Jimmie Johnson foresees day when Chad Knaus won't be his crew chief
Jimmie Johnson has spent his entire NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career with one crew chief -- Chad Knaus.
Despite a few bumps in the road, the duo has won six championships together and established their place as arguably the most dominant driver/crew chief tandem in NASCAR history.
But this season has been a rough one -- relatively-speaking -- for Johnson, who has won only three races and last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway was eliminated from contention for a record-breaking seventh title.
Through the year's ups and downs, there has been some friction between Johnson and Knaus, with the most notable coming two weekends ago at Charlotte Motor Speedway when the two exchanged atypically heated banter over the team radio.
Asked last weekend at Talladega about contentious dialogue from the week before, Johnson downplayed the notion that it would have any ill-effect on their relationship moving forward.
On Friday at Martinsville Speedway, however, Johnson admitted that he foresees a time when Knaus, who has been atop the No. 48 pit box since Johnson's rookie season of 2002, will move on and leave Johnson to work with another crew chief.
"Yeah, that day is out there. I think a crew chief's lifespan is much shorter than a driver's," Johnson said on Friday in the Martinsville Speedway media center. "They live in dog years and drivers can carry on much longer. I've been accused of being loyal to a fault in the past; that's me. I have no plans or desires to make a change. When Chad decides he's had enough of being the guy on the box, it will be his decision to step down. As far as I'm concerned, we've made it 13 years in this thing. I want to see it go as long as it can."
If Johnson and Knaus ever go their separate ways, Johnson doesn't plan on initiating the breakup.
"We're honest with each other and know each other well enough to work through the bad times," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said. "It might not be pretty, and I'm sure you guys have heard things on the radio that got your attention. We're like family, and we fight like family. We can call each other out on that stuff, and you only hear a piece of it on the radio.
"There is plenty more that goes on behind closed doors and in meetings. It's more of a timeframe of when Chad says, 'I've put in my time here as crew chief and I need to slow down a little bit.'"
"The mindset is simple," he said. "We want to close out the year well and finish as high as we can in points. We want to win races. That's what we're here for."
"Obviously testing is gone next year, so anything we can do to work on the 2015 package will suit us well," he said. "We're not slowing down any. These last four weeks are going to be about as busy as any as we're getting geared up for 2015."