Chevy Racing–Tuesday Teleconference–Gil Martin, Chad Knaus

AMANDA ELLIS:  Gil, congratulations on the victory at Phoenix.  This weekend’s race at Homestead will mark Kevin’s final race with RCR, and how do you approach this weekend knowing you have one last chance at winning a championship together?
GIL MARTIN:  Thank you for having me.  One of the biggest things we’ll try to do is the same thing we did at Phoenix, our biggest objective is to try to win the race, lead as many laps as we can, and just collect as many points as we can because that’s what we’re going to have to do to try to have any shot of winning this championship because there will be things that are out of our control that we won’t be able to do anything about.  We’ve just got to try to get maximum points and go from there.
Q.  Gil, we’ve heard talk this past week, after this past weekend’s race from Matt and those guys about regardless of what happens, they’ve had a really good season, nothing to hang their head about.  He’s had a career high in wins. How do you guys look at the season regardless of how it turns out on Sunday? Are you looking at it as like we had a really good year, or do you look at it as a missed opportunity or what exactly?
GIL MARTIN:  Well, the way I look at it is back in December when we got ready for this season, going into January, we set several goals for ourselves knowing the scrutiny we would be under with Kevin leaving and a few things like that, that we knew we would have to face each and every week.  But still, through the course of the season we intended to win a race, get into the Chase and have a chance at the championship.  That’s all you can ask for.
But with that being said, to have the season that we’ve had with four wins and two non‑points wins, to be in the Chase and to have a shot going into Homestead, it’s been a tremendous season.
As far as missed opportunities, I mean, yeah, you can find some points here and there, but quite honestly it’s just been a tough act to follow with the numbers that the 48 has posted all year long.  It’s a great season, a phenomenal season, and the season we’ve had is something that we’ll probably win many championships from here on out.  It may not this year, but the way that we’ve run I’m extremely proud of.
Q.  Normally when a team ends a season strong and everything, you talk about carrying that momentum into next year and building toward 2014.  With you guys going through change, how does that impact what you guys will try to do?
GIL MARTIN:  Well, I mean, the biggest thing that we’ll try to do is just, like you said, try to carry this momentum because we’re excited about how the season is coming to an end and how we’ve been able to run.  But some of the things that this team will affect to do for next year is just to try to get another game plan because we’re going to be going through a lot of testing with the proposed rule changes that’s going on right now, just for 2014, and that’s what we’re going to try to focus on, to get ready for that.
Q.  Talking about 2014, do you expect this whole group to be together in some form or fashion next year, or are you guys entering this weekend with kind of guys not really knowing what their future holds?
GIL MARTIN:  No, this whole group will be together, no matter what happens.  This whole group will be together.  Looking forward to that, no changes internally on this team.  I think that all that part will be a known, so we’re looking forward to it.
Q.  The Saturday of Martinsville weekend on Saturday night, did you think it would be possible to win a championship with all the turmoil going on?
GIL MARTIN:  Well, I mean, this deal is tough enough, like it is, and obviously you don’t want things like that to happen, but it did.  But I felt like after several phone conversations and several face‑to‑face conversations that we would get right back on track.  I never had the doubt about the focus of the team or Kevin once the race started.  After the race was over, I felt pretty confident that we were right back on track right where we were at.
Q.  At the end of the first season with the Gen‑6 car, from a crew chief’s perspective and what you’ve got to do to adjust the car and all that, how do you rate how it’s performed in comparison to the Gen‑5 car?
GIL MARTIN:  Well, I think right now this car has still got a lot of upside potential.  I think we’ve just barely begun to scratch the things that we can do with this car.  Sometimes it takes a long time to find huge changes along with the car, but I think as the season has progressed, we’ve gotten much better with the car, and I think the garage has.
And then with the tests that we’ve got coming up in December, I think there’s a tremendous amount of upside for what’s going to happen with the future of this car.  I think the racing is just going to continue to get better.  I think the passing that you’ve seen this year has been on a high, but I think that’s going to get to be a lot more because this car has just got a lot of potential that we really haven’t had the opportunity to just completely iron it all out yet.
With the things we’ve got coming, I’m excited about it.
Q.  I know you said that you guys want to go out there this weekend and lead every lap and win the race and all that, but are you in a position where you might get a little creative with strategy and you might go for the big picture, the championship, or do you look at this race as even a bigger fight with Matt Kenseth to take away at least that second spot?
GIL MARTIN:  Yeah, obviously we can’t do something that’s going to be so out of the box that we jeopardize the fact that finishing third where we currently are or have an opportunity to grab second.  If we’re going to come up short in any kind of gamble, five, 10 points, 15 points, the gamble won’t be worth it at that time.  You’re going to have to weigh it out on what the gamble is going to be worth.
Obviously even if we lead all the laps and are leading the race, Jimmie and Matt both are going to have to have probably something go wrong during their day.  So at that point we would weigh out any options on any over‑the‑top type of calls we might make.  Obviously we want to try to come out of there with a second‑place finish.  If we can’t do that we want to maintain our third.  So we’re not going to do anything to jeopardize that.
Q.  For the past couple weeks the talk has been Jimmie versus Matt but you’ve been there and you obviously proved that with the win in Phoenix.  Has there been any extra motivation in the shop, hey, we’re still here, too?
GIL MARTIN:  Well, there always is because everybody wants to feel they’re worthy out there in this garage.  It’s a tough atmosphere and you want to go there each week thinking you deserve to be there and you want all your peers to think that you deserve to be there.  These guys showed this weekend that they have tenacity and that they are more than willing to fight to the end to see if we can take the trophy home.  I know it’s a David and Goliath task that we’ve got ahead of us right now, but there’s a lot that can happen.
Q.  Gil, over the years we’ve seen kind of the championship contenders go and the drivers kind of playing mind games and poking at one another and things like that.  Is there any gamesmanship that you expect between you three crew chiefs going into the weekend?
GIL MARTIN:  Not really.  I mean, I think we’re all pretty familiar with each other, and we know everybody’s tendencies and traits.  But for the most par
t, the crew chiefs really don’t have an opportunity to play any of those games.  The crew members, they kind of do it I think a little bit to pass the time and just work with each other in the stalls.  But I think it’ll be business as usual for us.  I know I will, I’ll have a lot on my plate just trying to figure out ‑‑ at least match what Chad is doing because of the fact he’s going to be extremely prepared when he goes into this weekend.  So we’re going to have to be, too, so there won’t be any time for that, really.
Q.  Gil, I don’t think anybody would have expected much if Kevin and you and the whole entire team had a lame‑duck season like it could have been, and yet it wasn’t.  It wasn’t just business as usual, it was better business than usual, actually, or it seems that way with the wins and all.  Was there anything that you can talk about that was different about the team and about Kevin that just said, well, let’s get it done?
GIL MARTIN:  Well, I think if anything, it’s not just trying to prove a point, but everybody is trying to, quite frankly, we want to win the championship really bad.  And we want to win races.  In order to do that, again, you just can’t have any distractions.  This garage is full of distractions, whether it’s the fact that Kevin is leaving or Budweiser was leaving or whatever the case may be, and you have to try to overcome those.  It’s hard to do because everybody else in the garage is trying to find a way to either bring you down or make it to where you’re not a car to contend with that week because you’ve got 43 other guys that you’ve got to contend with.  If you can bring somebody down by having drama stirred up around them, you’re all about that.
It’s a tough thing to do, but we want to try to send Kevin out of here with a championship, and quite frankly that’s what we’re trying to do.
Q.  As far as the team goes, do the team members feel that, too, that they kind of overlook it and just get it done?
GIL MARTIN:  They certainly do.  I mean, they have to because you take ‑‑ that’s the good thing about having a lot of veterans on your team that have been there and seen all this stuff instead of a lot of kids who are inexperienced, because they can get distracted very easily because of just the things going on in the garage, and you listen to news reports or things going on on TV that can quite frankly ‑‑ it can bring you down, and each one of you guys that travel each week with us for 38 weeks knows the drain this puts on you mentally and physically, so if you get caught up in a lot of that, it’ll distract you and you’ll make mistakes throughout the weekend.  They’ve been able to shed away from that.
Q.  I think it’s safe to say you’ve got a Type‑A type personality for a driver and Kevin is sometimes volatile.  Matt and Jimmie, I don’t think you would say that about them.  What to you describes the relationship or the adaptability to a specific driver’s personality that a crew chief has to have to find success?
GIL MARTIN:  I think that the driver and the crew chief have to feed off of one another.  When Kevin has an issue at the track or with a car, it drives me to want to push our guys to fix the problem as fast as possible.
When you have somebody that’s got a personality like that and as vocal as Kevin is and the way Kevin wants everything to be laid out perfectly, very meticulous, it’s very easy for the guys to shut down on that and not function very well under a high‑pressure situation.
I kind of like that.  I like the fact that Kevin pushes me and pushes us to be that much better each week, and I think with that being said, because he does that, when we stand up and we find whatever it is he needs, it pushes him again, too, because he doesn’t want to be the weak link.  So we continue to push each other each week, and sometimes the more controversy that’s going on, it kind of helps that a little bit.  It kind of fuels both of our personalities.  Kevin is more vocal than I am probably, but on the inside I know what he needs and I know what he wants.
When he’s firing off a bunch of commands, it’s basically just letting me know an insight of what he needs, so it works pretty well.
Q.  To follow up on that, you and Kevin have obviously been in championship points races from year to year, sometimes not.  The 48 is there all the time.  When you sit back and see that relationship, what about you stands out or what about that stands out?
GIL MARTIN:  I think the fact that they endure the years together, that they stuck it out in the early portion of their career together, and that they were able to work through that and they’ve grown together.  That’s something that you can’t replace.  You can put a lot of guys together, you can put great crew chiefs and great drivers together, but if they don’t know each other’s personality and don’t know what it takes to make that guy tick from weekend to weekend, it’s a hard thing to do because you’ve got to know when to let your driver have his head about him and really complain in a car and you’ve got to know when to shut him down and know when he’s gone too far.  I think they know each other’s personalities so good that they know when they can say something to each other that in a lot of cases people would tiptoe around.
I look at it as the dating stage, the holding hands stage that you have to go through with somebody new.  They’re past that.  They know exactly what they’ve got to do each and every weekend.
Q.  I wanted to ask you, I know you talked about the things that have helped you and Kevin do so well.  What are the challenges, I guess, in moving ahead?  Obviously the last preseason you got top‑three points finishes.  What have you learned from this experience and how can it help you and your group moving forward as you’re with somebody else next year?
GIL MARTIN:  I think one of the biggest things is over the past 13 years of working with Kevin, we’ve built a database of things that we need to do at each individual track, and I think a lot of those things are going to come true and those are going to work with whatever driver is in a seat.  And with that being said, I think our group being together, not having any change in personnel next year, that we’ll have that known going into the season, too.  So that’s going to lend a big helping hand for what’s going to happen next year.
We’re just looking forward to it, and we’ll see how it goes.
Q.  And also I know you talked about the 48 team’s success and the relationship between the driver and the crew chief.  There are other teams that have those kind of relationships and don’t have the success.  Being a competitor, going against them, having the success that you guys have had, what kind of perspective does it give you on what that 48 team has been able to do year after year?
GIL MARTIN:  Well, for everybody that’s been in this garage, they know how hard it is just to physically run 38 races, much less do it at a level that they’ve done it at, to win championships, to win races over that extended period of time.  That’s a tough feat to follow.
We’ve been able to win several races in the past several years, and to finish in the top 5 in points, and I know what it takes to do that.  It takes a supporting cast back at the shop that’s tremendous.  It takes an owner, sponsors and people behind you to put up a great deal of commitment just to keep that ball afloat. But for those two guys to be able to do it with different personnel that’s been their supporting cast, they’ve had a lot of the same people I’m sure, and I can’t really say how many people they’ve had or haven’t had in their situation, but they obviously haven’t all been there the whole time.  Their personalities have led to putting the correct people in place to ha
ndle the jobs.  Two guys can’t do it all.  You’ve still got to have a supporting cast.  So I know they’ve done a tremendous job on that, and a lot of people in the garage try to emulate it.
Q.  I wanted to follow up on something you said to me earlier.  You said that after some phone calls and after kind of what you saw on race day that you had confidence this team could be in the hunt.  I’m curious what did you need to hear in the phone calls that you made or what did you see during the race at Martinsville that convinced you that, okay, we can get through all this?
GIL MARTIN:  Well, obviously after you have something like that happen, no matter what the situation is, with two parties, you’ve got to have somebody that’s a mediator.  So I tried to be a mediator in it and to try to do some things just to let everybody know that obviously Kevin wishes he hadn’t said what he had said and wished it hadn’t taken place, but by the same token after it is said you have to get everybody together and talk about it.  It’s one of those situations you can’t stick your head in the sand and not address it.  There had to be some conversations just to get things smoothed over, because like it or not, in this environment there’s so much stress, so much pressure, you’re going to do and say some things in the heat of the moment that you absolutely wish you hadn’t said, and then you’re going to have people who are going to stoke that fire and you’re going to have people who are going to try to calm the waters.
Well, we had enough people try to stoke the fire, so all I was trying to do was calm the waters, making certain that when Kevin got in the car on Sunday that he knew the support was still behind him, the company was still behind him, and I think Richard relayed the exact same messages.  I think as the race went on, Kevin became comfortable because he’s extremely comfortable in the race car.  I think when he gets his helmet on, a lot of the controversy that’s going on outside of the car, he kind of puts aside, and I think after the race is over and going into Texas, I know there was a lot more conversation just to everybody sit down and talk and just forgive and forget at that point because with a lot of things at stake you have to do that, and quite frankly with everybody as close as they are in this garage, whether you work together or not, you’ve still got to be around one another, so it’s a lot easier to put it to bed and be done with it.
Q.  How much of the fact that you were still in the championship hunt allowed those waters to be somewhat calmed?
GIL MARTIN:  Well, obviously that had a lot to do with it, also, because there’s a lot at stake, not just for Kevin or anybody else, but we’ve got 400 employees here and a lot of sponsors and everything else.  So you’ve got a lot of commitments that you have to make sure you stand up and do those commitments because people are looking for us to do the right thing each and every week.
Like I say, you have to find a way to put that behind you, resolve the issues and move on.
AMANDA ELLIS:  Thank you for joining us today, and best of luck to you and the team this weekend at Homestead.
AMANDA ELLIS:  Welcome to today’s NASCAR teleconference.  We are joined by Chad Knaus, crew chief of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports and driver Jimmie Johnson in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.  Knaus and his team have won six races and five‑time series champion Jimmie Johnson leads the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings going into the finale at Homestead‑Miami Speedway on Sunday.  You’ve come into Homestead as a contender a number of times.  How does this particular finale compare with the others?
CHAD KNAUS:  That’s a good question.  It’s probably not a whole lot different.  We know that we’ve got to go into Homestead prepared to go and race hard for 400 miles.  We know that we need to go in there and do everything in our power to qualify as best we possibly can and to get ourselves in position to potentially win the race if the opportunity arises.
That’s kind of the way that we’ve approached it every single time that we’ve gone to Homestead for the final race, and if we can do that, everything should shake out okay for us on the 48 car.
Q.  Chad, just kind of wondering after seeing you guys together for so long, how long can you maintain the type of intensity needed to compete at this level?
CHAD KNAUS:  Are you referring to Jimmie and I?  I hope for a while yet.  You know, I think we’re definitely in a very comfortable environment, very fortunate to be able to be working with Mr. Hendrick and everybody here at Hendrick Motorsports.  We know that these are good opportunities for us to go out there and win a lot of races and battle for championships.  I think if things continue the way they are, we should be able to stay together for a few more years yet.
Q.  When you were working under Ray Evernham did you ever envision a time where there would be somebody, and that being you, that would even beat his records, what he established during the glory days of the 24?
CHAD KNAUS:  I didn’t ‑‑ I don’t know that I ever really thought of it from that angle, if anybody would beat him or if it would be me or anything like that.  That really wasn’t what my focus was.  When I was working with Ray and Jeff Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports back in those days, in the early‑to‑mid ’90s, all I wanted to do was work as hard as I could and do the best I could for Ray and Jeff Gordon and Mr. Hendrick to try to win races.
I can’t say I thought of it from that angle.  I didn’t really care about that.
Q.  As much success as you’ve had and as much ‑‑ as long as you’ve been linked with Jimmie, is there a next step for you?  Do you ever allow yourself to think ahead of where you want to take the career that’s already had this kind of success, and also, what keeps it from year to year from seeming like the same old?
CHAD KNAUS:  (Laughing) I don’t know what the next step is.  Mr. Hendrick doesn’t give me enough time off work to actually think about anything other than racing.  I don’t know if there is another one.
I don’t know what I’m going to do.  You know, one day we’ll wake up and I’ll probably just check out and be gone.  We just have to wait for that day to arise.  But right now I really enjoy what it is that I’m doing.  I really enjoy working with Ron Malec and Jimmie and everybody here at Hendrick Motorsports.  But I don’t know what’s going to happen.  We’re just going to have to wait and see.
Q.  We were talking to Gil Martin earlier, and he was talking about the success you guys have had, and he said you’ve been through what he described in a dating sense, the holding hands period and reached ‑‑ got past that to the point where you could just put it all together so well.  Could you sort of address that?
CHAD KNAUS:  Yeah.  Jimmie and I have been together for a long time, obviously.  Any relationship needs work.  We’ve been very fortunate to have been together for a long time, and it’s been a lot of work.  We’ve had some really good times, we’ve had some really stressful times together.  We’ve had some really successful times.  We’ve had a lot of victories and a lot of faults.  We lose a heck of a lot more races than we win.  Everybody thinks that we dominate and so on and so forth and that’s what everybody writes about and the fans talk about, but man, we lose a lot of races, and that’s taxing on anybody.
As we’re trying to do better weekly and improve weekly, it’s always a challenge.  The good thing we’ve got is that I’ve got 100‑percent confidence in Jimmie and I feel like he has the
same for me, and we know that at the end of the day, all we’re trying to do is to make each other better with any of our constructive criticism, any of our feedback or any of our suggestions.  It’s a really nice environment to work in when you know that your driver has your back 100 percent.
Q.  When you and Jimmie were first winning championships together, did you ever think he’d be getting up at 5:30 in the morning to go run, and what do you think his current focus on his fitness as far as just running and swimming and biking have impacted his performance?
CHAD KNAUS:  First off, no, he was definitely not an athlete when we first started hanging out, not by any stretch.  I shouldn’t say he wasn’t an athlete, that isn’t fair.  He wasn’t a training athlete.  He didn’t enjoy it, he didn’t do it.  He knew he needed to.  He would do enough to potentially get by.  At that point in time I was probably in a lot better shape than what he was.  I was probably training more then.  Now he’s taken it to the next level as far as training goes.  He’s a phenomenal athlete.  He’s got obviously a tremendous skill set, and now he’s working on his physical aptitude.  I think it definitely does a lot of good for him.  I think that it, one, obviously makes his endurance a lot better throughout the course of these races.  I think it makes him more alert and better come the end of the events when other drivers are maybe more tired.  I think it also has provided a significant outlet for him to where he can go, train, get away from the racing environment and enjoy it.
I’m 100 percent in favor of it.  I like what he does.  I think it’s good for him all the way around.  So it’s a good thing.  It’s a definite positive, plus‑plus.
Q.  I assume, though, that you’re not going to want to ever join him on a 5:30 in the morning run?
CHAD KNAUS:  Man, I’m coming to work at 5:30 in the morning.  He gets to go train.  We have completely different schedules.  If I had the ability to go train at 5:30 and come in at 8:00 or whatever, I would maybe do that.  But unfortunately that’s not how it works for me.  I have to come in and go to work.  But we have been on some rides together.  I’m not near the shape that Jimmie is by any stretch, but I do enjoy going riding with him when I can, when we can fit it in at the racetracks or whatever it may be.
Q.  I know you’re so busy with the 48 team and the Chase, but I just wondered if you’ve ever had time to think about what it would be like to compete against the 48 team if you were with another organization.  I guess you might consider that a good challenge, right?
CHAD KNAUS:  Wow, that’s a good question.  I’ve never been asked that one before.  What would it be like to compete against ourselves.  I think quite honestly, we do a lot.  If you look at the capabilities of the other teams at Hendrick Motorsports with Kenny and Kasey and the 5 car and Alan and Jeff on the 24 and Stevie and Dale on the 88, I think that we’re competing as close to our brothers as we possibly can, so it’s difficult.  You’ve got to go out there and you’ve got to try to beat those guys week in and week out.  I’m very fortunate, it’s been a long time since I’ve worked on another team, so I don’t know all the resources they’ve got.  I don’t know what they’ve got or the intensity level or how the other crew chiefs work in the other race teams, but I can only assume that they’re very similar to us.  So we’re probably racing against ourselves maybe even more so than what we actually think right now.
Q.  If things go your way this week, the talk will pick up about how you guys are the greatest team in history and people trying to analyze how that happens.  Are you the greatest crew chief, is Jimmie the greatest driver?  From your view, do you think that you’re working with the greatest driver in NASCAR history?
CHAD KNAUS:  I think ‑‑ gosh, that’s ‑‑ how do you answer that question without somebody saying I’m wrong, right?  I can tell you this:  I’ve worked with a lot of fantastic race car drivers and I’ve seen a lot of drivers come and go in our sport.  I think that Jimmie is, for me, and for our time, the best driver to ever sit in a race car.  Now, does that mean that he could have taken a 1956 Dodge or Plymouth or something like that and beaten Richard Petty?  I have no idea, right?  All I can compare it to is the present.  All I can compare it to is what we do out there right now and the performance that I see him pull.  I think he’s pretty remarkable.  I’m very, very fortunate to have a driver of that talent.
Q.  You’ve made some changes on your pit crew this season.  Some of the guys have never been in this final race situation before.  How are they handling the pressure this week, and how do you think they’ll handle it on Sunday?
CHAD KNAUS:  Yeah, we do have some new guys.  We’ve got actually quite a few new guys, but honestly I think they’re going to do really well.  I think the way that we prepare leading up to this point, the level that we expect out of our guys on a weekly basis, I think they’re used to pressure.  We’re fortunate enough that we’ve been in position to have battled for race wins.  We’ve battled for ‑‑ battled to come back from bad problems, from bad things that have gone on in the race, and these guys have responded really well.  I’m super excited to see how these guys go down there and tackle this.  I’ve got all the confidence in the world in them, and I think they can do it, I really do.
I think they can pull it together and go out there and put together six really good pit stops, and that’s probably about what we’re going to need.
Q.  Jimmie said there’s so much pressure on him going into this week, especially with the big points lead.  Do you feel the same way?  Is there more pressure with the bigger points lead?
CHAD KNAUS:  I wouldn’t say there’s more pressure, but you’ll look like a bigger fool if you lose it.  I think that we want to ‑‑ we just want to go down there and perform.  We want to get down there and race, and the better we qualify, the better pit selection we get, the better starting position you get, the better race you’re going to give yourself a chance to have.  There’s a lot of pressure, no doubt about it, but that’s what we love.  I live for these last 10 weeks, and once we get through these next 10 weeks I can’t wait to get through the next 26 so I can get to these 10 weeks next year.  This is what we live for.  This is what we enjoy.  We like the pressure.
Q.  As you were coming up, I’m guessing there were guys like Ray and other crew chiefs in the business that you emulated and you wanted to be as good as they were, be better than they were.  Now that you’re in the position that you’re in, you’re regarded as the best crew chief in the garage, who do you measure yourself against, the competition each week?  How do you look for to find that next ‑‑ to learn from, I guess?
CHAD KNAUS:  Well, I don’t think I’m the best crew chief in the garage.  I think I’ve got the best team, I’ve got the best driver and the best resource.  I think that keeping those pieces together is a bit of a challenge and difficult, and that’s one thing I’ve been very fortunate enough to be able to do.  We’ve had a lot of changes with engineers and mechanics and pit crew members and we can still run up there, but I feel like that as a whole, what I’m trying to improve on isn’t really the crew chief thing, it’s the personal issues, how to communicate, how to continue to improve the respect with the people that work with you and your group and how to communicate properly, how to gain the respect on a consistent basis with everybody that you’re involved
When I think of people, how to do that, I think of guys like Rick Hendrick, I think of people like Mr. Penske, I think of gentlemen like that that go out there and have a very demanding, very taxing lifestyles that are able to go out there and be successful and maintain a moderate level, sense of sanity.  That’s really what I’m trying to do now.  I feel like from the racing standpoint, we’ve got a good handle on things, and I’m just trying to improve my inner self a bit.
Q.  Is it correct that you guys have the Texas car this weekend, and if so, is the plan from the drop of the green flag to do what you did in Texas, or do you feel like maybe you’ve got a lead to protect before you start going after it that hard?
CHAD KNAUS:  It is our Texas race car.  It’s a really good race car.  We’re going to have to go down there and just see how it all unfolds.  Obviously we would love to get ourselves in a position to where we can get out there, control the event and potentially get ourselves in a position to win the race.  What better way to end the season, obviously, than with a victory.
But we’re just going to have to see how it all unfolds.  We’re not dumb.  We try to be fairly intelligent and understand all circumstances, and we understand that there’s two race cars that we’re racing, and that’s the 20 and the 29, and that’s really where our main focus has to be.  But we also know if we go out there and we lead laps and can battle for the victory, we know that we’re going to ultimately beat those guys.  So that’s kind of our plan, so we’re going to go down there and go and see if we can close it out big.
Q.  I just wondered if you could kind of describe for me the tenor of this week, this championship finale.  There’s not really any locker room bulletin board material, the other crew chiefs are kind of talking about, well, it’s a long shot, all we can do it just try to win the race.  You’ve been through so many of these.  How does this one shake out for you?  Are you having to do a lot of motivating?  What’s it like?
CHAD KNAUS:  I don’t think so.  I had a quick meeting with our guys this morning.  Every situation is different, every person is motivated differently.  I’m very fortunate that the guys on the 48 team, they kind of help motivate each other.  There’s an energy that is involved being a part of this team that makes you want to do well and makes you want to work harder.  So it’s not like I really have to get the guys and develop this huge rah‑rah speech.  I don’t have to go and make them feel like they need to do more.  But I’d say the biggest thing I told the guys today was what we do between now and Sunday night, whatever we have to do, if we have to work 24 hours a day, if you have to sacrifice time at home, if you have to sacrifice lunch, if you have to do whatever you can to make sure that that car is as prepared as it possibly can be and you are as prepared as you possibly can be for that event, any pain that you feel between now and Sunday you won’t remember that 20 years from now.  But what you will remember is if you win that championship and you have that ring.
I think that they understand that that’s the facts, and if they can go out there and do what it is they need to do and we are as prepared as we need to be, everything will fall into place.
Q.  Is it almost harder because you don’t have anyone ‑‑ this isn’t a real fiery ending here.  As it just works out circumstantial, these aren’t people that are getting all fired up?
CHAD KNAUS:  If you don’t think it’s a fiery ending, go talk to Denny Hamlin and ask him what happened a couple years ago when he came in with the points lead.  If you don’t think it’s a fiery ending, come over here and hop on the pit box and help me try to call the race and make sure you don’t mess up.  It’s a very fiery ending.  It’s so easy to throw these things away.  We see it time and time again.
There’s things that you cannot control, there’s things that you can control, and we’ve got to make sure that we can control what is in our ability and put our best foot forward.  If we don’t, if we let something slip, it could be a big problem.
We almost came back last year and really put that 2 car in a position where they had to race pretty hard.  Unfortunately we had a couple situations that crept up, but this is not easy.  It’s not easy going out there and trying to race for 267 laps.  It’s not.  It’s not easy at all.
Q.  Not everybody gets to talk about repeat championships, and not everybody knows as much about repeat championships as you do.  What recommendations would you share with other drivers and team members that have that drive to go out there and win championships?
CHAD KNAUS:  Honestly it’s just about the details.  There’s so many things that you cannot control in motorsports or in any other type of sport.  You’ve got to make sure that the things that are within your control, that you’re on top of and prepared for to the best of your ability.  Playing out the scenarios in your head, playing out the scenarios in your head with the group, making sure everybody is on the same page, communicating, that’s what you’ve got to do.  You’ve got to ‑‑ it’s not an individual process.  It’s a team process.  That’s something I learned a long time ago.  And the more I bought into that and the more I realized it, the better we were.
Q.  Are repeat championships harder?
CHAD KNAUS:  No.  No.  Not really.  I mean, they’re all hard.  Every single one of them.  Just because ‑‑ it’s not like climbing a mountain, right?  As you climb up it, it doesn’t get harder.  It’s the same challenge, it’s just whether or not you can keep everything together to win.  It’s not any harder.
Q.  A little off the subject, NASCAR keeps changing the dimension of the body, the chassis each year and stuff, and we’re seeing more and more of the cars getting over, upside down in the air and stuff.  What’s your feelings in that area?
CHAD KNAUS:  I think that the cars are significantly safer than what they’ve been in the past.  I know we’re continuing to work on more safety measures.  They’ve got some things that they’re working on in Charlotte when we go there in a couple weeks to do some testing that will help increase the safety parameters of the cars.  Quite honestly I think the cars are very safe.  We were talking about it not too long ago, Dave Elenz my engineer and myself, and I can remember when we didn’t even have soft walls and these guys were still going 180, 190 miles per hour and careening into those walls and it was amazing we didn’t have more injuries than what we did, because they still come out of the car now and they’re hurt.  Cars are going to get upside down, cars are going to get turned around backwards from time to time.  The closer the racing is, the higher the likelihood of that type of situation arising, but that’s part of racing.  It’s part of the thrill, honestly.  We just need to try to make the cars and the fans as safe as we possibly can, that way when we do have those situations come up, we can have everybody walking away.
Q.  Was the plan always to bring the Texas car to Homestead or is it the fact that it was just so dominant at Texas that you changed plans?
CHAD KNAUS:  We wanted to.  We were prepared if the car didn’t make it from Texas.  We had our Kansas car sitting there ready to go, which is actually our backup car, so it’s very similar type racetracks for our backup car.  The car that we ran at Texas is also the car that we ran at Charlotte that I felt like we could have won with in Charlotte.  It’s the car that we won with in Dover, so it’s a really, really good race car, and performed great.&nb
sp; I was hoping we were going to be able to bring it, but shoot, you just never know sometimes.
Q.  Using the same car three races in five weeks and now it sounds like four races in eight weeks, is that typical if you have a car that you really like, or is that somewhat not typical?
CHAD KNAUS:  No, it’s definitely not typical.  We could very easily take another race car and run very, very competitively.  This car as we had worked on it throughout the course of the season was showing some promise.  We kind of had it at Dover in the spring, we felt like we should have, could have, would have won that race.  We felt when we unloaded that car in Michigan as a backup car, albeit we only ran a handful of laps, the car was really fast and Jimmie had some good feel for it.  So we liked that.  Then when we took it to Dover, we realized it still had that same potential and we had tested it a couple times before that.
We felt really confident with the race car, and we will typically towards the end of the season, if we have a car that we really like, we’ll try to race that car a little bit more often.  But throughout the course of the normal season, we usually probably have like a four‑week turnaround.  So this is a little bit different.  But the boys are up to the challenge.
AMANDA ELLIS:  Chad, we thank you for joining us today, and we wish you and the team the very best of luck this weekend at Homestead.