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

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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.”

Andretti United team names drivers for inaugural Extreme E season

Extreme E drivers Andretti
Extreme E
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The Extreme E team formed by Andretti Autosport and United Autosports named Catie Munnings and Timmy Hansen as its drivers Monday for the series’ inaugural 2021 season.

Munnings is a successful veteran of rally series. Hansen is a past winner and champion in the World Rallycross Championship.

They both will race in the environmentally conscious electric SUV series that will hold events in five areas around the world that are threatened by climate change. Chip Ganassi Racing and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton also are fielding cars in Extreme E, which will feature male and female co-drivers on every team.

Catie Munnings

“I’m so excited to join Andretti United Extreme E,” Munnings said in a release. ““I was really intrigued when I first heard about Extreme E, I just knew I had to be involved. The male / female racing partnership is a fantastic and exciting new concept. The season has incredible locations and the racing will be very exciting. It will be a new challenge for the teams and drivers, and I’m so thrilled to be working with such a strong team.

“The championship is a really innovative concept, it’s combining motorsport and science and will produce an important legacy in each race location. Bringing the platform that motorsport has in line with the awareness that the planet needs right now is awesome and a really important message.”

Timmy Hansen

Said Hansen: “Going into the Extreme E will be a new chapter in my career, one that I am extremely excited about. It is something brand new, not only for me, but the whole of motorsport. The format is something

we’ve never seen before. I’m also delighted to be able to carry the message of something bigger – talking about the environment and doing something good for the world – that’s something that really drives me. It’s going to be a big adventure in life to see these locations and I’m going to do my best in carrying this responsibility and hopefully making people aware of the challenges we have in the world, together with our passion for racing.”