Jimmie Johnson pit crew overhauled for 12 Hours of Sebring by Hendrick VP Chad Knaus


Hendrick Motorsports turned to among the best at pit crew assembly to coordinate service at the Twelve Hours of Sebring for Jimmie Johnson, Simon Pagenaud and Kamui Kobayashi.

Chad Knaus, the former crew chief who guided Johnson to seven NASCAR Cup Series championships, personally selected the five-member crew that will pit the No. 48 Action Express Cadillac during Saturday’s race at Sebring International Raceway.

The sports car classic will be the first of three more Michelin Endurance Cup races this season for the Ally-sponsored No. 48, which finished second in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Though the all-star lineup gelled well in the season opener, Kobayashi said last week in a Zoom news conference the team’s pit stops were behind the pace of the Rolex 24 winner.

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“Our team is kind of new,” Kobayashi said. “Action Express is running the team with Hendrick, but obviously many guys are coming from Hendrick, which has never been in the sports cars. When you look at every pit stop, we lost quite a bit of lap time.

“So I think there are many things that we can improve, so (the team) is 100 percent sure we’ll be OK in the next Sebring. I think the general feeling is we will have more opportunity in the next three rounds.”

Johnson said between practices Thursday at Sebring that a faulty fuel rig had been the culprit for the slower stops at Daytona, and the problem had been diagnosed and fixed at the shop afterward.

Knaus, who became Hendrick’s vice president of competition last year, has picked Scott Honan, Cody French, Mike Hubert, Mike McAndrews and Jamie Frady to pit the No. 48 at Sebring.

Honan is the only carryover from the pit crew at the Rolex 24 as Hendrick uses the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races partly in preparation for NASCAR’s move to the NextGen car (which has similar characteristics to the DPi cars, including single-lug wheels). French is the only member of the crew currently making pit stops in NASCAR for Hendrick.

In a story posted to the Hendrick Motorsports website, Knaus said the changes were made based on the available resources at Hendrick Motorsports (which had several of its Rolex 24 crew members on other duties this weekend).

“The majority of them are from a mechanical background,” Knaus said in the story. “Maybe ex-pit crew members who have the mechanical aptitude of being situationally aware, so I picked those guys because of that. Guys who maybe have driven race cars before. Guys who have been on road crews before. Guys who built their own cars. Things of that nature are why those guys were picked.

“In an endurance race, you just don’t know what’s going to happen. Anything can break. Anything can fall off. You can crash. All those things, you’ve got to be prepared. Mechanical aptitude is pretty high in the decision-making process.”

The pit crew also will remain the same for the next two races at Watkins Glen and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, and Johnson said Thursday that the continuity should help.

“I’m glad Chad’s here and has such an eye for things,” Johnson said. “We now have a dedicated crew that’s going to be able to check in with Action Express throughout the weekend and really get integrated into the team. After this weekend, the final two races, this seems like second nature to them and not so foreign.

“Pit stops on the NASCAR side with five lug nuts is just a different discipline in doing that. You need certainly an athletic person but somebody with great racing knowledge. So if someone can change brakes in a 24-hour race or spot and see issues when they go over the wall and address and fix it or talk to the team about it. It’s a little different skillset for tire changers than on the NASCAR side.”

Johnson, 45, will be making his debut at the iconic road course, which will mark his final IMSA tune-up before the beginning of his 13-race rookie schedule in the NTT IndyCar Series, which will begin April 18 at Barber Motorsports Park.

He also will be teamed with Kobayashi and Pagenaud in the IMSA DPi ride for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen at Watkins Glen International on June 27 and the Motul Petit Le Mans season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on Nov. 13.

The expansion of the team’s schedule happened abruptly after Daytona. Johnson told Holly Cain of the IMSA Wire Service that “literally going to the airport following the Rolex race, the CEO and CMO of Ally said, ‘We need to talk to you tomorrow, this is amazing.’ Mr. (Rick) Hendrick is like, ‘We need to do more of this. This is amazing.’ And (IMSA and NASCAR Chairman and co-owner of Action Express) Jim France was saying, ‘How can we make this happen?’

“So literally Sunday afternoon (the day of the Rolex 24 finish) and then Monday morning before 8 o’clock – before I had my kids dropped off at school – I had a pretty darn good idea it was going to happen. There was a lot of momentum. Everybody kind of felt the same. There were some things to iron out, but the real momentum was there, and everybody wanted to make it happen.”

Knaus also will be at the 69th running of Sebring, though he joked that he wasn’t that important at Daytona aside from getting “a couple of guys coffee a few times.” He will have more responsibility at Sebring as Johnson revealed Friday that Knaus will be in charge of strategy for Saturday’s race.

“I just tried to help with the communication from Jimmie with the crew chief and the engineer down there,” Knaus told the Hendrick website. “Because I know Jimmie pretty well.”

Seattle Supercross by the numbers: Three riders separated by 17 points


Three riders remain locked in a tight battle with 17 points separating the leader Cooper Webb from third-place Chase Sexton and these are only a few Supercross numbers to consider entering Seattle.

Seattle Supercross numbers
Chase Sexton made a statement in Detroit with his second win of 2023. – Feld Motor Sports

For the fifth time in 10 rounds. Sexton, Webb, and Eli Tomac shared the podium in Detroit. Between them, the trio has taken 23 podiums, leaving only seven for the remainder of the field. Jason Anderson, Ken Roczen and Justin Barcia have two each with Aaron Plessinger scoring the other.

Webb and Tomac won the last four championships with two apiece in alternating years, but they were not one another’s primary rival for most of those seasons. On the average, however, the past four years show an incredible similarity with average points earned of 21.0 for Webb and 21.3 for Tomac. With five wins so far this season, Tomac (23 wins) leads Webb (19) in victories but Webb (43) edges Tomac (41) in podium finishes during this span.

Tomac has won two of the last three Seattle races and those two wins in this stadium are topped only by James Stewart. Fittingly, if Tomac gets a third win this week, he will tie Stewart for second on the all-time wins’ list. Tomac tied Ricky Carmichael for third with 48 wins at Oakland and took sole possession of that spot with his Daytona win.

Sexton still has a lot to say and after winning last week in Detroit, he is speaking up. The Supercross numbers are against him entering Seattle, however, because a points’ deficit this large after Round 10 has been erased only once. In 1983 David Bailey was 47 points behind Bob Hannah, and like Sexton he was also in third place. Bailey took the points’ lead with one race remaining.

The seven points Sexton was penalized last week for jumping in a red cross flag section in Detroit could prove extremely costly.

In fact, it has been a series of mistakes that has cost Sexton the most. In the last two weeks, he lost 10 points with a 10th-place finish to go with his penalty. Erase those, and all three riders hold their fate in their hands.

Plessinger’s heartbreak in Detroit is still fresh, but the upside of his run is that was his best of the season and could turn his fortunes around. Prior to that race, he led only seven laps in three mains. He was up front for 20 laps in Detroit with five of those being the fastest on the track.

Last week’s win by Hunter Lawrence tied him with his brother Jett Lawrence for 17th on the all-time wins’ list. With the focus shifting to 250 West for the next two rounds, Jett has a great opportunity to pull back ahead. The real test will be at the first East / West Showdown in East Rutherford, New Jersey on April 22.

Last Five Seattle Winners

2022: Eli Tomac
2019: Marvin Musquin
2018: Eli Tomac
2017: Marvin Musquin
2014: Ryan Villopoto

2022: Hunter Lawrence
2019: Dylan Ferrandis
2018: Aaron Plessinger
2017: Aaron Plessinger
2014: Cole Seely

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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