Chad Knaus’s bold pit call gamble backfires

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Chad Knaus is one of the biggest gambling crew chiefs in Sprint Cup. He takes chances and plays the odds when other crew chiefs would rather play it safe.

More often than not, Knaus’s gambles have paid off quite handsomely, particularly during the record-setting, five-season Sprint Cup championship run by his driver, Jimmie Johnson, from 2006-2010.

But in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, Knaus made a rare gamble that didn’t pay off.

Surprisingly, if not shockingly, Knaus called for just two tires on Johnson’s final pit stop of the race. You would think that with all the twists and turns Johnson had to do on the nearly 2-mile road course, that Knaus would outfit him with fresh rubber on all four corners of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

Perhaps Knaus was trying to get Johnson a competitive advantage with the two-tire stop. After all, because of significantly cooler than expected temperatures during the race, both in the air and on the racing surface, tires did not wear as much as crew chiefs likely anticipated.

But in the end, Johnson faded in the closing laps as several drivers passed him. He ultimately finished ninth, when he appeared headed to an easy top-five, maybe even top-three showing.

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.