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Posts Tagged ‘Chad Knaus’

Johnson’s Pocono finish may be telling

Posted by Digory Kirke on August 8, 2009

It’s days like Monday afternoon at Pocono that prove Jimmie Johnsoncan win an unprecedented fourth consecutive Sprint Cup title.

Johnson was three laps down late in the race. He was 36th with 40 laps to go and 34th with 30 laps left. He had an engine problem the team couldn’t figure out.

And after all that, Johnson finished 13th in the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500, an astonishing comeback to make a respectable showing off a horrible situation.

That’s how you win championships.

“For us to salvage a 13th-place finish means a lot to me,” Johnson said. “I think we are going in the right direction. It shows me what my team is capable of and what I’m capable of going into the Chase.”

It took some time for crew chief Chad Knaus to figure out what was wrong with the No. 48 car at Pocono, but they did figure it out.

It took some time for crew chief Chad Knaus to figure out what was wrong with the No. 48 car at Pocono, but they did figure it out.

Johnson ran first or second in the first 100 laps of the 200-lap event before his engine started to sputter. He didn’t know what was wrong.

“OK buddy, check your switches,” crew chief Chad Knaus said calmly over the radio.

No help. Johnson had to pit. The 48 Chevy team lifted the hood, looking for a loose spark plug wire. No luck.

Johnson went back out and tried to stay on the lead lap until he could pit under caution, but Kasey Kahne quickly put Johnson a lap down.

The crew still was searching for answers. Johnson came in again and they changed the carburetor. Didn’t work. Another caution flew and they changed some of the spark plugs.

Bingo.

“After that, it ran,” Johnson said. “I knew we were about out of stuff to try. We lost another lap because it’s a time-consuming process and we could only get to a few [plugs]. I was hoping the problem was in one of the few we were able to reach. Luckily, it was.”

Five cautions in the last 50 laps enabled Johnson to get back on the lead lap with the lucky dog rule, but he raced his way past a gaggle of cars at the end.

Johnson was 25th on the final restart with 13 laps to go. His finish enabled Johnson to remain second in the Cup standings, 197 points behind leader Tony Stewart and two points ahead of teammate Jeff Gordon.

Speaking of making the most out of a bad day, Stewart finished 10th after starting in the back in his backup car. He was 28th after 80 laps.

“We were just really loose at the beginning,” Stewart said. “It was going to take big steps to fix. We finally just made a huge change and we got it closer, but we never got it right. We made the best of a bad situation.”

A good lesson for everyone with championship hopes.

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Brickyard a Building Block toward Championship

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 30, 2009

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What a difference three years make.

When Jimmie Johnson headed to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2006, all the questions were about why he fared so poorly at the famous venue – as well about when he thought he would be able to break through and win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

Fast forward to 2009, and the questions are of a highly different nature heading into the latest stock-car race at Indy.

Johnson now is the three-time defending champion in the Cup series. He’s also won two of the last three times he’s raced in his No. 48 Lowe’s Impala SS at the hallowed Brickyard.

“This track has been so feast or famine for us,” Johnson said. “We’ve either won or been on fire, wrecked.”

Typically, his wins in 2006 and in 2008 at Indy were sandwiched around a fiery wreck in 2007 that relegated him to at 39th-place finish. Other than his two victories, he’s finished in the top 10 only one other time there – that coming in his rookie season in 2002 when he started 37th and finished ninth, followed by finishes of 18th, 36th and 38th in the next three years before he registered his breakthrough win at the track in 2006.

And make no mistake. That was indeed a breakthrough victory. Many believe it helped vault Johnson to his first championship, which in turn launched him on a string of championships that has been matched only one other time in NASCAR history – when Cale Yarborough won three titles in a row from 1976 through 1978.

“I feel very fortunate to have won on many of the major tracks we compete on and in many of  the major events in our series,” Johnson said. “At the time to overcome such a difficult track for the 48 team meant a lot to us, gave us a lot of hope and belief in overcoming the hurdle to win a championship. It had been right there in front of us, but we kept missing it. It really set the pace for us to go on and have good things take place.

“It also was really rewarding to really have struggled at a track and come back and finally beat it, after it had beaten us so many times. We won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard in the same year, then went on to win the championship. So it was extremely special.”

This year Johnson hopes to use Indy as a springboard to an even loftier place in stock-car racing annals. He is attempting to become the only Cup driver ever to win four championships in a row.

When it comes to chasing history, there is no better place to do it than Indianapolis Motor Speedway, according to Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Motorsports, which fields Johnson’s formidable car.

“Every win is special, but there’s definitely something unique about Indy,” Hendrick said. “The track has so much history, and you can just feel it when you walk in. There are certain places that are always going to be special, and that’s one of them.”

As special and as important as Johnson’s first victory was at Indy in 2006, Hendrick said he believes that last year’s win in an event marred by tire problems for all competitors was at least as pivotal in helping the No. 48 team ultimately complete another run to the points championship.

Indypitroad (Small)

“Any victory is going to be big in building confidence and momentum,” Hendrick said.

“I think that win last year was important because the 48 team was running well but hadn’t won a race in a while. So Indy helped us build some steam as we went into the Chase (for the Sprint Cup championship).”

Hendrick added that he’s not surprised at all that Johnson and his team have turned around their fortunes at a track that once seemed to have their number – and not in a good way. He also made it a point to credit crew chief Chad Knaus and the rest of the No. 48 team for Johnson’s success as a driver.

Asked why he thinks Johnson has been so good lately at the Brickyard, Hendrick replied: “For the same reasons he’s good at other places. Jimmie’s one of the smartest drivers I’ve ever seen. He gives exceptional feedback and has a great feel for the chassis. He’s a real technician in the car, and that’s to his advantage everywhere we race.

“But it’s not just Jimmie. You can’t discount how important Chad and the crew are. Chad has done an unbelievable job building that team, and they really have the total package: great driver, crew chief, team and car. That’s tough to beat.”

That’s tough to beat most anywhere on the Sprint Cup circuit. But in recent years, it has become even tougher for others to contend with at Indy. Johnson still maintains that it all changed with the victory in 2006.

“There are so many positives that came from it — the attitude the team had, the momentum it gave us, that sense of feeling like we beat something that had been beating us,” Johnson said.

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MY WORD

Now with his third win at the Brickyard and making NASCAR History by being the first driver to win it Back 2 Back you can bet that, that drive and confidence is even stronger than before. Watch out I see, feel, and smell a Fourth (4- Peat) Consecutive Championship coming!

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Jimmie Johnson puts another brick in the wall

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 29, 2009

While Jimmie Johnson celebrates a third Brickyard win, Darrell Waltrip thinks it might signal a fourth straight Sprint Cup title.

4 GONE CONCLUSION

By Darrell Waltrip

You know folks, the results that came out of Sunday’s race at Indianapolis got me thinking, so I looked back at the other 15 previous races. What’s interesting is out of the 16 races run there, 14 of them have been won by champions. The only two races not won by champions were won by Ricky Rudd and Kevin Harvick. That’s pretty impressive.

To take that a step further, seven times the winner of the Brickyard race has gone on to win the Sprint Cup championship. I think it’s the importance and stature that race has in our sport now. Drivers will tell you that next to the Daytona 500, racing at the Brickyard every summer is our second-biggest race of the year.

I think that’s why a championship-caliber driver and team rise to the occasion with a race of this magnitude. Lots of people run well there, like Juan Pablo Montoya on Sunday, but as history has proven out, it’s our champions that rise to the occasion.

Speaking of Juan, I felt so bad for him. Man, what a heartbreaker for him. He could have written his name in the record books by winning Sunday because he has also won the Indy 500. That would have been an amazing feat. He started on the outside pole and really never looked back all day long. He had a dominating car and led 116 laps. He really was in a league of his own. Unfortunately Juan broke one of my golden rules — “don’t beat yourself.”

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why a guy like Juan with a five-second lead on the field, not being pressured by anyone and gets caught speeding on pit road. Only thing I can think is it had to be a miscalculation on his tach. Juan was the only car the entire day caught speeding on entry. A few other cars got nabbed for speeding on exit which is common.

I really was pulling for Juan with his retro paint scheme. He also was my dark horse pick to make the Chase. I think he’ll make the Chase alright but winning Sunday could have gone a long way in guaranteeing it.

I agree with what Chad Knaus mentioned after the race. The teams have timing and scoring for cars on the track, but they don’t have it for when the cars come on pit road. If that information is available and if you are going to nab people for speeding on pit road, quite honestly, the teams need to have access to it. To me it seems like it would make it a lot easier for the teams to regulate their speeds on pit road if in fact they could see the speeds they were running up and down pit road. What’s wrong with giving the teams the information to do a better job?

Also, while I was thinking about how it always seems that our champions win at Indy, it got me thinking of driver/crew chief combinations and the chemistry they have. There’s no question in my mind that Jimmie and Chad are at the head of the class when it comes to chemistry.

In my mind, they are also right up there with the greatest driver/crew chief combinations in the history of our sport. Think back to the Petty/Inman era. David Pearson/Leonard Wood, me and Jeff Hammond, Earnhardt and Kirk Shelmerdine, Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham … and the list goes on and on.

There really have been some amazing pairings across the history of NASCAR, but I have never seen a combination and team like the No. 48 bunch that is so well put together from top to bottom. They lack nothing. That’s why they win the big races and that’s why they are going for a history-making fourth consecutive championship. Certainly on Sunday Jimmie and Chad put another brick in the wall towards No. 4.

This team knows how to peak at just the right time. It truly is phenomenal to watch. Jimmie gives excellent feedback. Chad takes that and he and the team make the right adjustments at the right time. They did it again Sunday and showed why across the board in NASCAR, they are the team to beat.

Everybody’s been making a fuss over these double-file restarts. Listen, for the most part, all the restarts until you get cars laps down have been double-file restarts. The difference now is they mean something. You are racing people for position now more then ever before. This new rule certainly has added another twist and added excitement. It’s just another element that has been added to the race and I don’t see a thing wrong with it. I am a big fan of them.

What’s interesting to note is the use of the outside groove since the rule change. It’s being used more than ever before because it seems to be the faster line. There seems to be a little more grip and more traction there. You are seeing with this new car that when you go down in the corner and if there is a car on your outside, it pins you down, gets you loose and the car on the outside drives off and leaves you.

So we now have six races to go until the Chase: Pocono, Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond. Kyle Busch has just had a terrible run of luck. I know you think I am wild about Kyle Busch. I am wild about the way he drives. I am not a big fan of how he treats the media and fans when he loses.

If you remember last year, I talked about that it is consistency that makes a champion. This year has been more realistic than last year when he was winning everything in sight until the Chase started. He’s won three races this year in the Cup car, but he isn’t having the luck he had last year. He’s winning consistently in the Nationwide series and running pretty good in the truck series.

I don’t think he is out of the Chase yet. He and that team are capable of racing their way back in. However, they simply can’t afford, again with only six races left, to have any more bad weekends. You have to admit, when Kyle has a car that is capable of winning, he sure is fun to watch.

On the plus side, Kyle even seems to be working on his attitude. He even admitted that this weekend during an interview. If he can get his arms around that area and gets a handle on his emotions, then look out because he could be a contender. We will just have to wait and see.

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Are Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus unbeatable?

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 29, 2009

Johnson 2009 winner of the Allstate Brickyard 400 at Indy

Johnson 2009 winner of the Allstate Brickyard 400 at Indy

Even the best drivers and team have their weaknesses.  Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Bobby Allison all encountered off-seasons.  Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, and Tony Stewart deal with struggles from time to time.  That does not seem to be the case with Jimmie Johnson and the 48 group.  Ever since Johnson’s rookie season in 2002 they have been as solid as any driver and team in recent history, as they own three titles and forty-three wins.

Johnson won his third Brickyard 400 on Sunday, as he continues to add to his legacy.  Over the past four years, a few drivers and teams have challenged Johnson and the 48 group.  Since 2006, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, and Greg Biffle have posed threats to Johnson, but to no avail.  The No. 48 team continues to show no signs of passing the torch.

It appears as if the No. 48 bunch is immune to any valleys.  Most teams have their peaks and valleys.  Johnson is on a constant peak. Why does this seem to be the case?

Hardcore Jimmie Johnson fans staunchly agree that the driver makes the difference.  Others will contend that crew chief Chad Knaus is a mechanical mastermind, and his mind is gateway to Johnson’s ascendancy.  Most levelheaded observers agree that the combination of Johnson and Knaus is the reason for their recent dominance. Remember, prior to the 2002 season, Johnson and Knaus were relatively unknown to most NASCAR fans.

Johnson remains composed while enduring adversity.  He rarely loses his cool.  Many drivers lack this quality nowadays.  He provides adequate feedback as to the handling of the car.  On the rare occasion that he has an ill-handling car, instead of losing his head and trying to physically drive the car at an impracticable pace, he bides his time and relays to Knaus how the car is reacting to current track conditions.  That is when Knaus takes over.  He analyzes every angle and scenario, and eventually comes up with the perfect fix for an ill-handling car.

In most cases, opposing teams and drivers eventually figure out a balance, making some setups out of date.  Johnson and Knaus never settle for the same balance.  They constantly strive for a better feel for the car, even if they have an eight second lead on the competition.

As the Chase for the Championship approaches, it looks as if Jimmie Johnson is in prime position to earn an unprecedented fourth consecutive championship.  Of course, it is too early to crown him, but this is a typical Jimmie Johnson-type season.  Others take center stage throughout the regular season.  In 2007, it was Jeff Gordon.  Last year, it was Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards.  This year, it has been Tony Stewart and Mark Martin.  Once the Chase begins, it becomes the Jimmie Johnson show.

Who can dethrone the champ?  Tony Stewart seems to be the best choice.  Stewart, as well as Jeff Gordon, have displayed systematic consistency throughout the season.  Kurt Busch and Mark Martin could emerge as potential threats.  If Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, and Carl Edwards qualify for the Chase, they are streaky drivers capable of surging that the perfect time.

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Chad Knaus named Wypall crew chief for Indianapolis race

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 29, 2009

NASCAR HOMESTEAD AUTO RACING

Chad Knaus, crew chief for the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson, has been named the Wypall Wipers Crew Chief of the Race for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Allstate 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Johnson and the No. 48 team started the race in 16th position and moved into the top five before the first green-flag stop on lap 36. Johnson and Knaus worked on their car throughout the race and took the lead on a lap-137 restart and never relinquished it.

“Chad did some great things to the race car to start the race,” Johnson said. “I knew within about two turns that we were going to be very competitive today. Then the adjustments throughout the day were exactly what we needed.”

Bob Osborne, crew chief for Roush Fenway Racing’s Carl Edwards, Todd Berrier, crew chief for Richard Childress Racing’s Casey Mearsand Fox/Speed analyst Jeff Hammond, along with representatives from the sponsor, serve as the panel for the challenge. In addition to the $1,000 check, the winning crew chief will receive signage on his pit box the following week. The crew chief with the most weekly wins will be honored as the Wypall Wipers Crew Chief of the Year and will be presented a $20,000 check at the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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The art of being Wrong

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 26, 2009

I’m always amazed, but never surprised, when I hear or read something where the writer is wrong, but so adamantly believes they are right. It’s not so much their opinion, but how they’ve assembled facts and constructed an argument that is baseless, opinionated, slanted, or defies logic. We sometimes spot these ill conceived arguments by outright and straightforward common sense, others by what we refer to as the “smell test”.

Here are some tips for spotting people who are wrong:

1. Their facts are wrong.

2. Their facts are right, however, they are facts based on circumstances at a previous time. For instance, there was a time when NASCAR used stock cars, however, due to inherent advantages by certain manufacturers, safety, cost, etc. they had to move away from that to a more consistent and level playing field. It makes the competition fair. Saying NASCAR has lost its roots because they no longer use stock cars, fails to address the reasons why.

3. Their facts don’t support their argument. They throw in tidbits here and there to show they know what they are talking about, but those tidbits are nothing more than useless facts.

4. They try to bully you into agreeing with them. Sound familiar? It should. Anytime someone does this, our guard goes up because we can’t imagine why someone would try to bully us into agreeing with them when their argument should stand on its own merits.

5. They use bad logic. This one can trip us up from time to time and can be difficult to spot. For instance, Jimmy and Chad win a lot of races. Chad has been caught cheating. Jimmy won, so he must have cheated. Really?

6. They use the “because I say so” argument. We are very familiar with this since we use it a lot on our kids. It’s similar to bullying, but more subtle. People get boxed into a corner by their own argument and have to resort to this.

7. They treat opinion as facts. We see this a lot. For instance, people have argued that the racing was better at Bristol before they repaved it. It may be true, but based on what; your opinion or the facts? An opinion is saying you liked it better, but facts would address things like lead changes during green flag runs, number of cautions, margin of victory, etc. Now I’m not saying opinions are not valid, just don’t let people convince you of something factual based on an opinion.

I’m sure there are more, but I want to keep this short and to the point. Perhaps you have other items to add.

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Johnson on Top in Friday’s First Practice

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 11, 2009

Jimmie Johnson LifeLock 400 2009 Friday's First Practice

Jimmie Johnson LifeLock 400 2009 Friday's First Practice

Hendrick Motorsports’ Jimmie Johnson led the way in the first of Friday’s two NASCAR Sprint Cup practices at Chicagoland Speedway, pacing the session with a lap of 177.200 mph.

Roush Fenway Racing’s Carl Edwards was second at 176.881, followed by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin at 176.725.

Michael Waltrip Racing’s David Reutimann and Roush Fenway’s Greg Biffle rounded out the top five, as Richard Petty Motorsports’ Kasey Kahne, JGR’s Kyle Busch, Richard Childress Racing’s Clint Bowyer, Red Bull Racing’s Brian Vickers and Hendrick’s Jeff Gordon completed the top 10.

One final practice remains Friday in preparation for LifeLock.com 400, which is scheduled to begin just after 8pm EDT Saturday.

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No. 48 team looks for redemption at Chicagoland

Posted by Digory Kirke on July 11, 2009

Chicagoland.193They lost the ’08 race to Kyle Busch in green-white-checkered finish, now Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus are looking for redemption.

You don’t expect Jimmie Johnson to lose a race when he restarts from the top spot with two laps left, but that’s exactly what happened last year at ChicagolandSpeedway.

In a green-white-checkered finish, Kyle Busch raced to the lead to the outside of the No. 48 Chevrolet and kept Johnson winless at the 1.5-mile track. Like Joliet Jake of “The Blues Brothers” fame, Johnson will be on a mission when he returns to the speedway for Saturday night’s LifeLock.com 400.

That goes double for Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, from Rockford, Ill., who craves a win in his own backyard. Lack of a win at Chicagoland is especially frustrating given that, in seven starts at the venue, Johnson has finished second twice, third twice and fourth and sixth once each.

“We still haven’t gotten the win in Chicago, so we’ll be going after it this weekend,” Knaus said. “We always run well there — I think we’ve only finished outside the top five or so twice. But for some reason, things haven’t worked out for us yet to get to Victory Lane.

“We’re taking a good car — the one we had in Michigan [where Johnson led 146 of 200 laps at the two-mile track] when we ran out of gas. So maybe this is our year we can finally get a win near my hometown.”

Johnson is nearing several significant accomplishments this season. The only driver in the modern era (since 1971) to win at least three races per year in his first seven seasons of Cup racing, Johnson needs one victory to make it eight years in a row.

Already having notched 42 wins, the three-time defending Cup champion is two victories short of tying Bill Elliott for second place among active drivers. Johnson is 15th on the all-time win list.

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