CONCORD, N.C. -- Chad Knaus is preparing for his last race as a crew chief, which he described as “bittersweet.”
The seven-time champion said he’s been staying extremely busy and isn’t letting himself think of the “lasts” that will happen on Sunday when he and the rest of the No. 24 team hit the track for the NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Phoenix Raceway.
“I really haven’t thought a lot about it. I think probably because I don’t want to, more than anything,” Knaus said. “I am excited. It is going to be pretty bittersweet knowing that when they throw the checkered flag in Phoenix, that is my last race as a crew chief.”
Knaus will transition to a key executive role with Hendrick Motorsports at the conclusion of the 2020 season. He said his workload has been massive since the move was announced and, while he’s sad he won’t be perched on the pit box anymore, he’s looking forward to focusing on his new responsibilities.
Before Knaus and Hendrick Motorsports announced his promotion, he said he wanted to win another race, this time with driver William Byron the No. 24 team. Byron helped with that wish, thundering to victory lane at Daytona International Speedway on Aug. 29. It was Byron’s first Cup Series win after nearly three seasons with Knaus.
“I was really honored to get the opportunity to move over and work with William and the guys on this team,” Knaus said. “I really wanted to get to victory lane and it was getting pretty deep. I knew this was coming for a while and we hadn’t won yet, so I was getting pretty sad wondering if I was going to ever win again.
“Being able to win in Daytona with William and this group of guys was just awesome. Definitely a very proud moment for me.”
Knaus has 82 points-paying wins in the Cup Series. The first 81 came with Jimmie Johnson, who also will retire from full-time racing in the Cup Series after the Phoenix race. The pair earned seven Cup Series titles together, including an unprecedented five in a row from 2006-2010.
“We always said we would go out together, we just didn’t know it would be with different teams,” Knaus said. “Shoot, Jimmie sent me a text this morning at 5:48 a.m., so we are still tight and still very close friends.
“It’s going to be awesome to see him hopefully win the race. Wouldn’t that be great? For us to be closing out this chapter of our careers together is, I guess, kind of fitting.”
Overall, Knaus wants to be remembered as more than a crew chief. He’s worked his way from being a crew member on the No. 24 team in the 1990s to breaking records by calling the shots atop the pit box. While his legacy at Hendrick Motorsports will continue with his new role, he said his passion that got him in the sport years ago will never waver.
“I just want the community to just think of me as a racer,” Knaus said. “That is what I have done my whole life, and I’m very fortunate to have done this and have this occupation for the majority of my life.
“Being in the Cup Series as long as I have been, I just hope that when they think of me, they think of the contributions that I’ve done and the work that Jimmie (Johnson) and I have done together. Hopefully, we have helped the sport in some way and that we have been good ambassadors to the community.”
Watch Knaus call his last race Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.