CONCORD, N.C. -– Chad Knaus, crew chief for William Byron and the No. 24 team, revealed some of the preparationthe team is going through as the Cup Series approaches the final regular-season race at Daytona International Speedway.
The biggest part of the prep work? He will be facing off against his former driver and Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson, for the final playoff spot.
“Oddly enough, as I got home from Dover, I was doing the post-race notes,” said Knaus. “And I was just pondering a little bit. It was like midnight, or something like that, as I was doing my notes. And I was like man, it’s so weird that I’m going to be battling the No. 48 car going into Daytona. And then the next morning, at like 8 a.m., he sent me a text. He’s like, 'Man, isn’t it weird that we’re competing with one another for this?' We texted right there and then we had a phone conversation a little bit later in the week. It is what it is. We’re both professionals here. We understand what’s going on. And it’s racing. It’s competition. We’ll go down there and hopefully, we both get in.”
With all the distractions and suggestions given to Knaus and crew, the crew chief told his teammates to focus on their role and be confident as they make the final preparations for the race.
“It is a little bit different, for sure,” said Knaus. “We actually just had a team meeting not too long ago. And I was chatting with the guys and here’s the way I take this: In all my years of being in this sport and being in different levels of success, somebody is always trying to give me advice on how to handle things and how to approach the weekend, how to approach a race, how to approach a championship. And I told them, 'You guys need to tell whoever it is that’s trying to tell you how to handle your emotions in this type of situation to just go away and let you deal with it your way because you’re a professional and you guys are doing things the way that you can to the best of your ability.'
"The only thing that’s going to happen if people start giving you advice is that you’re going to cloud you and misdirect you. You’ve got to believe in your heart. And, from my standpoint, I fall back on what my experiences are,” he added. “I fall back on my teammates. We’re going to try to lift each other to the highest level we possibly can this weekend to go out there and compete and hopefully come out of there with not only a playoff berth, but a race win because that’s what we’re ultimately trying to do."
With the final race of the regular season being at Daytona, Knaus knows that the event will be chaotic. However, the crew is going down to Florida with an optimistic mindset and a game plan to put Byron in a position to succeed and make the playoffs.
“I won’t be comfortable until I get my butt on the airplane and fly out of that place, I can tell you that,” Knaus joked. “It’s a treacherous race track. Obviously, it’s in the time slot it is for a reason. We like that unpredictability and excitement when it comes to cutoff races for the playoffs or to make the playoffs. It’s all there by design, right? I love Daytona. It’s a great race track. It’s been really good to me over the years.”
Be sure to tune in on Saturday, Aug. 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC to see if Knaus has the winning formula as the No. 24 team chases a playoff berth in Daytona.