Chad Knaus: Despite big lead, it’s “rather simple” to keep 48 team motivated

Leave a comment

As Jimmie Jonson and his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team head into Indianapolis to defend their Brickyard 400 title, they’re doing so with a 56-point lead in the Sprint Cup championship standings. But in seven weeks’ time, everything will reset for them and the rest of the title contenders as they enter the Chase.

For Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, that makes it easy to keep the team focused as the regular season winds down.

“As far as keeping our feet on the ground, it’s really rather simple with the group of guys that we’ve got,” Knaus said yesterday in a conference call. “We all know that in seven weeks, this is all going away: This point lead, the momentum, the victories, all that is going to mean nothing as soon as we get to Chicagoland Raceway, and when we get there, we have to be on top of [our game].

“So to motivate these guys right now isn’t really ‑‑ the issue is making them realize that in seven weeks, they have to take their games to the next level and that’s really hard to do. Because if you sit back now and think that you can coast until Chicago, you’re sadly mistaken, because the most important thing to do going into Chicago is to make sure you have momentum on your side, and that’s what our focus is.”

Indianapolis Motor Speedway could be a place where that momentum continues to build for them. Johnson and Knaus have claimed four Brickyard 400 wins, including their victory last year, which saw Johnson lead 99 of 160 laps and pull away to a win by almost five seconds.

To Knaus, momentum doesn’t particularly affect how he, Johnson and the 48 crew prepare each week. But, in his words, “it damn sure doesn’t hurt” and gives them confidence in their decision making – especially when it comes on the fly.

“It just gives you a level of comfort to be able to go out there and attack,” Knaus said on why that intangible matters so much. “A lot of the decisions that we make, we want to say that we are so educated and we are so prepared; a lot what have we do is just off the hip.”

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
Leave a comment

Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.