For nearly two decades, Chad Knaus has been one of the NASCAR Cup Series‘ greatest crew chiefs. After seven championships and eighty-two wins, he will step away from the pit box at the end of the 2020 season and transition into an executive role at Hendrick Motorsports as Vice President of Competition. The news was announced on Tuesday afternoon.
“When I started at Hendrick Motorsports (in 1993) working for Ray Evernham, my goal was to be a crew chief,” Knaus stated. “Starting at a young age, I wanted to win every race we entered and battle for every championship. Mr. (Rick) Hendrick has given me the chance to do exactly that, and I could not be more thankful to him. After all these years, my competitive desire has not changed at all, but now I have a family that deserves my attention. This new executive role will allow me to compete in a different way with all four of our teams while spending more time with my wife and two young children.
“I appreciate the company supporting my decision, and I’m truly excited about the challenge ahead of me to help us grow and win. I’m also looking forward to working closely with Jeff (Andrews), who I admire and have great respect for. I owe so much to Mr. Hendrick and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports, and I’m ready for the next chapter.”
During the 1990s, Knaus worked as a pit crewman on the famed #24 Rainbow Warriors of driver Jeff Gordon and crew chief Ray Evernham, winning the 1995 and 1997 championships. He followed Evernham to the Dodge camp later in the decade, and began his crew chiefing career with Stacy Compton in 2000. The two recorded strong superspeedway qualifying runs in 2001 before Knaus returned to Hendrick in 2002 as the crew chief for rookie Jimmie Johnson and the #48.
As they say, the rest is history. Together, the two would enjoy a record five straight Cup titles, seven in total, and eighty-one total wins. In 2019, Knaus moved to Johnson’s team-mate William Byron in the #24. After a winless first year with the young driver, Knaus and Byron broke through for the latter’s maiden Cup win in the 2020 season finale at Daytona, punching their ticket to the playoffs. Ironically, the victory knocked Johnson, in his final season of full-time competition, out of playoff contention.
“Just want to give a shout-out to Chad Knaus,” Johnson said in a video posted on social media. “A huge congratulations to you and the move that you’re gonna make. We shared so many great experiences throughout our career in motorsports. I know what you mean to me and to my family, and I’m so happy for you and your family on this next chapter in your career.”
Byron’s 2021 crew chief was not immediately revealed.
“Chad’s been great for my career,” Byron commented in his own video. “He’s honestly elevated me and this team to another level and gotten us to the playoffs the last two years, which has been great for us. Really has taught me a lot of things on and off the track that has helped me in my racing career, so very thankful for that. I feel like, in his role, it’s really going to suit him really well and it’s going to help us as a group to just continue down the path we’re on of running up front and winning races.
“He’s taught me a lot of lessons of maturity and growth, and I think even the guys on the team would say the same in terms of preparation and the approach that we’ve had. I think it’s a different level in professionalism that he brings and it’s really helped us get to this point, which is a playoff-contending team two years in a row. The last six races, I think I’m just gonna try to go out there and do the best I can for him and this team, and hopefully we can get another win to add on to what we’ve done this year. So that would be great.”