DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – As Jimmie Johnson racked up win after win, championship after championship, he was always chasing one important victory.
Johnson already had one Daytona 500 victory on his resume.
But he needed one more.
He needed it for Chad Knaus, the crew chief who has been with Johnson since the start of their ride into the record books. Knaus wasn’t there the day Johnson won his first 500; he had been suspended by NASCAR for a technical violation found the week before the race was deemed to be deliberate.
On Sunday, Johnson won his second Daytona 500, forcing the intensely private Knaus to admit just how badly he wanted the win with his No. 48 team.
“As you guys know, I eat, sleep and breathe 48,” Knaus said. “Anytime that I’m taken away from that race car, I’m pretty sad. To finally be able to come down here and win, and be a part of this is definitely a huge dream come true.”
Knaus sacrificed plenty in his personal life. With no wife or kids, he’s not kidding when he says he devotes most of his time to Hendrick Motorsports and building championship race cars.
“I know we worked at least 35 days straight on the car that we raced in the Daytona 500,” Knaus said. “I sent Jimmie a text, saying ‘I’ve seen 6:48 three times today and haven’t been to bed yet.’ ”
Knaus is trying to have a life away from racing. He got engaged in December to longtime girlfriend Lisa Rockelmann, who understands when he doesn’t come home for 38 consecutive hours.