CONCORD, N.C. -- Chad Knaus’ first season as Hendrick Motorsports’ vice president of competition has been nothing short of a dream for the former crew chief, but there is still one box he wants to check off to tie a nice bow around the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season: the 2021 championship.
Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott both are in the Championship 4 event at Phoenix Raceway this Sunday, marking the first time Hendrick Motorsports has had two drivers in the final round in the current playoff format. Even though Knaus isn’t on top of the pit box anymore, his new role permits him to work closely with all four of the organization’s teams. Under his eye, the crews have leaned on each other and offered support in multiple ways, which allowed Hendrick Motorsports to flourish over the last 10 months.
“The teamwork has just been impeccable,” Knaus said. “I love the fact that we have four crew chiefs who have a desire to communicate with one another. The openness and the dialogue that happens behind closed doors those doors and then out in the middle of the shops is amazing. You'll see the crew chiefs just colliding and bumping into one another having conversations, expressing what they're doing on one car and their desires or needs in another area, and that's something that we necessarily haven't always had in the past.
“But we've been working for years to get to this point and the teams right now. With the four drivers that we've got, the four crew chiefs, the four car chiefs, they really have a great dynamic. It's a lot of fun to watch these guys grow.”
All four teams made it into the playoffs this season and have contributed impressive moments, including 16 total victories, winning the All-Star Race, finishing 1-2-3-4 at Dover International Speedway, earning Chevrolet its 800th win, and securing the regular-season championship. For Knaus, all those individual accolades add up to how well the organization has gelled over the past year.
“If you really sit back and you look at all of these things, it’s just a culmination of a lot of work and a lot of people's desire to get this place running the way that it should,” Knaus said. “I'd love to say there's one item that I'm super proud of, but honestly, the one item I'm super proud of is the collective effort of Hendrick Motorsports.”
With all eyes on Phoenix Raceway this Sunday, Hendrick Motorsports has a statistical 50% shot of earning its record-extending 14th Cup Series championship. Hendrick Motorsports general manager Jeff Andrews said no matter the outcome of the title race, the organization has performed at the highest standard this season, which is all anyone can ask for.
“I don’t think either one of them should sit back and look at anything in 2021 other than a tremendous success, not only for those two teams but for our other two teams and our entire organization,” Andrews said. “We’re very proud of the effort and we are pushing hard to go finish off one of our greatest years ever with a championship.”
Knaus agrees with Andrews and said winning a title with Hendrick Motorsports would be the ultimate way to cap off such a successful season after reaching so many milestones. As the four teams get their plans set for Phoenix, Knaus will sit back a little bit and watch the teams’ hard work come to life at the track.
“We've had our reigning champion go out there and win races and run up towards the front,” Knaus said. “We've welcomed a new driver with Kyle Larson, and he's won a tremendous amount of races. We got William Byron getting a win and the No. 48 car getting four wins to date. You know those guys are doing a really good job of building up their teams.
“So, if we can do that for the company, I think it would be an honor and, obviously for me in my first year in this role as vice president of competition, it would be a be a really nice little notch up there.”