Nos. 24 and 48 teams trade pit crews
FORT WORTH, Texas -- It didn't take long for crew chief Chad Knaus to make up his mind about pit crew changes to Jimmie Johnson's team for the final two races.
Hendrick Motorsports announced on Monday that Jeff Gordon's over-the-wall crew will replace the crew for the four-time defending Sprint Cup champion for the final two races at Phoenix and Homestead-Miami.
Newton: All For One, One For All
Chad Knaus' decision to swap crews between the 48 and 24 cars wasn't an act of desperation. It was a calculated move -- and the payoff could be tremendous, writes ESPN.com's David Newton. Story
The change is limited to the seven over-the-wall members of the teams. No other team member roles will be affected.
"We felt like that was the best decision for the performance of the team at that point," Knaus said Tuesday. "They did a fantastic job. Everybody on both teams handled themselves in a very difficult situation very, very well. There was nothing but a team environment. It was really what we preach here. It shows that what we've been standing for and what we've been doing since this deal started in 2002 holds true."
Knaus said he got everyone together Monday to announce the change.
"It was a difficult decision, for sure," he said. "There's always emotions involved. The thing everybody has to realize is when we set up this team it was a one-team situation. That's what we are, always have been.
"We love our guys. We eat, sleep, drink with them. We room with them, we lose with them. We do whatever it is with them. But ultimately it isn't seven guys. We're 520 people strong here with this team, and we're 80-plus strong with people in this building."
Knaus made the switch to Gordon's crew during Sunday's race at Texas Motor Speedway, where pit road mistakes were a part of Johnson going from a 14-point lead in the Chase standings to a 33-point deficit to race winner Denny Hamlin.
Asked Monday if he thought Sunday's change could tear the team apart since many of his crew members have been a part of three or four of his championship runs, Johnson said, "We'll find out. I've got no clue. It's unchartered territory for us."
This is the first time since the 2005 season that Johnson hasn't entered the final two races with the points lead.
"At this point in the game you can't have feelings,'' Johnson said after the race. "You have to go out and win the championship. If somebody's feelings got hurt, too bad. We're here to win that championship and we've got to do everything we can."
Johnson didn't lose spots on pit road on the final three stops after Gordon's crew replaced his. The swap was made possible because Gordon was wrecked under caution by Jeff Burton, leading to a physical altercation on the track.
"I'm not sure what the implications will be through the shop," Johnson admitted after finishing ninth in Sunday's race. "We've been lacking and we need to get it straightened out and it was a good wake-up call for the guys, if anything.
"I really do care for these guys with the bottom of my heart. They're my guys. But, man, we have to perform. We can't come down pit road and lose 10 spots every stop. That's just killing us."
It's the second crew swap among the championship leaders this Chase.
Harvick trails Hamlin by 59 points in the tight three-driver battle for the championship.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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