Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series finale will serve as the last race for several drivers and team pairings, as well as the final race for two drivers and a crew chief.
Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer will make their final starts behind the wheel before beginning their next chapters. Johnson heads to IndyCar for a busy road and street course slate with Chip Ganassi Racing. Bowyer is going to take on broadcasting with Fox Sports.
Meanwhile, Johnson’s former crew chief, Chad Knaus, calls time on his career atop the pit box. Knaus will make his final start with the No. 24 team and William Byron before moving into a managerial role with Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the season.
“I don’t know that it has really set in just yet that this will be my final race as a crew chief,” said Knaus. “Honestly, I’ve been trying to keep myself really busy. Every time I think about it, I start to get pretty sad, so I’ve been staying as busy as I can. I’m sure that when we get to the end of the race Sunday that it’s going to be a tough moment for me and for my brother Jimmie.
“Obviously, it’s going to be tough to walk away from this full time on the crew chief level, but it will be a good thing. It’s a good opportunity for me, and it’s a great opportunity for the No. 24 team and for Rudy [Fugle] to really get started on their future.”
Knaus has worked with four drivers in his 20-year Cup Series tenure, but Johnson being the most recognizable. He started with Casey Atwood and Stacey Compton before moving to Hendrick Motorsports, where he guided Johnson to a record-tying seven championships. Only one crew chief, Dale Inman, has more titles than Knaus.
In over 700 starts as a crew chief, Knaus has won 82 races. Race wins include all the sport’s most significant – the Daytona 500, Southern 500, Coca-Cola 600, and Brickyard 400. And Knaus is also the only crew chief to qualify for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs each year since it debuted in 2004.
“Without Chad Knaus, there absolutely would not have been the powerhouse that came to be the No. 48 team,” said Johnson. “The guy never slept. He ate and breathed racing, always making us stronger, making us better, and finding the edge. Now he doesn’t sleep because he has young kids, which makes me smile more than anything because he absolutely loves being a dad.
“Knaus is one of my best friends. I love him like a brother. I am so incredibly happy for him, for Brooke and his growing family, and I know he is going to take Hendrick Motorsports to the next level in a way only Chad can. For 17 years, we accomplished so much. It’s mind-blowing. He is my brother, there’s just no way around it. I couldn’t be happier for him for this next chapter.”