Knaus not close to contract extension

November 25, 2009

Chad Knaus believes he and Jimmie Johnson can continue to add to their championship total for years to come. But the crew chief first needs a new contract. Knaus on Wednesday denied an ESPN report that he's agreed to lead Johnson through 2015, the length of Johnson's new contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports. Knaus, who has guided Johnson to four straight titles and 47 victories since 2002, is still working under an extension signed in 2006 that runs through next season. "We've only started very light conversations," Knaus said. "I don't have a new contract, and we've barely had enough conversation for me to agree to anything." Although Knaus said it is his intention to stay with Hendrick Motorsports, "you never know what will happen. There are so many what-ifs." Knaus began his NASCAR career with Hendrick in 1993 as an original member of Jeff Gordon's "Rainbow Warriors" crew. He began as an assistant in the body shop, worked his way into the fabrication department and eventually was put in charge of the body development for Gordon's car. He was also a tire changer on Gordon's 1995 and 1997 teams. Knaus left Hendrick after the 1997 season to try to advance his career, working at Dale Earnhardt Inc. as the car chief for Steve Park, then for Ray Evernham when he left Hendrick to start his own race team. He then spent one season as crew chief for Stacy Compton at Melling Racing. Knaus returned to Hendrick in 2002 when car owner Rick Hendrick formed Johnson's new team. The duo charged out of the gates and has contended for the championship every year. Their record-setting string of four consecutive championships began in 2006, and there's no reason to believe they will let up anytime soon. Hendrick said Tuesday that he's working on an extension with Knaus, but "it's kind of a foregone conclusion between us that he's going to be here. "We've got to get the paperwork done, but we still have a year and a half left," Hendrick said. "So it's something we're doing. We try to get all our guys in place well ahead of when the contracts are up. So that's under way. I plan for him to retire here. I think that's what he tells me he wants to do." Knaus joked after Sunday's title-clinching race that he's not sure what he'll do if he's not a crew chief, throwing out a possible stint on "Dancing with the Stars" or opening a scuba shop in the Caribbean. "I don't know, man. I don't know what I'm going to do when I grow up," he said. "I hope I never have to grow up. I love my job. But I can't be a crew chief forever. I'll be honest, I can't run at this pace for ten more years. It's impossible. But I love what I do. I engulf myself in what it is that I do, and there's nothing I'd rather do. "I have yet to get out of bed in the morning and not want to go to work, and that's a fact. In the future, we're just going to have to wait and see."

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