Chad Knaus, other Hendrick Motorsports team members join Jimmie Johnson at Rolex 24

Johnson Knaus Rolex NASCAR
IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The echoes of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports go well beyond the familiar number that Jimmie Johnson will be driving in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express Racing has been surrounded by reminders during the Roar Before the Rolex at Daytona International Speedway this weekend.

Its stall is cordoned off by the black nylon dividers that the No. 48 Cup team has used to shoo away unauthorized personnel in the garages of NASCAR’s premier series. The paint scheme is strikingly similar to Johnson’s No. 48 Camaro from his final two seasons in Cup.

And five Hendrick employees are helping support the car – most notably vice president of competition Chad Knaus, who guided Johnson to his seven NASCAR Cup championships and now will try to help win his first Rolex 24 at Daytona.

‘STEEP LEARNING CURVE’: Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson make sports car transition

NO. 48 LEADS MOTUL 100 WARMUP: Kobayashi sets the pace for qualifying race at 2 p.m.

During Sunday morning’s warmup session, Knaus walked briskly from the team’s garage stall to pit lane to monitor laps by Johnson and co-driver Kamui Kobayashi. Johnson said Knaus has been running the settings on a laptop program to help sift through driver data.

“It’s been great to work with him,” Johnson said. “He’s definitely ingrained in the team.

“It’s awesome. There’s nothing weird about it. It’s very meaningful to me, and I know it is to him to be back working together. It’s been awesome. I’m really, really excited about it.”

According to a Hendrick Motorsports team spokesman, the team dispatched five team members to Daytona in support of Johnson’s car – Knaus, an engineer, two mechanics and a pit crew member.

By working on the No. 48 Cadillac for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Hendrick Motorsports team members are being exposed to the single lug nut pit stops that are coming to NASCAR next season (IMSA).

Team owner Rick Hendrick helped broker the business deals that put Johnson in an Ally-sponsored all-star car one-off for the Rolex 24 and opened a slot for Chase Elliott on the No. 31 (because that is Action Express’ fully staffed championship team, Hendrick has no team members on that car).

So it was natural for the team to send some employees to Action Express team manager Gary Nelson, a former Hendrick employee and NASCAR Cup Series director.

“With Rick being involved and all the very talented race people at Hendrick Motorsports, that’s how they ended up there,” said Johnson, who drove 19 seasons for Hendrick from 2002-20 before .

Knaus has been active on Twitter from Daytona, posting updates of No. 48 pit stops Saturday night with some of the Hendrick group.

Nelson told SportsCar365.com that Action Express had recruited some other NASCAR team members for the No. 48 pit crew, selling them on the chance to get ahead with NASCAR’s impending switch to single-lug pit stops next season.

IMSA teams use the aluminum wheels and single lug nuts that will be on the NextGen car, which incorporates many elements of sports cars.

“That requires a lot more powerful air wrench than the five lug nut, NASCAR-style of today,” Nelson told SportsCar365. “The air gun is so much heavier. It didn’t take them long, but it is a transition that these pit crew guys will not have to go through in NASCAR next year.”

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit. Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome in 1974. Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

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Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2