Chad Knaus’ suspension true to the real world

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Rockford native Chad Knaus got a four-race suspension and a $25,000 fine from NASCAR for rules violations discovered during qualifying for the Daytona 500.

Knaus is crew chief for the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet driven by Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson and owned by Rick Hendrick.

The suspension included the Feb. 19 season opener at Daytona, and continues until the teams return to Bristol, Tenn., for the race March 26. Knaus is able to continue his work with the team during the week, but is banned from the track on race day.

Despite losing their crew chief for the first four races of the season, Johnson and the rest of the team were able to win the season opener and pass a grueling 3- hour post-race inspection on the car. The following weekend, they managed to finish second. This makes me wonder, how important is the person who has the title of “crew chief”?

Team member Darian Grubb was able to step in and handle the responsibilities of crew chief flawlessly. Granted, there weren’t any huge make-or-break decisions that had to be made to win the Daytona 500. Nonetheless, he was able to win the biggest race of the season in his first-ever appearance as a crew chief, and post a second-place finish a week later.

Is this a fluke, or are the teams at this level made up of members so talented that the parts are interchangeable? I say the latter. Taking nothing away from anyone who has earned the right to be called crew chief, I don’t think it really matters who it is, as long as it is someone who knows the team and the car.

I assume Knaus has to be happy with the team’s success, but at the same time I can’t help wondering if he wasn’t hoping they might not do so well without him. Isn’t it human nature to think that no one can do your job as well as you?

In the competitive nature of professional sports, there are two types of people: those on top, and those trying to get to the top. Whether you are the starting center fielder or the crew chief, you really don’t want anyone to step in and take your place. You especially don’t want them to do it so well that who you might end up out of a job.

I don’t think Knaus has much to worry about, but I might be concerned if I were one of the other lesser successful crew chiefs who takes the track each weekend. Is it that much of a stretch to think one of their owners might think: “Hey, this guy won on his first try out, and we haven’t won in two years. Is it time for a change?”

This is another example of sports imitating real life. Whether we are on the track, in the garage, on the field or just a runner in the proverbial rat race, it is always wise to keep one eye on the rear-view mirror to see who might be gaining on us. Or worse yet, passing us.

Doug Halberstadt is a local resident and is track announcer at Rockford Speedway. He can be reached via e-mail at

From the March 1-7, 2006, issue

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