CONCORD, N.C. – The No. 24 team will have a new look for Hendrick Motorsports in 2019 with Chad Knaus atop the pit box.
Announced last October, the seven-time champion crew chief has moved from the No. 48 team to join reigning NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year William Byron on the No. 24 team.
“I’m really excited about this season,” said Knaus, who began his Hendrick Motorsports career as a No. 24 team member. “I’ve said it a bunch. I’ve been a 24 fan – I’ve wanted to be crew chief on that 24 car since the first time I set foot on this campus back in 1993. To be back on the 24 car is really a dream come true.”
The crew chief said the transition period has been “a lot of fun” as he and Byron get to know one another and build a rapport with the season quickly approaching.
“We have a great relationship – he’s very receptive to getting together, he’s very receptive to policies, he’s very receptive to what the expectations are from the team’s standpoint, he offers up what his expectations are,” Knaus shared. “It’s been great. We text a lot, he’s been here probably six to eight times during the offseason, which is pretty amazing. It’s been fun. I’ve really enjoyed it so far, I really have. It’s only going to get better and grow more.”
In addition to Knaus, other new teammates have been added to the roster as the No. 24 Axalta team was revamped leading into 2019.
“We’ve got a lot of new faces on the team, a lot of new guys, and there’s a lot of enthusiasm,” the crew chief said. “I really, really like it. It’s really exciting.”
While Knaus and Byron were on separate teams last year, the crew chief quickly recognized the young driver’s talent on the track. It came as no surprise, with Byron becoming just the second driver in NASCAR history to earn rookie of the year honors in the Truck Series, Xfinity Series and Cup Series consecutively.
Now, Byron can finally take the rookie stripes off and settle into one series.
“I have a lot of respect for William,” Knaus said. “It’s amazing what he’s done in the short period of time that he’s been racing. This is his first time, if I remember this correctly, first time in six seasons that he’s doing a repeat series. That is phenomenal. Think about that – nobody advances like that, so clearly he’s got a ton of talent and hopefully I can get him the product he needs and then extract more out of him.”
Coming from a long-term relationship with Johnson and the No. 48 team, Knaus joked that it may still take some getting used to his new team.
“There’s an adjustment period, for sure,” he laughed. “I’m definitely probably going to walk into the wrong transporter, I’m probably going to say ‘Jimmie’ or the wrong car chief’s name at some point, that stuff’s going to happen.”
All jokes aside, the No. 24 team is grinding to prepare for 2019. With the Daytona 500 less than two weeks away – and qualifying for “The Great American Race” this Sunday – the new-look No. 24 team is preparing just as hard on how it will approach a race weekend as it is working on the cars.
“We’re working on those procedures and policies and communication and what the expectations are,” Knaus explained. “We’re going through all that and, frankly, we’re probably working on that more than we are the race cars right now, just to make sure when we get to the racetrack, we don’t have any missed nuggets that we didn’t account for.”
Knaus said the goal is the same this year as it is every year – to get to Homestead-Miami Speedway and race for a championship at the end of the season. In the meantime, he’s expecting excellence from his new squad.
“Our goals are to have a team that goes, represents, competes and does what it’s supposed to do,” he said. “Nobody here on this complex, all 600 people, nobody was happy with the way that we performed last year, so everybody is digging pretty deep right now to try to get better.
“I think it will pay dividends.”