By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
All around the web this week everyone has been asking one question: Is Jimmie Johnson the best driver of all-time? He is a great driver, and after four-straight Sprint Cup Series championships and 50 victories in just over eight seasons he has earned the right to be in that conversation… but where is the love for Chad Knaus?
I think the reason there isn’t a Chad Knaus fan club by now, is because not many people know much about where he came from.
Chad was a prodigy crew chief by the age of 14. He was the crew chief for his father John. With the young Chad Knaus turning the wrenches his father would go on to be the track champion at Rockford Speedway in 1985. By 1991 The father-son combination took home seven track championships, and it was time for Chad to chase his lifelong dream of making it to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Knaus’ big break came in 1993 when he landed a job with Hendrick Motorsports. Knaus started off as a fabricator, but by 1995 he found himself on the front lines as a tire changer for the infamous “Rainbow Warrior” team. Knaus contributed to two championships for Jeff Gordon in 1995 and 1997, but ultimately Knaus wanted to do bigger and better things.
After bouncing around the Sprint Cup Series with several teams including Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 1998, Chad Knaus got his first opportunity as a crew chief in 2001 with the Melling Racing team. With Stacy Compton behind the wheel during that season, Knaus was able to tune the no. 9 car to two pole positions during the season, but ultimately seven DNF’s doomed the team down the stretch. Obviously Knaus showed a little something as he was snatched up the next season.
Rick Hendrick re-hired Knaus, but this time as a crew chief to a relatively unknown rookie driver in the then Winston Cup Series (Now Sprint Cup Series) named Jimmie Johnson. Johnson came in with little hype due to his rough start in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, but since then the two have been on fire.
In Johnson’s rookie season they tied the rookie record for most wins in a season with three victories and they went on to finish fifth in the final point standings… fifth is the worst Jimmie Johnson has ever finished in the point standings during his eight-year Sprint Cup career by the way.
The pair of Johnson and Knaus has won at least three races in every season they have been together, and they have become the first team to ever win four straight Sprint Cup Series championships, oh and they have shown no signs of being done just yet.
Now we know Chad Knaus has been suspended by NASCAR in the past for bending the rules here and there, but what crew chief doesn’t try to play with the gray areas?
What it all boils down to is that Knaus has been right by Johnson’s side every step of the way, and many attribute Knaus’ brilliance to Jimmie Johnson’s current reign… so why isn’t anyone asking if Chad Knaus is the best crew chief ever? Well consider the question officially asked…
Is Chad Knaus the best crew chief ever?