DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. — "The way I see it," 48 crew chief Chad Knaus said with a half-smile, "competition is healthy."
With five Cups and counting, who's to argue? Knaus took time Friday afternoon to discuss the new setup of his team, in which multiple crew members will, in effect, compete for pit crew positions — maybe not on a week-by-week basis, but certainly over the course of the season.
"You’ve got to realize that attitudes and effort from the people out there is what makes the big difference," Knaus said. "We can teach people to do pit stops. It’s how they handle the pressure and how they do things and how they have the athletic ability to sustain over the course of 39 events, you know. It’s really difficult."
It's worth noting that this isn't anything particularly novel in the world of sports, or the world at large, for that matter. Knaus pointed out that this approach works just fine in other arenas: "If you’re sitting on an NFL team or an NBA team or a baseball team of whatever it is, there’s somebody that wants your job," he said. "It’s that way for the drivers and the crew chiefs, and why shouldn’t it be that way for the pit crew guys? So, we want to have that because we feel like we’re going to get more out of those guys from a training perspective, from a focus perspective, and then a little bit less complacency out of it."
Knaus stressed that the 48 and 88 are part of a unit, which bodes well for Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans; their driver will now be getting the benefit of a team overseen by the very best in the business. He also hinted that crew members from virtually every team made inquiries about joining the 48 — hey, who wouldn't? — and thus, there's not a whole lot of room for anybody complaining about the new order of business.
"It’s quite simple," he said. "If you don’t buy into it and you don’t like it, you don’t have to be a part of our team. That’s the way that it is."
(Aside: late in the session, I asked Knaus if he was still taking applications. "What can you do?" he laughed. Sounds like I need to start practicing my lugnut-gun abilities.)