Jimmie Johnson, a legendary figure in the NASCAR Cup Series, recently revisited his 2016 championship-winning car displayed at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. As he shared insights with his family, a fascinating cheating story unfolded, shedding light on the ingenuity of his crew chief, Chad Knaus.
Johnson secured his seventh NASCAR Cup Series title in 2016, a remarkable feat that tied him for the most championships in the series. The championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway saw Johnson navigating from the back of the field to claim victory, showcasing his exceptional driving skills.
However, the story behind the win involves a deliberate act of rule-bending orchestrated by Chad Knaus, known for pushing the boundaries of the rule book throughout his career.
Chad Knaus’s Rule-Bending Tactics
Chad Knaus, the crew chief for Hendrick Motorsports #48 team, was notorious for his rule-bending tactics, resulting in several suspensions from NASCAR. The 2016 championship race at Homestead was no exception, and NASCAR penalized the team after qualifying.
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Jimmie Johnson, while inspecting the championship-winning car at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, shared details about the penalty and the ingenious strategy employed by Knaus.
“It’s a good car,” Johnson remarked as he walked around the car with his family. “And, so there’s a story about us getting in trouble and starting at the back of the field. This [tearoff] we intentionally left it long.”
The tearoff, a piece used to clean the windshield during pit stops, was intentionally left longer than usual, protruding by about a quarter of an inch. Johnson explained the purpose behind this intentional act of rule-bending.
“When you peeled the first one off, it let the vinyl peel and flip back. It looked like the sticker was going to come off. But, that sticker created a trip lip.”
According to Johnson, this creative manipulation of the tearoff had a specific aerodynamic impact on the car. As the sticker peeled off, it created a trip lip that altered the airflow, causing it to attach and then come back down on the car, generating additional downforce on the spoiler. While this innovative tactic went against the rules, it allowed the team to gain a competitive advantage.
“They saw it and sent us to the back of the field,” Johnson admitted. “So, I had to come from last. We still won.”
Despite starting at the back of the field due to the penalty, Johnson’s exceptional driving skills, coupled with the strategic ingenuity of Chad Knaus, propelled him to victory, securing the 2016 NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Legacy of Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson’s legacy in NASCAR extends beyond his seven Cup Series championships. Following his full-time racing career, Johnson transitioned into the role of a team owner. He co-owns Legacy Motor Club and continues to race part-time in the NASCAR Cup Series for his own team.
The revelation of the cheating scandal adds another layer to Johnson’s storied career, showcasing the innovative and sometimes controversial tactics employed by teams striving for success in NASCAR’s highly competitive environment.
As Johnson’s championship-winning car remains on display at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the tale of rule-bending ingenuity serves as a testament to the dynamic and strategic nature of NASCAR racing, where teams push boundaries in pursuit of victory.