Are NASCAR's rules taking the fun out of things? Knaus says so
Chad Knaus is arguably the best crew chief in NASCAR right now. It's hard to argue with his feeling that the NASCAR rulebook is taking the fun out of his job and the sport, writes Ed Hinton.
- Chad Knaus sat in the office of the No. 48 hauler, shredding documents, guarding what few secrets he is still allowed to keep.He is Jimmie Johnson's crew chief -- whatever there is left of the job description of a crew chief.Knaus is arguably the best one in NASCAR, having sent Johnson to 35 wins and the past two Cup championships, and into contention until the end of the season for every other title since their rookie year together, 2002.Now he works in a technological straitjacket introduced as the Car of Tomorrow and, now that it's mandatory everywhere, called "the new car."It is fitting that the car is boxy, for it is a box teams cannot get out of, or even think outside, by the regulations of NASCAR's new Prohibition Era.For going 1 inch outside that box -- flaring fenders ever so slightly on their Hendrick Motorsports cars -- Knaus and Jeff Gordon's crew chief, Steve Letarte, were suspended for six races last year."For all intents and purposes there's not a whole lot we can do [now]," Knaus said. "It really is sad because there's a lot of really smart guys out there who really don't enjoy their jobs anymore. That's too bad."Is it boring?"It's getting that way. It really is. But we've still got other things we can play with. We work on " he paused. "We've still got a job to do."But the building of the car, things we used to take a lot of pride in, a lot of that is gone."Knaus shook his head, for the legacy he's had to bid goodbye.
***"All right, you sonsabitches, let's have a race."Those were the only words necessary to organize and regulate the ideal race, in the mind of the late Smokey Yunick. Smokey was the mechanical wizard whose myriad accomplishments included making Fireball Roberts a household name."Run what you brung," the saying goes on the outlaw tracks. Come one, come all, and do what you must to win the race. The first three days of this week, NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton holed up with his technical lieutenants, revising the rulebooks, closing more and more loopholes, spelling out more and more no-nos legislation upon legislation upon legislation It is well that Smokey died in 2001, so he didn't have to see this, the final strangulation of all things wonderfully innovative about NASCAR, under the guise of a crackdown on so-called cheating.Chris Economaki, dean of all the world's racing journalists, entitled his autobiography, "Let 'Em All Go!"It was an old dirt-track promoter's line, yelled into the microphone just before the green flag, meaning turn 'em all loose. Set them all free.When you think about it, the green flag has always been about freedom: the unbridling of all that power and noise and courage, to go all out.No more.What of the innovative spirit that has driven NASCAR all these years?"It's gone," Knaus said. "And they're just making it worse. There's more rules coming out for next year."[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Chuck RobinsonThe legendary Smokey Yunick knew his way around a car and the NASCAR rulebook.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Tony GutierrezChad Knaus, right, and driver Jimmie Johnson have combined for 35 victories and two Cup titles since 2002.
You're going to end up with a spec class, and spec racing is really boring.
-- Chad Knaus
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