CHARLOTTE — There are many race fans who believe Jimmie Johnson would not have near the success he has had if it werent for crew chief Chad Knaus.
Some even claim Knaus is the only reason for Johnsons success, which includes six Cup championships.
Even as smart and talented as Knaus has proven to be, he doesnt know everything.
And hes not too set in his ways to make changes.
Even if some fans never will be convinced otherwise, success in NASCAR comes as a result of a talented driver and a talented group of team members working together toward a common goal.
That work can be grueling at times, and no one knows that that better than Knaus.
In fact, Knaus credits Johnsons positive outlook on life in general for helping him put his own priorities in order, which in turn has made the No.48 Hendrick Motorsports team even better.
Look, man, Jimmie as a person, wow, hes such a great dude. Its so funny, were so completely opposite, Knaus said. Hes West Coast. Im Type A (personality), city, details. Hes like, Man, things will be OK.
How Jimmies able to maintain his positive outlook is amazing to me. I wish I had a little bit of that. Ive been fortunate enough to work with him for so long that hes definitely rubbed off on me.
During recent years as Johnson and his wife, Chandra, have had two daughters, the demands on Johnsons time have become more difficult to handle, yet he is able to juggle the work necessary to remain successful.
Knaus has taken notice.
When we get into situations that arent the most comfortable, things are a little bit stressed, its really a good spot now because I can look at him and he has been a mentor for me in understanding theres more to life than just racing, Knaus said.
Thats pretty cool. I owe a lot of my change in attitude to Jimmie because hes opened my eyes.
Knaus admits that for the longest time, he remained solely focused on making race cars go faster. That certainly paid off.
In 2008, Knaus became the only crew chief to earn three consecutive NASCAR championships. His six championships are second all-time to Dale Inmans eight.
You have to realize, Ive lived my whole life in these circles. Middle of the race track thats where I live. You see the circle, put me in the middle of it, thats where Ive been for 30 years of my life, he said.
Jimmie has made me realize theres more to it than just that. Its pretty special. I love him like a brother. Hes pretty special to me.
The change in Knaus has not gone unnoticed.
The teams car chief, Ron Malec, who is the only other team member to have worked with Johnson and Knaus during their entire Cup career, said Knaus now delegates more work to others.
Chad would take on all the pressure; he felt responsible for everything, Malec said. Thats not good for anyone.
Team owner Rick Hendrick agreed.
I give Chad a lot of credit. You know, he was running hard against the chip in those days. He had to learn how to take defeat, Hendrick said.
In watching Chad and Jimmie both mature, theyve learned how to not let things get to a point where theres a boiling point. Hopefully with the success theyve had, they know theyre stronger together than they are apart.