By: Ashley McCubbin
Throughout the majority of Jimmie Johnson’s NASCAR Cup Series career with seven championships and 83 wins, there was one man that was along his side for the whole ride – Chad Knaus. Although Johnson is beginning a new chapter of his motorsports career, it has brought forth an opportunity for the pair to work together once again.
With the No. 48 Ally Racing Cadillac being a single-event entry for Action Express Racing, and not wanting to take personnel away from their primary car (No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac), team manager Gary Nelson made a deal with Hendrick Motorsports to utilize some of their employees in their Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona event. Knaus was one of those brought down, with his engineering skills being beneficial.
“it’s been great to have my former crew chief and great friend in Chad Knaus, along with a few other familiar faces from HMS,” Johnson told POPULAR SPEED. “Specifically about Chad, we accomplished so much together and certainly have done a lot of growing, learning and living on different race teams. So to be back together it feels really good, and he’s bringing a lot to the program and the team. I hope we have more opportunities work together.”
The team has been successful through practice, pacing some of the various practice sessions completed. It comes as no surprise in knowing the talent behind the wheel as Simon Pagenaud, Kamui Kobayashki, and Mike Rockenfeller were deliberately hand picked to be part of this effort.
“it’s been awesome,” Pagenaud said of his teammates. “Obviously, I’ve always looked up to Jimmie for the oval racing and it’s awesome to get to know him. Sometimes, it’s very scary to see similar personalities; it’s like he’s a big brother from another mother. So just enjoying being by his side and watching his passion of road racing, and I’m trying to give him as much knowledge that I can, but he’s picking up really quick. Loving that relationship that’s starting.
“With Rocky, we’ve known each other quite awhile with having dinner together and the relationship is there. We were competitors once before at LeMan when he was with Audi and I was with Peugeot, so it’s nice to see the other side. Kamui – I like to call him the Japanese weapon. He’s just on it every time that he’s in the car; you know you get 100% every time if he’s in there, so it’s really cool to see and obviously the way he is straight to the point, I love to see that. Certainly an enjoyable group with a lot of different qualities.”
With his eyes focused on a chance at victory and further writing himself in the history books, it would seem Johnson is making the most of his retirement from full-time NASCAR competition already. It’s a feeling that should remain all year, as he also set to run the road course events in the NTT IndyCar Series for Chip Ganassi.
So what comes next? Johnson isn’t sure yet.
“Right now, I feel I’m at my capacity and limit for what I want to do,” he answered. “I would definitely consider more of the Endurance SportsCar races if we’re able to find funding and opportunity to come together. But, it’s really about experiences for me right now and the experience I’m having driving the IndyCar for Chip Ganassi Racing and working with all the people there, and this experience at Action Express inside and out of the car.
“It’s an experience that’s priceless and I’m one of the very few to do it. I’m proud of myself to have the courage to step outside of myself and do it, and I’m enjoying every minute.”