RELATED: Johnson inks contract extension
BROOKLYN, Mich. — The power trio of Jimmie Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus and primary sponsor Lowe’s has been an enduring combination since Johnson’s first season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2002.
Friday’s announcement of contract extensions at Hendrick Motorsports will keep Johnson in the fold through 2020 and Lowe’s on the No. 48 Chevrolet through 2018. But Knaus?
“I think I’ve got another year to try to convince him,” Johnson said before the opening of on-track activity Friday at Michigan International Speedway. “He has another year on his contract, and I’m sure discussions will take place about an extension for him. But he at least has another year. You know, I’ve started this with him and I’ve said it before, I want to finish it with him, so I’ll keep leaning on him.”
Leaning or not, Knaus smiled when asked about his status.
“Look, we’ve been together for a long time obviously,” Knaus said after the series’ opening practice at the 2-mile track. “Great friends, great teammates all the way around with Lowe’s and Hendrick Motorsports and Jimmie. I don’t think the future is written in stone, but it’s looking good, how’s that.”
Knaus, 45, came to Hendrick Motorsports after one year serving as crew chief with Melling Racing and driver Stacy Compton. Since joining Hendrick for Johnson’s rookie year, Knaus has been a driving force behind the team’s success, which has seen Johnson rack up 83 career wins and seven series championships.
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Johnson indicated he’s still motivated to achieve milestones beyond those already impressive numbers, and that the end of his contract and end of his career are not necessarily synonymous. Knaus agreed.
“At the rate he’s going, I don’t see why it would change too much by then,” Knaus said of his driver’s determination. “He’d still be very young in relative terms, obviously maybe a little bit older as some of the drivers go, but his ability is there, his desire is there, his physical fitness is definitely there, so as long as he wants to drive, he’s going to have an opportunity to do it. And he’ll know when that time is before anybody else.”
As for Knaus’ ability, desire and fitness?
“I enjoy the hell out of what I do. I really do,” Knaus said. “I have the best job in the world. I mean, I work for the best race team, I’ve got the best driver, I’ve got the best sponsor, and they keep asking me to come back, so it’s pretty good.”
While he struck a hopeful tone about keeping the pairing intact, Johnson seemed to acknowledge the week-in, week-out demands on a crew chief at NASCAR’s highest level.
“Crew-chief years, I’d like to call them dog years,” Johnson said. “I don’t have a clear picture on where that will take him, but I’ll do my best to keep him around as long as I can.”