END OF AN ERA: After 20 seasons, Sunday at Phoenix Raceway will be the final race for Chad Knaus as a full-time crew chief, marking the end of one of the most decorated careers in NASCAR Cup Series history. In his time atop the pit box, Knaus has worked with four different drivers: Casey Atwood, Stacy Compton, Jimmie Johnson and currently William Byron and the No. 24 team. His impressive résumé consists of seven Cup championships, including an unparalleled five in a row, with Johnson and the No. 48 team. Only NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Inman has more titles as a crew chief. Knaus also was part of two previous Hendrick Motorsports championships as a tire changer for Ray Evernham’s No. 24 team with driver Jeff Gordon. Knaus is the only crew chief to make the NASCAR playoffs in all 17 seasons since the format’s inception in 2004, collecting a record 29 post-season victories. He has 82 points-paying Cup wins, the third-most of all-time, coming at 20 different racetracks. The Rockford, Illinois, native has 42 pole awards, 227 top-five finishes, 370 top-10s and 18,943 laps led to his name across 707 starts.
PERFECT 10: When Byron and the No. 24 Axalta team take on Phoenix Raceway this Sunday, they will look to extend two streaks. Currently the 22-year-old driver holds two top-10 finishes at the 1-mile oval. Another this weekend would tie Phoenix with Kansas Speedway as tracks with the second-most top-10s by Byron, just behind Pocono Raceway with four. A top-10 Sunday would also give the third-year Cup Series driver 14 during the 2020 season – a personal best in a single year since entering the Cup Series.
VALLEY OF THE SUN: Heading to a track where he has found success at every level of NASCAR national series competition, Byron will return to Phoenix Raceway for the sixth time in his Cup Series career. Across his five Cup-level starts at the 1-mile oval, Byron has a personal-best finish of ninth (fall 2018) with 15 laps led. He also has two NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Phoenix on his résumé, both in 2017. He started on the front row and finished in the top four in both races, including a win in November 2017. With that victory, he became the youngest Xfinity Series winner ever at Phoenix at 19 years, 11 months and 13 days. In 2016, Byron was behind the wheel for the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series race at the track, where he led 112 laps and was in the hunt to make the final four of the playoffs before an engine failure ended his night early.
KNAUS’ PHOENIX PROWESS: For the 36th time as a NASCAR Cup Series crew chief, Knaus will sit atop the pit box at Phoenix Raceway this Sunday. With four wins at the track, all coming with Johnson and the No. 48 team, Knaus ranks second among active Cup crew chiefs, just one behind Rodney Childers. He also has three pole awards at Phoenix.
KNAUS JOINS DALE JR.: On Tuesday, Knaus joined former Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. on his popular podcast, the “Dale Jr. Download.” On the show, Knaus talked about his early days before reaching championship crew chief status, his final season before taking over his new role, as well as revealing that he officially joined Twitter. Listen to the podcast by clicking here or watch the highlights on Wednesday, Nov. 4 on NBCSN at 5 p.m. ET.
HOMETOWN HYPE: While the NASCAR Cup Series will make its final stop on the 2020 circuit, Phoenix Raceway holds special meaning for one member of the No. 24 team. Michael “Too Tall” Madill, the rear suspension mechanic for the No. 24 Axalta team, hails from Glendale, Arizona, approximately 30 minutes from the track. At the age of 16, he made the move to North Carolina to begin his NASCAR career. Now 31 years old, Madill is finishing his 12th season in the sport and his third with the No. 24 team.
AT IT AGAIN WITH AXALTA: For Sunday’s season finale, Byron will pilot the iconic Axalta flames on board his No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for the final time this year. In 2020, Axalta was the 22-race majority partner of the No. 24 team. The company’s relationship with Hendrick Motorsports was extended, taking one of the most enduring partnerships in sports through 2027.
Driver William Byron on the season finale being at Phoenix Raceway:
“It’s going to be a lot different, I feel like, finishing the season in Phoenix instead of Homestead. Phoenix put on a good race the last time we were there this spring. Between the PJ1 and the low downforce, I think it was a really good recipe for good racing. I envision it being about the same when we go back this weekend. Intensity will be high with the Championship 4 battling it out, but hopefully we can go out there and be the ‘best of the rest’ and take the win. That would be a lot of fun to end the season that way.”
Byron on the characteristics of Phoenix Raceway:
“While it’s a mile in length, Phoenix really races more like a short track. With the way you use the brakes and how much you are on and off the throttle, it really has the rhythm of a short track. It has long straightaways but then short track-like corners. It does have higher speeds, though, which is a characteristic of a bigger track, including the downforce aspect.”
Crew chief Chad Knaus on his final race:
“I don’t know that it has really set in just yet that this will be my final race as a crew chief. Honestly, I’ve been trying to keep myself really busy. Every time I think about it I start to get pretty sad, so I’ve been staying as busy as I can. I’m sure that when we get to the end of the race Sunday that it’s going to be a tough moment for me and for my brother Jimmie (Johnson). Obviously, it’s going to be tough to walk away from this full time on the crew chief level, but it will be a good thing. It’s a good opportunity for me and it’s a great opportunity for the No. 24 team and for Rudy (Fugle) to really get started on their future.”