NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson to crew chief: No cheerleading please
Jimmie Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus, is widely viewed as perhaps the brainiest crew chief in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and a key reason why Johnson has won a record five consecutive championships.
But Knaus' ability to be Johnson's cheerleader? Not so much, Johnson said.
Johnson and Knaus raised eyebrows Sept. 25 when they got testy with each other on the radio during the race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
As Johnson struggled to an 18th-place finish in his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Knaus tried to urge him on. Johnson wanted none of it.
That was the second race in the 10-race Chase for the Cup title playoff, and afterward Johnson dropped to 10th in the standings, his lowest position ever in the Chase.
But Johnson finished second the following week at Dover, Del., jumped to fifth in the standings and is only 13 points behind co-leaders Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards ahead of Sunday's race at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway.
So are things smoother now between Johnson and Knaus?
"People overreacted [to the radio chatter] and Chad has never been a good cheerleader and I just kind of needed to remind him of that at New Hampshire," Johnson told reporters Friday before practice at Kansas, according to a Team Chevy transcript.
"We talk about stuff all the time, good and bad, that's good races and bad races," Johnson said.
"If you had a microphone and heard a quarterback and head coach conversation, I'm sure it would be a lot more sharp and pointed than what I said to him," Johnson said.
Harvick, meanwhile, was asked about the pressure of leading the Chase with seven races remaining.
"It is still pretty early to have the pressure ramped up to where it would be . . . at [the last two races in] Phoenix and Homestead, if you are still in the championship," Harvick said. "Right now it is really just kind of business as usual; don’t shoot yourself in the foot."
Photo: Jimmie Johnson (left) and crew chief Chad Knaus chat Sept. 23 during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Loudon, N.H. Credit: Jason Smith / Getty Images