CONCORD, N.C. – There's no shortage of championship experience between No. 48 team crew chief Chad Knaus and driver Jimmie Johnson.
With six championships under their belts, they’ve just about seen it all.
But this Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway will still provide a first.
“We've been able to go down to Homestead and bid for the championship in a lot of different scenarios, with a points deficit, with a points lead, and this is definitely unique, starting at zero and just going out there for the best man to win,” Knaus said. “I'm comfortable with it. I'm looking forward to it.”
And the crew chief said Wednesday that he has noticed his driver is equally as comfortable.
Tuesday afternoon, Hendrick Motorsports general manager Doug Duchardt said Johnson has been unflappably “California cool” in the face of one final race with a championship on the line.
“He's definitely as calm as I've ever seen him going into any event, be it a championship, going to a Martinsville race, a Fontana race, whatever race it may be,” he said. “He feels prepared, and I think his confidence and his calmness comes from being prepared.”
The crew chief pointed to the speed the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS has displayed throughout the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and how well the pit crew has been performing as further motives for Johnson’s confidence.
Still, both Knaus and his driver know what’s on the line Sunday.
“What's really cool about it is if we were able to pull this off, it would be seven titles with the same driver, same crew chief, same sponsor and same team, which would be even more phenomenal,” he said. “It's been an honor to be able to work with Jimmie, Lowe's and Hendrick Motorsports throughout this portion of my career.”
“To Jimmie personally, obviously he is by far one of my best friends, and to be able to have seen him grow and mature into the driver and the family man that he is has been awesome,” Knaus continued. “It's been a great ride.”
As for the strategy for Championship 4 weekend, Knaus said that while he has never been through a Chase finale with a title on the line in the new format, the No. 48 team won’t change its mindset.
“Being cognizant of where the other three competitors are throughout the course of the event is going to be a premium, but you really can't approach it any differently,” he said. “We're going to show up at the racetrack, we're going to go and we're going to qualify the best we possibly can, we're going to work on our car as much in practice as we possibly can to make it fast, and then we're going to go race for 267 laps and let the chips fall where they may at the end.
“Regardless of whatever happens down there, this team has performed very well this year, and I'm excited about getting down there and doing this. It's going to be a lot of fun.”