew chief who has won three consecutive championships.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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