Jimmie Johnson stands in the garage with his crew chief, Chad Knaus during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 12, 2010 in Avondale, Arizona
Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR

Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus Once Dominated NASCAR, But Their Relationship Was Full of Speed Bumps


On paper, Jimmie Johnson and his former longtime crew chief Chad Knaus were a match made in NASCAR heaven.

Considered one of the most dominant driver-crew chief combos in the sport's history, with the average fan likely putting them just behind Richard Petty and Dale Inman, Johnson and Knaus racked up seven NASCAR Cup Series championships during their tenure at Hendrick Motorsports. Their five-peat title title streak from 2006-2010 is a record that has yet to be touched. While Johnson has 83 total Cup Series wins and Knaus has 82 wins as a crew chief, the pair share 81 of those victories.

But, despite having plenty to celebrate on the race track, their relationship wasn't all sunshine and rainbows.

Around 2013, the year of their sixth championship, Johnson and Knaus started to really butt heads. Johnson was growing tired of Knaus' micromanaging style, while Knaus questioned Johnson's commitment to the team during the later years (he wasn't too happy when Johnson vacationed in Aspen instead of staying in Charlotte ahead of the 2017 season). It got so bad that they both eventually attended couples therapy together. Seriously.


Finally, Jimmie and Chad agreed that it was time to put an kibosh on the dynasty. At the end of the 2018 season, they both parted ways, with Kevin Meendering coming over as Johnson's crew chief and Knaus working with Johnson's teammate William Byron. This capped off a 17-year partnership: the longest in NASCAR history.

Thankfully, the former pair have since patched things up. Having since retired as a full-time NASCAR driver, Johnson is now competing in IndyCar and IMSA, while Knaus is the Vice President of Competition at Hendrick Motorsports, working alongside Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon.

Occasionally, time really does heal all wounds. It seems that a little time apart, plus being able to sit down and talk candidly as friends outside of the competitive atmosphere of NASCAR, allowed the two to salvage their relationship. They even worked together again when Johnson ran some IMSA endurance races for Hendrick in 2021. Everyone loves a good getting back together story.

Having said that...thanks to a handy little site called YouTube, we have the ability to look back into NASCAR past and witness a couple times that Johnson and Knaus had major communication issues on the track. Thank god for NASCAR scanners.


3 Heated On-Track Moments Between Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus

"Dude, your cheerleading is terrible."

During the 2011 Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Knaus and Johnson had a meltdown in communication that led to an outburst from the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet.

When Knaus asked more from his driver communication-wise over the team's radio, it led to this short but chippy back-and-forth between the driver and crew chief.

Johnson: Dude, your cheerleading is terrible. I'm going to drive my ass off. Don't sweat it, just watch.

Knaus: Prove it, baby, come on.

Johnson: You're actually annoying, instead of helping. Just let me go out and do my f***ing thing.

Johnson ended up placing 18th in the race, which probably wasn't the "f***ing thing" that he had intended on doing.


"Let's just move the f*** on!"

By 2017, the writing was pretty much already on the wall when it came to Johnson's frustrations with his team situation at the time. It was during the Cup playoffs, when tensions are already high as is, but the glaring communication issues between Johnson and Knaus were especially apparent.

Early on in the Bank of America 500, Johnson was having issues with his race car, and after frustratedly explaining to Knaus that he was "out-of-control loose" and couldn't pass the pack, it led to this heated exchange.

Johnson: I know, I know, I know! Let's just move the f*** on! I just need a little better tire pressure, and I'll do better.

Knaus: Calm down, pal. I'm trying to help.

Johnson: It's not calm in the slightest bit in the car right now, so I'm trying.

The miscommunication between Johnson and his team was also showcased during pit stops, particularly on one occasion when Johnson took off too early and had to go in reverse so the team could secure a lug nut.


"I'm driving my ass off, and I'm about to crash."

"What we've got here is a failure to communicate." The pretty much sums up the deal between Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus during the October Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway back in 2014.

Upon Johnson's insistence that he was going to crash, Knaus kept pressing him for more information so that the crew knew exactly what to fix during the upcoming pit stop. Johnson was all frustration and not much help.

Johnson: I'm driving my ass off and about to crash.

Knaus: Why are you f***ing crashing? I'm trying to help you. Where are you almost crashing, Jimmie?

Johnson: The race track. I drive it in real hard and I slide to the wall and almost crash.

Knaus: Ok, does that mean you're f***ing tight, or does that mean, what does that mean?

Johnson: I don't know what to do.

"I don't know what to do" definitely isn't something a crew chief wants to hear from a driver.


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