Chad Knaus is the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion crew chief of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team of Hendrick Motorsports. In 2018, he will again guide driver Jimmie Johnson as the duo seeks a record-breaking eighth championship in their 17th season together.
Knaus is the only crew chief in NASCAR history to have earned five consecutive Cup championships – a feat he achieved after leading the No. 48 team to titles from 2006 through 2010. All told, the Rockford, Illinois, native’s seven total championships rank as the second-most all-time among crew chiefs, just one shy of NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Inman’s record of eight.
Knaus’ crew chief-driver partnership with Johnson is currently the longest running in NASCAR, as is his relationship with full-season primary sponsor Lowe’s Home Improvement, which has supported the No. 48 team since its inception in 2001.
Knaus’ introduction to racing occurred at an early age as he followed his father, John, to tracks around the Midwest, helping out when he could and paying close attention when he couldn’t. The desire to race only grew throughout Knaus’ adolescence, and, at 14 years old, his future was foreshadowed when he served as crew chief for his father. John Knaus won seven championships at Rockford Speedway, including four straight from 1987-90 while competing against racing legends like Mark Martin, Alan Kulwicki, Rusty Wallace and Dick Trickle. A sharp focus on detail, success and leadership was engrained well before the younger Knaus set his sights on NASCAR.
After graduating high school, Chad Knaus moved to North Carolina to pursue a career in racing. In 1993, his determination paid off when he was offered a position on the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team of driver Jeff Gordon. From 1993 to 1998, Knaus assumed a variety of duties under the direction of crew chief and mentor Ray Evernham. He started in the body shop as an assistant and gradually worked his way through the ranks to the fabrication department. Eventually, he was placed in charge of body development and served as a tire changer for the team, proving to be an integral part of Gordon’s 1995 and 1997 NASCAR Cup Series championships.
After the 1997 season, Knaus left Hendrick Motorsports to pursue his dream of becoming a crew chief. The organization was stocked with a solid staff, but NASCAR Hall of Fame car owner Rick Hendrick vowed that he would one day bring back Knaus, who spent the next few years gaining valuable experience as a car chief at Dale Earnhardt Inc. for driver Steve Park. In 2000, he went back to work for Evernham at the fledgling Evernham Motorsports team with driver Casey Atwood. The following year, Knaus realized his goal when he became crew chief for Melling Racing and driver Stacy Compton, who won two poles at Talladega Superspeedway.
In 2002, Knaus seized an opportunity to return to Hendrick Motorsports as the crew chief for the organization’s newly expanded fourth Cup team with rookie driver Johnson. The duo opened the season by winning the pole position for the prestigious Daytona 500 and didn’t look back. In short order, Knaus and Johnson achieved the team’s first victory in just their 13th race together at Fontana, California. The pair completed a stunning rookie season with three victories, six top-five finishes, 21 top-10s, four pole positions and a fifth-place result in the championship standings.
In the three years that followed, the Knaus-Johnson partnership continued to build momentum and threaten for championships. From 2003-05, Knaus led the No. 48 team to 18 victories and an average finish of 3.5 in the final standings. They finished second in both 2003 and 2004, followed by a fifth-place effort in 2005.
In 2006, the team’s persistence was rewarded. Knaus and Johnson won their first Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 trophies on the way to capturing their first NASCAR Cup Series championship. It proved to be just the beginning, as under Knaus’ guidance the No. 48 team went on to a record-setting five straight titles from 2006-10. During the dominating run, the No. 48 team scored 39 victories, 81 top-five finishes, 117 top-10s and 17 pole positions.
The streak finally ended in 2011, with Knaus and Johnson winning five races but finishing sixth in the standings. In 2012, Knaus led the No. 48 team to capture Hendrick Motorsports’ milestone 200th points-paying Cup victory on May 12 at Darlington Raceway. The win was a boost for the team, which closed out the year with four more wins while in contention for the championship. In the 2012 season finale, a rear-gear issue sidelined Johnson with 43 laps to go and left the team ranked third in the standings.
A sixth championship was captured in 2013 when Johnson again won the season-opening Daytona 500 and recorded the first points-paying victory with Chevrolet’s Generation-6 race car, the brand new Chevy SS. Knaus’ team remained ranked No. 1 in the standings for 28 of the series’ 36 race weekends en route to the Cup title.
The 2014 season marked the first time the team finished outside the top 10 in the final standings, and in 2015 Johnson ended the campaign in 10th place. Although the team won nine races in two years, the overall performance did not sit well with the six-time champions, so Knaus set the bar high for 2016.
After finishing 16th in the 2016 Daytona 500, Knaus and Johnson won two races out of the first five. The team encountered a winless stretch that spanned 24 races, but they dug in for the final 10 playoff events of the season. In October, they won for a record eighth time at Charlotte Motor Speedway and then again at Martinsville Speedway, securing a bid as one of the final four teams competing for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway. History was made on Nov. 20, as Johnson started last and finished first in dramatic style – winning a record-tying seventh championship that matched the mark held by NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty.
Knaus and Johnson won three races together in 2017 including
Johnson’s 83rd, which tied legend Cale Yarborough on the all-time list. The No.
48 team again made the playoffs before being eliminated in the Round of 8 at
Phoenix in the season’s penultimate race. The team enters 2018 with a brand new
Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 race car, continuing support from longtime sponsor Lowe’s
Home Improvement and a clean slate to vie for a record eighth championship.
Knaus resides in Charlotte, North Carolina, with wife Brooke.
During his free time, he enjoys traveling, speaking engagements, snowboarding and