Chad Knaus back to calling race strategy for Jimmie Johnson at Twelve Hours of Sebring


Though he hung up headset as a NASCAR crew chief this season, Chad Knaus will return to calling race strategy Saturday at Sebring International Raceway for Jimmie Johnson.

Knaus will be mapping out the tactics for the No. 48 Ally Cadillac of Johnson, Kamui Kobayashi and Simon Pagenaud in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Now the vice president of competition at Hendrick Motorsports, Knaus also helped out the Action Express team at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. With team engineer and technical director Iain Watt also busy with overseeing the team’s primary No. 31 Cadillac, Johnson said Knaus will be stepping up his responsibilities to help Watt by assuming the No. 48 strategy.

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“I think broadening his scope of things is really good for Hendrick Motorsports,” Johnson said Thursday of Knaus. “After having Daytona, I think he just understands the flow of these races better.

“Who knows how some of this technology will really transfer in the future, and if it’ll be useful for him or not, but I think him being the racing enthusiast that he is, he’s always wanted to come over to this form of racing and be a part of it. So now he has that chance and is slowly accepting more responsibility as we go.”

Retiring from full-time Cup competition after the 2020 season, Johnson is fulfilling his bucket list by racing part time in IMSA (Daytona and Sebring are part of a four-race slate) and the NTT IndyCar Series (where the 45-year-old rookie will run 13 races on road and street courses).

Though he remains heavily invested in NASCAR, Knaus, who guided Johnson to seven championships and 83 victories in NASCAR’s premier series as his crew chief for 17 seasons, is in a similar position to branch out – while potentially gaining knowledge for his day job at Hendrick.

The NextGen car that will make its Cup debut in 2022 has similarities to a sports car, which is partly why Hendrick has team members involved in helping pit and support the Ally-sponsored No. 48 car. The team already had extra work Friday, having to rebuild the rear end of the Cadillac after a qualifying wreck for Johnson.

Knaus seems to be enjoying the moonlighting, giddily posting several social updates Thursday from Sebring and even the crash Friday didn’t get him down. He also personally selected the five-member crew that will pit the No. 48 Action Express Cadillac in Saturday’s race (10 a.m., NBCSN).

“I feel like what was required of Chad as a crew chief in the Cup Series just took so much time, and he tried to watch other forms of motorsport from afar and certainly has a love for sports car racing,” Johnson said, pausing to add with a laugh that Knaus has “owned a few nice sports cars over the years.

“So to be able to have a new position and manage folks and have weekends to himself, he’s decided to be busier and come join us and be part of the IMSA program. I feel like it’s always been something in the back of his mind. He’s always asked me a lot of questions about the experiences I’ve had. He is really excited to be here, as am I excited to have him here. He’s just trying to get some reps and figure out the differences here and how he can apply his knowledge and smarts and try to help the team.”

Jimmie Johnson and teammate Kamui Kobayashi debrief Friday at Sebring International Raceway (Michael Levitt/LAT Images/IMSA).

After a runner-up finish in the Rolex 24, the No. 48 will enter Sebring as a solid contender despite running a part-time schedule. Kobayashi, a sports car ace with two Rolex 24 victories and F1 experience, believes the team can win, especially after shoring up some technical problems on pit stops in the season opener.

Johnson told NBC Sports’ Leigh Diffey and Townsend Bell (interview video above) about the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship that “I’m really enjoying this. It’s a very nice change of pace. I’m really having a good time.” Using the high-downforce, high-horsepower DPi Cadillac as preparation for his NTT IndyCar Series season, Johnson said he has been studying how to navigate traffic, which hurt his lap times in Daytona.

“When you look at Action Express and the tracks they run so well at, Sebring is a really good opportunity,” Johnson said. “We did have an issue with our fueling in Daytona that cost us quite a few seconds on each stop. So with it being a shorter race and every second mattering even more, hopefully we have all that cleaned up, and we can be there in the fight.”

Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series triples to 34 races in 2023

Xtreme Outlaw Midget 2023
Xtreme Outlaw Series

After hosting 10 rounds in 2022, the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series 2023 schedule will more than triple to 34 races. The 2022 season featured seven different winners in the first seven races, a female racer in Jade Avedisian as the only repeat winner and Zach Daum as the champion.

“Dirt Midget racing is a growing entity in American motorsports, and the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series presented by Toyota is proud to drive further into the growth of the division with both a diverse and lucrative schedule for 2023,” newly appointed Series Director Tyler Bachman said in a press release. “From the kickoff at our first indoor event, to each of the new tracks we’re set to visit next year, it’s a lineup we know both our teams and fans will enjoy.”

The championship purse fund has also more than double with an increase of $42,000 to $80,000 in 2023. The champion will win $25,000. Last year, Daum pocketed $10,000.

In addition, the series will offer tow money to the top 12 in points. Six drivers attempted to qualify for all 10 races in 2022 with 89 drivers attending.

The series will begin on March 10 at Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin, Ill. and end the same place it did in 2022 at I-44 Riverside Speedway in Oklahoma City on October 15.

During the season, they will visit 21 tracks in 10 states.

Some highlights of the season include the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series pairing up with the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars in 2023 at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo. in April for the Outlaw Showdown and again in August for the Ironman 55 weekend, as well as the creation of a five-day Midget Speedweek.

The Midget Speedweek will immediately follow the Ironman 55 with a swing through Pennsylvania and New York.

Xtreme Outlaw Midget 2023 Schedule

Friday, March 10 | Southern Illinois Center | Du Quoin, Ill.
Saturday, March 11 | Southern Illinois Center | Du Quoin, Ill.
Friday, March 31 | Farmer City Raceway | Farmer City, Ill.

Saturday, April 1 | Farmer City Raceway | Farmer City, Ill.
Friday, April 14 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Saturday, April 15 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.

Friday, May 5 | Humboldt Speedway | Humboldt, Kan.
Saturday, May 6 | 81 Speedway | Park City, Kan.
Tuesday, May 23 | Millbridge Speedway | Salisbury, N.C.
Wednesday, May 24 | Millbridge Speedway | Salisbury, N.C.

Thursday, June 1 | Tri-City Speedway | Pontoon Beach, Ill.
Friday, June 2 | Wayne County Speedway | Wayne City, Ill.
Saturday, June 3 | Wayne County Speedway | Wayne City, Ill.

Friday, July 21 | TBA
Saturday, July 22 | Southern Illinois Raceway | Marion, Ill.
Friday, July 28 | TBA
Saturday, July 29 | Atomic Speedway | Chillicothe, Ohio
Sunday, July 30 | Brushcreek Motorsports Complex | Peebles, Ohio

Friday, August 4 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Sat, August 5 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Tuesday, August 8 | Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway | Newmanstown, Pa.
Wednesday, August 9 | Action Track USA | Kutztown, Pa.
Thursday, August 10 | Linda’s Speedway | Jonestown, Pa.
Friday, August 11 | TBA
Saturday, August 12 | Bridgeport Motorsports Park | Swedesboro, N.J.
Friday, August 25 | Davenport Speedway | Davenport, Iowa
Saturday, August 26 | Davenport Speedway | Davenport, Iowa

Friday, September 1 | Paragon Speedway | Paragon, Ind.
Saturday, September 2 | Paragon Speedway | Paragon, Ind.
Friday, September 15 | Jacksonville Speedway | Jacksonville, Ill.
Saturday, September 16 | Red Hill Raceway | Sumner, Ill.

Friday, October 13 | Port City Raceway | Tulsa, Okla.
Saturday, October 14 | I-44 Riverside Speedway | Oklahoma City, Okla.
Sunday, October 15 | I-44 Riverside Speedway | Oklahoma City, Okla.

* Co-sanctioned with POWRi