Auto Racing Extras
Crew chief Knaus a hero for late-race pit call at Atlanta

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Jimmie Johnson and his No.48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team can do no wrong in this year's "Chase for the Sprint Cup" championship, as evidenced by their remarkable comeback in Sunday's race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Johnson was caught speeding while entering pit road during a round of green- flag stops on Lap 98, and after serving his drive-through penalty, he fell one lap down in 30th place.

"I made that mistake getting onto pit road I guess," Johnson said. "I'm not sure where. But somewhere I was speeding and had to do that pass through on green flag stop conditions. It just killed us."

With the help of crew chief, Chad Knaus, Jimmie Johnson charged from 11th to second in the remaining laps.
This was supposed to be Johnson's mulligan in the Chase, but that turned out not to be necessary.

Carl Edwards took home the trophy for winning the race, his seventh Cup victory of the season, but Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus, should have won an award for being the most valuable player in the event.

Johnson managed to get back on the lead lap during the mid-stages, but it was a gutsy late-race call by Knaus that helped the two-time defending Sprint Cup Series champion score an impressive second-place finish and increase his lead to 183 points with just three races to go.

During the final caution, Johnson pitted for four new tires, dropping him from seventh to 11th for the restart with just eight laps to go. The pit strategy paid off, as Johnson charged from 11th to second in the remaining laps.

"That was just a great call," Johnson said. "I mean, a risky call, but it shows that Chad's out there racing. He's not trying to ride around and just get points. He's out there trying to earn them. He called me in for tires and told me to put my cape on and off we went. I'm very happy that we got second place."

With Knaus guiding his efforts, Johnson remains the only driver who has scored top-10 finishes in this year's Chase, as he continues to move closer towards tying Cale Yarborough's record of three consecutive Cup championships.

"I want to get in the top-five," Knaus said. "I felt like we could do a top- five pretty easily at that point. I felt like if we just stayed where we were at in seventh, I don't know if we would have finished in the top-10."

Perhaps no one was more surprised with Johnson's second-place finish than Edwards. The Roush Fenway Racing Ford driver capped off his victory at Atlanta by doing his celebratory back flip from his car, but when he found out where Johnson finished, the win suddenly became bittersweet.

"Are you kidding me?" Edwards said. "I could have done without that one."

Edwards moved up to second in the standings, but only gained 16 points on Johnson.

Greg Biffle finished 10th and fell 185 points behind, while Jeff Burton dropped 218 back after an 18th-place run.

With Texas, Phoenix and Homestead remaining on the schedule, Johnson has to feel very comfortable about capturing his third title, as he has won last year's fall race at Texas and the last two events at Phoenix.

Knaus has been Johnson's crew chief since his rookie season in 2002, and if the team captures the Sprint Cup title, he'll become the first crew chief to lead three consecutive championship efforts.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at

Sprint Cup News
· Sprint to end NASCAR partnership after 2016

· Earnhardt Jr. recipient of Myers Brothers Award

· Crew chief changes for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015

More News
Nationwide Series News
· Kenseth wins Nationwide season-finale at Homestead

· Elliott, Smith take Nationwide points battle to Kentucky

· Harvick wins Nationwide race at Chicagoland

More News
Craftsman Truck News
· Crafton becomes first back-to-back champion in Truck Series

· Crafton takes Truck Series points lead to New Hampshire

· Wallace Jr. wins Mudsummer Classic at Eldora

More News
Indy Car News
· IndyCar releases its 2015 schedule

· Conway wins race 2 in Toronto IndyCar doubleheader

· Bourdais wins rain-delayed race 1 in Toronto

More News
Formula One News
· The Inside Line: Looking back at the 2014 F1 season

· Arrivabene replaces Mattiacci as Ferrari's team principal

· Hamilton claims second F1 title with Abu Dhabi GP win

More News