Chad Knaus: Will He Go Down as NASCAR's Greatest Crew Chief?

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IMarch 20, 2012

AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 02:  Crew chief Chad Knaus of the #48 Lowe's/ Kobalt Tools Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson, speaks to the media prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 2, 2012 in Avondale, Arizona. NASCAR suspended Knaus for six races and fined him $100,000 for failing an inspection last week in Daytona. Knaus will continue his crew chief duties while Hendrick Motorsports appeals NASCAR's decision. An appeal date hasn't been announced.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

Chad Knaus has devoted his life to working on race cars. He is a man possessed to be the best crew chief in the garage and lead the best team, even if it means pushing boundaries and testing rules.

It is the job of a crew chief to work in the gray areas, to be innovative and to tempt fate with those who regulate the sport.

Knaus has gotten his hands slapped by NASCAR several times with suspension from races, fines and probation.

The recent decision on the C-post debacle at Daytona resulted in him being placed on probation. He still has a $100,000 fine to pay, which should not be a problem.

He was a teenage crew chief for his father, who raced in the midwest against drivers like Dick Trickle, Alan Kulwicki and other drivers who became well known in NASCAR.

Knaus moved to the Charlotte area in 1991. By 1993, he was working for Jeff Gordon's No. 24 team, led by Ray Evernham at Hendrick Motorsports.

He did a bit of everything from fabrication to changing tires, and was part of the championship Rainbow Warriors team in 1995 and 1997.

He moved around several times from DEI to working for Evernham with his Dodge Development program. But by 2002, he returned to Hendrick Motorsports as crew chief for little-known driver Jimmie Johnson.

Knaus had led the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet to 55 Cup wins and five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championships.

Though there have been periodic dust-ups between Knaus and Johnson over the years, the pairing ranks with the top ones in the sport.

There have been many great crew chiefs, with Richard Petty's crew chief, Hall of Famer Dale Inman pretty much officially inventing the crew chief position.

The common thread with all great crew chiefs is not only their technical knowledge, but ability to make the hard calls at the right time.

A great crew chief calls the shots from atop the pit box. Based on the crew chief's ability, it may not matter who the driver is, as long as they are among the best.

Johnson is a great wheel man, but he is driving for Knaus and Hendrick Motorsports. The crew chief makes the tough calls and pays the price when they are wrong.

Knaus is focused on the big picture, he performs best under adverse situations and when the pressure is on like it is during the Chase.

Though some may just call Knaus a cheater, he is doing the job Rick Hendrick pays him to do.

Like it or not, Johnson will likely win more Cup titles and Knaus may one day be known as the greatest crew chief in NASCAR.