Chad Knaus is now preparing the cars that Jeff Gordon is trying to beat to win this year’s championship, and Gordon said that’s something he didn’t see coming.
Knaus began his career at Hendrick Motorsports as a crew member on Gordon’s No. 24 team. Now, he’s crew chief for Jimmie Johnson, who trails Gordon by nine points in the Chase for the Nextel Cup standings.
“Somebody said to me that Chad Knaus could be a good fit for this new team that we were starting up,” Gordon said. “I laughed. ‘You mean Chad, the guy who used to work in the shop? No way. Who made him a crew chief?’
“I admit, I was wrong on that one. Chad has surpassed everything that any of us expected.”
Gordon said Knaus, who won last year’s championship with Johnson, is at least a little bit like Ray Evernham, who led Gordon to three of his four titles.
“He (Knaus) reminds me somewhat of Ray. He's got arrogance about him but it's an arrogance that works and fits,” Gordon said. “For whatever reason, his personality and Jimmie's personality, while they are opposites at times, they seem to get the results. I've said many times that Chad wouldn't work as my crew chief. With my personality, I just don't know if that would work.”
Gordon said his current crew chief, Steve Letarte, is more of a cross between Evernham and Robbie Loomis, with whom Gordon worked from 2000 to 2005.
“He knows how to be relaxed and enjoy life and his family, but he knows how to be intense as well,” Gordon said of Letarte.
“He knows what I like. He's been around to see how I do things and what's been the best results for me as a driver.”
Johnson said he thinks it’s a nice mix for Knaus and Letarte to be working together at the Hendrick Motorsports shop their teams share.
“I think Chad's real strong with the technical side,” Johnson said. “I'm not saying that Stevie isn't, but that's where Chad really looks to and wakes up every day looking to find something in the data where Stevie's kind of the opposite. He's good at that stuff, but it's not what wakes him and gets things flowing for him. He'd rather get up and deal with the people and things like that.
“So they do have two different personalities and it works really well in our shop with the two personalities because they're strong in different areas and we don't have a lot of overlap.”