After seventeen years and seven Cup Series championships with Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48, Chad Knaus is excited for his new challenge and the opportunity to move back to the team he worked with more than two decades ago.
“You guys don’t understand my passion for the 24 team,” Knaus said. “It just goes so deep. It’s in my blood.”
In October, Hendrick Motorsports announced Knaus’ move to William Byron’s No. 24 for the 2019 season, ending the longest-running crew chief-driver relationship in NASCAR.
“Even when we were winning championships for the 48, I’m still paying attention to what the 24 was doing. So, to be back on the 24 car is really a dream come true. When I came to Hendrick Motorsports, my goal was to be crew chief on the 24 car.”
Knaus previously worked on the No. 24 team from 1993 to 1998 under crew chief Ray Evernham, overseeing body development and serving as a tire changer during a run that saw Jeff Gordon win a pair of Cup Series titles in 1995 and 1997.
Now with his dream job, Knaus has the chance to help shape Byron’s young career the way he did for Johnson.
“I have a lot of respect for William,” Knaus said. “It’s amazing what he’s done in the short period of time that he’s been racing. It’s amazing to me. This is his first time in six seasons that he’s doing a repeat series. That is phenomenal. Think about that – nobody advances like that, so clearly he’s got a ton of talent and hopefully I can get him the product he needs and then extract more out of him.
“It has definitely lit a fire back in me that I wouldn’t say died, but maybe helps transform me into a more aggressive approach, which is definitely what we need.”
Byron, who won the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title last year to become just the second driver to win Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series rookie honors in consecutive seasons, is eager to dive into the new partnership.
“Working with Chad is going to be exciting,” Byron said. “We’ve started the process back in December, just doing things together as a team. I feel like it’s growing … It’s a new season and you never know what’s going to happen.”
The duo will look to improve upon the four top-10 finishes Byron registered in 2018 as Knaus aims to help the 21-year-old to the NASCAR Playoffs for the first time.
Byron and Knaus got off to the perfect start on Sunday, kicking off their new partnership by putting the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet on the pole for the Daytona 500.
“My goal and our goal at Hendrick Motorsports is to have four teams that are capable of going out there and battling for wins and are in a position to battle for championships every single race and every single year,” Knaus said. “I feel that William has the ability to do that.
“I’ve really enjoyed it so far, I really have. It’s only going to get better and grow more.”