Chad Knaus called on carpet by NASCAR, but incident is swept under it

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When a crew chief is informed before the race is over that his presence is requested at the NASCAR hauler immediately after the checkered flag, that’s usually not good news.

Especially if the person in question is six-time champion crew chief Chad Knaus.

But when Knaus reached the NASCAR hauler after the race, ultimately, it wound up being much ado about nothing, according to NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton.

Knaus had been beckoned by NASCAR officials because he wanted to put a wheel spacer on Jimmie Johnson’s car during the race to correct an issue, but was overruled by a NASCAR pit road official.

“Yeah, that’s basically it, but it’s fine,” Pemberton said. “Everything is done. We just wanted to clear the air, clarify everything. It’s really a non-issue.”

Just when fans thought there might be a hefty fine or suspension in the future for Knaus, no stranger to NASCAR penalties and suspensions, Pemberton said the entire incident was overblown.

“We just had a discussion on pit road between our official and Chad, and really it was just to discuss it, what they tried to do, and that’s it, really,” Pemberton said. “It was really not a big deal. We were just trying to clarify what went on, that’s all.”

It wasn’t like Johnson was running for the championship, because he had been eliminated at the end of the Contender’s Round four races ago.

While Knaus felt he was within his rights as a crew chief, the pit road official essentially said nay-nay.

I’m not going to get into the weeds on that, but sometimes if you thought you had an issue with a wheel stud or something mechanical like that, you may need to put a spacer on to get some clean threads for the lug nuts,” Pemberton said. “I have no idea, and that’s not our question. It really is such a small, minute deal, it’s fine. Everything is good.”

The right protocol would have been for Knaus to ask the pit road official for permission to put in the spacer.

That would be a better way to do that, yeah,” Pemberton said. “But in the heat of the battle, it’s fine. Everything is fine.”

And there will not be any penalties, either.

“No, it’s so far under (the NASCAR penalty threshold) that it’s ridiculous,” Pemberton said. “We’re good.”

Whoooo, thank goodness that’s cleared up.

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Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.