CONCORD, N.C. – After nearly 20 years as a crew chief for Hendrick Motorsports, Chad Knaus is hanging up his headset and moving into an executive role as vice president of competition. The 49-year-old veteran has seven NASCAR Cup Series titles and 82 wins under his belt, capping off an illustrious career.
For Knaus, the decision to move on from calling the shots on top of the pit box has been in the making for a while.
“It was a tough decision to try to figure out what I wanted to do, but it’s the right decision for everybody and all parties involved,” Knaus said. “I feel like at Hendrick Motorsports, we need to continue to grow the leadership. Jeff Andrews (executive vice president and general manager) has done a great job. He’s got a lot on his plate and needs to be elevated, and that opens up a void.
“(For) myself, my family, it’s time for me to try to make a change to where I can spend more time with them and try to impact the company as a whole. Sitting on top of the pit box for as long as I have, and I’ve been traveling full-time since I was about 16 years old, it’s time to pull back just a little bit and not be on the road every single week and spend some time with my family.”
Knaus credits talks with Jeff Gordon in making his decision to change careers a little easier. Gordon was in a similar situation when he retired from full-time racing in 2016.
“Jeff has been impactful, he really has,” Knaus said. “He and I sat down, I guess the first time three or four years ago, and we sat down and had a conversation over a glass of wine and talked and spit-balled a little bit. He was curious where my head was in the future and what I wanted to do.
“I have a ton of respect for Jeff. He brings a uniqueness to our company. He’s an extremely successful race car driver, very, very talented in the broadcast booth, so he understands that side of things. (He’s) very, very good with the sponsors and has a good, unique vision on how things should go forward. I think he was a big part of me understanding what the role is going to be moving forward.”
Knaus added that conversations with team owner Rick Hendrick and his former driver Jimmie Johnson, with whom he won all seven championships, also factored into his decision to take on an executive role. He knew he wanted to stay with the organization but that he needed to slow down a bit for the sake of his family. In August, Knaus and wife Brooke welcomed their daughter, Vivienne Mae. She joined older brother Kip, who just had his second birthday.
“I don’t want to be that old crew chief walking around the garage, and his knees hurt, his back hurts and he’s just kind of making day-by-day. That’s not my goal in life,” Knaus said. “I have a lot to do that I want to do with my family. I’m really excited about my new little girl … and my son is awesome. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to watch these two grow up and be that positive influence on their lives.”
William Byron earning his first Cup Series win also solidified Knaus’ decision to step down after 2020. This is the second season the duo has worked together, and Byron’s exciting victory at Daytona International Speedway on Aug. 29 was the perfect way for Knaus to cap off his crew chief career.
“I really, really wanted to get a victory in that No. 24 car,” he said. “It was something I dreamt about since I was a very young man. To be able to get that this year definitely helped tremendously. It’s all about timing and right now is just the right time.”