BABY KNAUS: In anticipation of the birth of his second child, crew chief Chad Knaus will miss Thursday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway. Knaus and wife Brooke are expecting their new addition – a little girl – any day. In his absence, veteran crew chief Keith Rodden will call the shots for William Byron and the No. 24 Axalta team at Kansas.
RODDEN ON DECK: Rodden has called 138 Cup Series races as a crew chief for drivers Jamie McMurray and Kasey Kahne, who he led to victory for Hendrick Motorsports at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2017. Coincidentally, that crown jewel win fell on July 23 – the same date of Thursday night’s race at Kansas Speedway. Rodden, who oversees a variety of special projects for Hendrick Motorsports, also won the 2014 NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway with McMurray and Chip Ganassi Racing. He has called seven Cup races at Kansas with a best finish of fourth with Kahne in 2015.
HOT START AT KANSAS: Right out of the gate, Byron found success at Kansas Speedway in just his first two NASCAR national series appearances at the 1.5-mile track. With one NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series start in 2016 and one Xfinity Series start in 2017, Byron has finished no worse than fourth. In fact, in his debut at the intermediate oval in 2016 – just his fifth Truck Series start – Byron started from the second position, led 34 laps and collected his first series win, which kickstarted the most successful season by a rookie in the history of the Truck Series.
RACING FOR REDEMPTION: Since his early success at Kansas Speedway, Byron has made four Cup Series starts at the 1.5-mile track. His best result came last October when he ran solidly at the front of the field and scored a top-five finish. However, Byron’s other Cup Series stats at Kansas don’t match the runs he was having. During his rookie season, Byron was running top 10 in the May race before a late-race multi-car incident ended his day with a 33rd-place finish. While in October of 2018, a mechanical issue hindered his performance, leaving him 38th. Last May, Byron was running in the second position when a pit road penalty during green-flag pit stops relegated him to a 20th-place finish.
EYES ON THE NEXT EIGHT: Looking to lock himself into the playoffs for the second time in his three-year NASCAR Cup Series career, Byron is 17th in the playoff standings with eight races left in the regular season and two playoff points to his name. While a win in one of the upcoming points-paying races would automatically secure his position in the fight for the championship, Byron currently is sitting just two points below the playoff cutline heading into the Kansas weekend.
AT IT AGAIN WITH AXALTA: This weekend at Kansas Speedway, Byron will pilot the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE with the iconic flames that fans are accustomed to seeing. In 2020, Axalta is the 22-race majority partner of the No. 24 team. The company’s relationship with Hendrick Motorsports was recently extended, taking one of the most enduring partnerships in sports through 2027.
William Byron on Chad Knaus and Keith Rodden:
“I’m excited for Chad and Brooke on having their second child. This is an important moment for them as a family. While we will miss Chad at the track on Thursday, I know that Keith will do a good job taking over during his absence. No matter the situation, the goal remains the same for the No. 24 team and we’re all committed to it.”
Byron on Kansas Speedway:
“I think Kansas is closer in relation to Charlotte with the amount of grooves it has and the ability you have to make the outside lane work. I think that outside lane is the preferred groove as the race goes along there. In terms of the track surface though, it’s similar to Texas with how smooth it is. It’s starting to get some grain to it and some character the more we race there. It’s a great track, honestly. I think it’s one of the best mile-and-a-half tracks we have on the schedule to race at.”
Byron on mid-week races:
“I’m definitely getting used to us having races coming rapidly around the corner and I really like it. It keeps my brain active and really myself in general. It doesn’t leave me too many days to sit and harp on the previous race or get lax waiting for the next one. I think it’s great to always have another race right around the corner so quickly like we’ve had.”
Byron on the playoff bubble:
“Right now, it’s all about points for us. We have to have a good week every week in terms of stage points and finishes. We need to work on getting back on the other side of the bubble and building back a buffer now. In my mind, you want at least 50 points sitting between you and the cutoff to feel more secure and be able to be more aggressive. We were close to that point a couple weeks ago but the tire issue at Indianapolis and the wreck in Texas really hurt.”
Crew chief Chad Knaus on being home for birth of his second child:
“Originally this was going to be a stretch of back-to-back off weekends for us and everything was going to go to plan so I could be home for those two weeks. Unfortunately, we now have two races in one week due to the shift in the schedule from the pandemic. Either way, we still have a great plan in place so that I get to be by Brooke’s side, and we can welcome our baby girl together.”
Knaus on Keith Rodden filling in:
“The No. 24 car has been strong even when the results haven’t shown it. Every week we lay out a pretty in-depth plan of what we’re going to do before we even get to the racetrack, so Thursday will be no different. We have a lot of depth to pull from in this situation at Hendrick Motorsports, and I know Keith (Rodden) is more than capable of getting the job done. Keith’s been working with the team the last few races in preparation of this situation, and I have all the faith that it will be a solid race for him and the No. 24 team.”
Keith Rodden on subbing for Chad Knaus at Kansas:
“I'm super pumped to get to the track again and help out Chad, William and the No. 24 team. Being present for the birth of your child is important, especially in the world we are in now. That’s a moment you don’t want to take for granted. Myself and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports support Chad and his family 100% in whatever they need. I've known Chad for years and our communication with each other is great. I’ve also been working with William and the No. 24 team the last several weeks in anticipation of this moment. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to step in and represent Axalta and Hendrick Motorsports. I want to get the best possible result, but the ultimate goal is to show up to win and bring a trophy back for Chad and his family.”