Jimmie Johnson will go for his seventh NASCAR Cup championship on Nov. 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Crew chief Chad Knaus has been with Johnson for every step of the way, including last weekend’s victory at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Knaus spoke with reporters and the Observer’s David Scott after Johnson clinched his spot in the championship round at Martinsville:
Q. Will you lean on your Hendrick Motorsports teammates going forward more than you would have under any other circumstances?
A. I don’t think there’s a whole lot that you can do … (other) than just be good teammates. With what we have with the roster at Hendrick Motorsports, our drivers understand what it is we need to do, our crew chiefs understand it, our teams really get it. There’s only so much you can do within the bounds of the rules obviously.
The drivers on the track, I think you can just watch and see what happens. They’re very courteous to one another. That’s what you have to have. Not every team is like that.
Q. You have won the past four fall races at Texas. What do you do now? You don’t really have a reason to race the next two weeks. At the same time, if you do win again, you make it harder for other people in the Chase.
A. It’s unique because that is one of our favorite race tracks. I really do want to go win that race track because it’s such a great Jimmie vintage 48 (car)-style race track. There are a lot of things that play into that race, which is a ton of fun for us.
But that being said, we need to now sit back, look at our car allocation and make sure that we’re taking the best product we possibly can to Homestead.
Q. Which car will you take to Homestead?
A. I don’t think there’s going to be a big change because I think we’ve got a bunch of really, really good race cars to take to Homestead. So we go to Texas and we try to do the best we possibly can.
If we can go and run in the top five at Texas, run in the top five at Phoenix, that just shows the strength of the team and brings us into that last race with a little bit of high stepping.
Q. How do you handle it, being so easygoing?
A. I’m excited about it. I hear and I see a lot about seven (championships). I’m not worried about the seventh, I’m just worried about the next. That’s what I want to do. I want to go out there and put our best foot forward as a team and go out there and try to do the best we possibly can to win the next championship. I’m not worried about the seventh or the eighth.
Q. The win ensures that Joe Gibbs Racing can’t have all four cars in the final four. Does that make a difference at all that their numbers will be down?
A. I hate to say it like this, but I don’t care who we’re racing because anybody that’s in this stage of the game has the potential to go out there and race really, really well, or manipulate the outcome of the race by pit strategy, anything, all the elements.
Q. If you never had a chance to win a seventh, did you feel like you’d have unfinished business?
A. I hate to be that broad about it, but it’s not about the numbers. It’s not about seven. It’s not about tying Dale (Earnhardt). It’s not about tying Richard (Petty). It’s not about beating Dale or Richard, beating Jeff (Gordon) for most wins. I think you miss what we’re about.
We want to go win Texas. We want to go win Homestead. We want to go win Phoenix. Then, guess what, in a few months Daytona is rolling around, we want to win that one, too. That’s the way we approach every single race. It’s not about what we’re eclipsing.