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Curator's Corner / Hall of Famers

Five Things to Know About Chad Knaus

From the time he was a teenager, Chad Knaus was a championship crew chief.

Winning NASCAR championships is a team effort, and no one understands that better than Chad Knaus, a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion crew chief and one of three members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2024, along with his former teammate Jimmie Johnson on the Modern Era Ballot and Pioneer Ballot selection Donnie Allison.

Knaus’ remarkable record ranks him second all-time among crew chiefs, trailing only Dale Inman (Class of 2012), who won eight titles. Now the vice president of competition at Hendrick Motorsports, Knaus was atop the pit box for all seven of Johnson’s titles, including five in a row from 2006-2010, a record that may never be equaled. And with Johnson and William Byron as his drivers, Knaus has 82 victories as a crew chief.

As we honor and celebrate the achievements of the Class of 2024, here are five things you may not know about Knaus’ Hall of Fame career.

Long before he became a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series championship crew chief, Chad Knaus was helping his father, John, win titles on Midwestern short tracks. Photo courtesy of John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

An Early Start

As a third-generation racer, Knaus was exposed to motorsports at a very young age. When Knaus was just 10 years old, he began studying a course about the fundamentals of race car setups and engineering. The course, which consisted of written notes and audio cassette tapes, was prepared by Knaus father, John, a championship short-track racer in the family’s home state of Illinois. By the time he was 14, Chad was his father’s crew chief.

In his first stint with Hendrick Motorsports, Knaus worked as a tire changer on Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Great Minds

In 1993, Knaus was hired by Ray Evernham (Class of 2018) to work as an assistant in the body shop for the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driven by Jeff Gordon (Class of 2019). From there, Knaus moved to the fabrication department and eventually was put in charge of body development. Knaus also worked as a tire changer on Gordon’s famed “Rainbow Warriors” pit crew. In their initial meeting, Evernham asked Knaus what his career goals were. “I want your job,” Knaus said, which was exactly the right answer because it showed Knaus was every bit as driven as Evernham was.

In 1998, Chad Knaus served as car chief for Darrell Waltrip at Dale Earnhardt Inc. Photo courtesy of David Taylor/Allsport

The Earnhardt Connection

Knaus left Hendrick Motorsports after the 1997 NASCAR Cup Series season to be the car chief for the Dale Earnhardt Inc. No. 1 team with drivers Steve Park and Darrell Waltrip (Class of 2012). One of the 19 cars in the NASCAR Hall of Fame exhibit “Glory Road: 75 Years” is the No. 1 1998 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, which was built by Knaus when he worked at DEI and driven by Waltrip.

Jimmie Johnson did a victory burnout after winning the 2002 NAPA Auto Parts 500 at California Speedway. Photo courtesy of Donald Miralle/Getty Images

A Keeper

As someone who is meticulously organized, Knaus’ office at Hendrick Motorsports is kept spotless. Of all the race and championship trophies Knaus has won in NASCAR, only one trophy has remained in his office through his entire career. That trophy is from the NAPA Auto Parts 500 at California Speedway (now Auto Club Speedway) on April 28, 2002.That race was the first Cup Series victory for Knaus, driver Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team.

Age-wise, Hall of Famers Chad Knaus (left) and Jeff Gordon are about as close as it gets. Photo courtesy of Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Born Winners

Now here’s a truly odd fact. Chad Knaus was born on August 5, 1971. The Hall of Fame crew chief got his start at Hendrick Motorsports working on the No. 24 Chevrolet driven by another Hendrick Motorsports Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon (Class of 2019), who as coincidence would have it, was born on August 4, 1971 – just one day before Knaus.

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen

Tom is the Curatorial Affairs Manager at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For more than 25 years, he has been part of the NASCAR media industry.

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