Deal is wheel genius

Knaus extension secures dynasty for Hendrick

May 05, 2010

A lot of hand wringing preceded Chad Knaus' contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports.

What's taking so long?

Is he going to come back?

Maybe — gasp — maybe he'll leave!

Wishful thinking, perhaps. There was never any chance Chad Knaus would leave Hendrick Motorsports.

"I didn't speak to anybody else," Knaus said. "I didn't talk to anybody else about any other options. I was planning on staying here at HMS and I'm pretty sure Rick (Hendrick) wanted me to stay here."

Last week Hendrick Motorsports announced contract extensions for Knaus and Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 5. While Gustafson has had many drivers throughout his tenure as an HMS crew chief, Knaus' crew-chiefing career has coincided with Jimmie Johnson's driving career.

It has been the best pairing in NASCAR, perhaps the best pairing in the history of the sport. No crew chief even had won three Cup titles in a row until Knaus did it with Johnson in 2008. No driver ever had won four in a row until Knaus helped Johnson do it in 2009.

All that can stop the No. 48 is a breakup. The only thing that could cause problems is infighting.

They already have gotten past the infighting — Johnson and Knaus learned to get along early in their careers. In fact, after winning their fourth consecutive championship together, Johnson joked Knaus was like his other wife — only he was more work than his wife, Chandra.

Hendrick has erased the possibility of a breakup until 2015. Johnson's contract runs through then as well.

"We made a promise a long time ago that if I'm driving, I'm driving his race car," Johnson said. "So I feel pretty confident that he'll always be here."

Johnson and Knaus will have a chance to shatter the seven-championship record Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt share. They will have a shot at 10 consecutive championships if they win one every year.

No team since John Wooden's UCLA college basketball squads has come close to that in any major American sport.

They could be the most phenomenal and terrifying dynasty ever in any sport.

That potential is why there was never doubt Knaus would return.

tganguli@tribune.com

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