Chad Knaus takes the lead during Hendrick Motorsports debriefs with streamlined style


The 2021 resurgence of Hendrick Motorsports has dovetailed with Chad Knaus in his first year as vice president of competition — and reshaping how the team processes driver feedback.

The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series championship crew chief was known for his car wizardry during a Hall of Fame career with Jimmie Johnson and undoubtedly is having a major impact on the improvement of Hendrick’s Camaros this season. But Knaus also has been instrumental in restructuring the weekly postrace debriefs in which Hendrick Motorsports drivers and crew chiefs assess the previous race.

Under Knaus, the meetings have been streamlined from a few dozen team members to a much smaller audience of the team’s eight drivers and crew chiefs, plus Knaus, general manager Jeff Andrews and Jeff Gordon (and team president Marshall Carlson and owner Rick Hendrick if they choose to attend).

NEW DEAL: Alex Bowman signs with Hendrick through 2023

“Quite honestly, in the last few years, I feel like we’ve asked our crew chiefs to maybe do too much, and be a part of too many meetings, and we’ve really parsed it down,” Knaus told NBC Sports in a recent interview. “Think of it like this: The drivers and the crew chiefs almost would come and be on trial the last handful of years about, ‘Why didn’t we run well? Why didn’t you run well? Why didn’t you run this setup? Why didn’t you drive with this much brake and that much throttle.’ And I really wanted to try to get away from that.

“So we’ve parsed it down and made it really intimate. And we sit down and have pure dialogue with a smaller group. Myself and Jeff Andrews, we try to just get the key points and the bullets and make sure we got everything going and distribute that to the folks that need to know.”

With the departure of Jimmie Johnson and arrival of Kyle Larson, Hendrick has four drivers in their 20s, all of whom are relatively soft-spoken and have far less experience than Johnson and Gordon (who was regarded as a vocal leader during his 23 Cup seasons with Hendrick).

But the absence of an outspoken star seemingly hasn’t been missed in the debriefs at Hendrick. The team has won seven of 16 races this season (including four consecutive, plus Sunday’s All-Star Race win by Larson) with every driver visiting victory lane at least once (Larson has three points wins; Alex Bowman, 2, and Chase Elliott and William Byron have one apiece).

“You know Chad Knaus is in that meeting right,” Bowman said with a laugh on NASCAR America MotorMouths last month when asked by analyst Steve Letarte about whether a certain driver was leading the debriefs. “He’s really taken over those meetings and does a really good job leading and extracting information from some quiet personalities.

“I’m probably the most quiet of the four, but Larson and William are pretty quiet, and Chase calls in most of the time because he doesn’t live here full time, so he is over the phone. So it’s just one of those deals. I feel like Chad has to work a little hard to get us to talk sometimes, but it works out all right.”

Knaus said he does take the point in order to make the debriefs more efficient.

“I coach the guys,” he said. “I encourage the guys to have more dialogue. I query the drivers. I query the crew chiefs. I ask them pointed questions. ‘What would you have done differently? How could you have made your car better? What did you think about this strategy? Could you have restarted like this and helped your teammate or vice versa?’

“We have those conversations, but I think it’s a safe environment where they’re comfortable having conversations where they can say, ‘No, I think I did it right,’ or ‘Yeah, maybe we should have done this,’ or ‘Next time, I’m going to do that.’ Or whatever it may be. It’s just been nice.”

Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring
Chad Knaus working in the Action Express Racing pits with the No. 48 Ally Cadillac DPi during the Twelve Hours of Sebring (Brian Cleary/Getty Images).

Knaus has spent less time on the road this year as his first outside of the crew chief role since 2002 has allowed the father of two more time at home and to pursue other racing passions (he called strategy for Johnson’s Cadillac in the Twelve Hours of Sebring in March and will be working with the same No. 48 Action Express endurance racing team next week for the six-hour IMSA race at Watkins Glen International).

As an employee of Hendrick for nearly 30 years, Knaus, 49, has watched the debriefs through “different phases and levels of communication at Hendrick Motorsports of who needs to be involved and who doesn’t to be involved,” and there are instances in which the slimmed-down debriefs still can trigger more meetings.

“If there’s something that’s a pointed issue, we’ll get together with whoever the proper person is, and we’ll go solve that problem,” Knaus said. “I feel that’s been a little bit better of a cadence for us as opposed to sitting in a room with 30 people where nobody wants to say anything because I think everybody has experienced this: If you have two to three people sitting around a table, you’ll have a better conversation than if you’ve got 30 folks.

“So it’s worked out well — right now. Look man, if we weren’t winning races, everybody would say, ‘You need to have everybody in the room. You have to be communicating to everybody, you need to take a different path,’ and we’d probably go that way. This is the way we’re doing it today right now. How we do it in the future, I have no idea.”

Drivers to watch in Clash at the Coliseum


The 2023 NASCAR season will begin with Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the second race on a purpose-built track inside Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Although a non-points race, last year’s Clash generated intense interest as NASCAR moved the event from its long-time home at Daytona International Speedway to Los Angeles. The race was rated a success and opened doors for the possibility of future races in stadium environments.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: 10 historic moments in the Clash

MORE: Toyota looking to expand NASCAR presence

Year Two will find drivers competing on a familiar landscape but still with a track freshly paved. Last year’s racing surface was removed after the Clash.

Drivers to watch Sunday at Los Angeles:


Joey Logano

  • Points position: Finished 2022 as Cup champion
  • Last three races: Won at Phoenix, 6th at Martinsville, 18th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Won in 2022

Logano put bookends on 2022 by winning the first Clash at the Coliseum and the season’s final race at Phoenix to win the Cup championship. He’ll be among the favorites Sunday.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 2nd in 2022
  • Last three races: 3rd at Phoenix, 4th at Martinsville, 2nd at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Did not qualify last year

Chastain was the breakout star of 2022, winning a pair of races and generally putting himself front and center across much of the year. Can he start 2023 on a big note? If so, he will have to do so without replicating his Hail Melon move at Martinsville after NASCAR outlawed the move Tuesday.

Kevin Harvick

  • Points position: 15th in 2022
  • Last three races: 5th at Phoenix, 16th at Martinsville, 8th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 10th in 2022

Sunday will begin the final roundup for Harvick, who has said this season will be his last as a full-time Cup driver. He is likely to come out of the gate with fire in his eyes.


Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 13th in 2022
  • Last three races: 7th at Phoenix, 29th at Martinsville, 9th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 2nd in 2022

Welcome to Kyle Busch’s Brave New World. After 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing, he begins a new segment of his career with Richard Childress Racing. He led 64 laps at last year’s Clash but couldn’t catch Joey Logano at the end.

Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 14th in 2022
  • Last three races: 23rd at Phoenix, 35th at Martinsville, 35th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 21st in 2022

Reddick ran surprisingly strong in last year’s Clash, leading 51 laps before parking with drivetrain issues. He starts the new year with a new ride — at 23XI Racing.

Ty Gibbs

  • Points position: Won Xfinity Series championship in 2022
  • Last three (Cup) races: 19th at Martinsville, 22nd at Homestead, 22nd at Las Vegas
  • Past at Clash: Did not compete in 2022

After a successful — and controversial — Xfinity season, Gibbs moves up to Cup full-time with his grandfather’s team. Will he be the brash young kid of 2022 or a steadier driver in Season One in Cup?







Interstate Batteries extends sponsorship with Joe Gibbs Racing


Interstate Batteries, which has been a Joe Gibbs Racing sponsor since the team’s first race, has expanded its involvement with the team for 2023.

Interstate, based in Dallas, will be a primary JGR sponsor for 13 races, up from six races, the number it typically sponsored each year since 2008.

Christopher Bell and Ty Gibbs will run the majority of Interstate’s sponsorship races, but Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. also will carry the sponsor colors.

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

“We’re extremely proud of our partnership with our founding sponsor, Interstate Batteries,” said team owner Joe Gibbs in a statement released by the team. “They have been such an important part of our team for over three decades now, and it’s exciting to have them on board all four of our cars this season. The best part of our partnership is the relationships we’ve built with everyone there over the years.”

Bell will carry Interstate sponsorship in Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the All-Star Race May 21, the Coca-Cola 600 May 28, at Texas Motor Speedway Sept. 24 and at Martinsville Oct. 29.

Gibbs, in his first full season in Cup racing, will be sponsored by Interstate at Daytona Feb. 19, Bristol April 9, Nashville June 25, Chicago July 2, Texas Sept. 24 and Charlotte Oct. 8.

Hamlin will ride with Interstate sponsorship March 26 at Circuit of the Americas, and Truex will be sponsored by Interstate July 23 at Pocono.

Interstate was a key JGR sponsor in the team’s first season in 1992.

NASCAR announces rule changes for 2023 season


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR announced a series of rule changes for the 2023 season that includes outlawing the move Ross Chastain made at Martinsville and eliminating stage breaks at all six Cup road course events.

NASCAR announced the changes in a session with reporters Tuesday at the NASCAR R&D Center.

Among new things for this season:

  • Updated penalty for a wheel coming off a car.
  • Change to the amount of time teams have to repair cars on pit road via the Damaged Vehicle Policy.
  • Change to playoff eligibility for drivers.
  • Cars could run in wet weather conditions on short ovals.
  • Expansion of the restart zone on a trial basis.
  • Choose rule will be in place for more races.

MORE: Ranking top 10 moments at the Clash

NASCAR updated its policy on a loose wheel. Previously, if a wheel came off a car during an event, it would be a four-race suspension for the crew chief and two pit crew members. That has changed this year.

If a wheel comes off a car while the vehicle is still on pit road, the vehicle restarts at the tail end of the field. If a wheel comes off a vehicle while it is on pit road under green-flag conditions, it is a pass-thru penalty.

The rule changes once a vehicle has left pit road and loses a wheel.

Any vehicle that loses a wheel on the track will be penalized two laps and have two pit crew members suspended for two races. The suspensions will go to those most responsible for the wheel coming off. This change takes away a suspension to the crew chief. The policy is the same for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.

With some pit crew members working multiple series, the suspension is only for that series. So, if a pit crew member is suspended two races in the Xfinity Series for a wheel coming off, they can still work the Cup race the following day.

The Damaged Vehicle Policy clock will be 7 minutes this season. It had been six minutes last year and was increased to 10 minutes during the playoffs. After talking with teams, NASCAR has settled on seven minutes for teams to make repairs on pit road or be eliminated. Teams can replace toe links on pit road but not control arms. Teams also are not permitted to have specialized repair tools in the pits.

NASCAR will have a wet weather package for select oval tracks: the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Lucas Oil Raceway Park, Martinsville, Milwaukee, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix and Richmond.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said that teams have been told to show up at these events prepared for wet weather conditions as they would at a road course. That includes having a windshield wiper. Wet weather tires will be available. 

“Our goal here is to get back to racing as soon as possible,” Swayer said. “… If there’s an opportunity for us to get some cars or trucks on the racetrack and speed up that (track-drying) process and we can get back to racing, that’s what our goal is. We don’t want to be racing in full-blown rain (at those tracks) and we’ve got spray like we would on a road course.”

NASCAR stated that it is removing the requirement that a winning driver be in the top 30 in points in Cup or top 20 in Xfinity or Trucks to become eligible for the playoffs. As long as a driver is competing full-time — or has a waiver for the races they missed, a win will make them playoff eligible.

With the consultation of drivers, NASCAR is expanding the restart zone to give the leader more room to take off. NASCAR said it will evaluate if to keep this in place after the Atlanta race in March.

NASCAR stated the choose rule will be in effect for superspeedways and dirt races.

NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events

1 Comment

CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR will do away with stage breaks in all six Cup road course races and select Xfinity and Truck races this season, but teams will continue to score stage points. 

NASCAR announced the change Tuesday in a session with reporters at the NASCAR R&D Center. 

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

NASCAR stated there will be no stage breaks in the Cup road course events at Circuit of the Americas (March 26), Sonoma (June 11), Chicago street course (July 2), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 13), Watkins Glen (Aug. 20) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8).

There will be no stage breaks for Xfinity races at Circuit of the Americas (March 25), Sonoma (June 10), Chicago street course (July 1), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 12), Watkins Glen (Aug. 19) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7).

There will be no stage breaks for the Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas (March 25).

In those races, stage points will be awarded on a designated lap, but there will be no green-and-checkered flag and the racing will continue.

The only road course events that will have stage breaks will be Xfinity standalone races at Portland (June 3) and Road America (July 29) and the Truck standalone race at Mid-Ohio (July 8). Those events will keep stage breaks because they have non-live pit stops — where the field comes down pit road together and positions cannot be gained or lost provided the stop is completed in the prescribed time by NASCAR.

NASCAR has faced questions from fans and competitors about stage breaks during road course races because those breaks alter strategy in a more defined manner than on most ovals.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said the move away from stage breaks at road courses was made in collaboration with teams and response from fans.

“When we introduced stage racing … we took an element of strategy away from the event,” Sawyer. “Felt this (change) would bring some new storylines (in an event).”

NASCAR instituted stage breaks and stage points for the 2017 season and has kept the system in place since. NASCAR awards a playoff point to the stage winner along with 10 points. The top 10 at the end of a stage score points.

It wasn’t uncommon for many teams to elect to pit before the first stage in a road course race and eschew points to put themselves in better track position for the final two stages. By pitting early, they would be behind those who stayed out to collect the stage points. At the stage break, those who had yet to pit would do so, allowing those who stopped before the break to leapfrog back to the front.