Jun 8, 2014; Long Pond, PA, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr (left) holds the winning trophy with NASCAR Spring Cup Series crew chief Steve Letarte (right) after winning the Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O

Replacing Steve Letarte…with Chad Knaus; Why It Would Work


Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has won multiple races in a season for the first time in a decade.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has won multiple races in a season for the first time in a decade.

Since the beginning of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series it has been known that Steve Letarte, who has served as crew chief for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. since 2011, had been announced as a member of NBC Sports’ broadcast team for the 2015 Sprint Cup season.  He will join lead announcer Rick Allen and analyst Jeff Burton, who were previously announced by the network.  Immediately, questions surfaced about who would take over one of the hardest jobs in NASCAR and control the #88 team for Hendrick Motorsports.  The chatter around this ‘open’ position has subsided as Dale Jr. has reeled off two wins and put together his strongest season in more than a decade.  I would like to stir the pot and propose a candidate for crew chief of the #88 car…Chad Knaus.

Now, for all of you Jimmie Johnson fans, I know this makes no sense and might even anger you but hear me out.

Chad Knaus is the best crew chief in the Cup garage and may be the greatest of all time so matching him with Dale Jr. would be a slam-dunk for Rick Hendrick.  Knaus would challenge Junior and elevate him to a level that many thought he would reach when he signed with Hendrick Motorsports.  Mr. Hendrick could deliver on his promise to make Dale a champion.  Needless to say, the squabbling over Junior’s popularity and lack of production would be squashed…a win/win.

Now, for Johnson, this creates a unique opportunity.  Johnson may be one of the greatest drivers of all time but the shadow, that is the thought that Knaus is responsible for most of his wins, hangs over the #48 driver.  Pair Jimmie with any crew chief out there (Darian Grubb or Steve Addington, to name a couple) and let him prove he is the best with or without Knaus.  My money is on Johnson still being a hall of fame talent and winning more races and championships.  The question is, does Johnson want to take the risk to prove it?

As a Dale Jr. fan it is a pipe dream, I can admit that.  But, one can see the benefits to both parties…one for success, the other for pride.

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Tags: Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Motorsports Jimmie Johnson NASCAR NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

  • Anita Garrison

    Dale Jr. with Chad would be like putting him back with Tony Eury Jr. There would be constant arguments and no encouragement. Chad does not have the personality that Jr. needs.

    • Jamerson

      I don’t know that Dale Jr. needs a “cheerleader” type crew chief that gives him constant encouragement anymore. Steve Letarte has done wonders to restore Junior’s confidence. What he needs now is just fast race cars… Knaus can provide that. Beyond that, I think the Dale Jr. that argued constantly with the Eurys is gone. In his place is a Dale Jr. that listens to and respects the opinion of his crew chief. I think Junior and Chad could establish a mutual respect and find alot of success together.

      • Anita Garrison

        You are probably right, but I can not see Mr. H breaking up a 6x championship team, it would be crazy. What would be wrong with moving his car chief Jason Burdett, after all he’s been by Steve’s side this whole time. He would know Jr. better than Chad.

  • Jamerson

    Another suggestion I would have for a replacement crew chief for Jimmie Johnson would be Ron Malec. He’s been the car chief on the #48 for YEARS now. I’m sure he’s learnedHe got his start working on the crew of Jimmie Johnson’s ASA team back in the late 90s. He has a long history with Jimmie, so I doubt he’d want to leave the 48 team to be the crew chief for another driver, even Hendrick teammate Dale Jr. But move Knaus to the 88 team and promote Malec to crew chief of the 48 team. Knaus and Malec have alot of experience working together so the chemistry of the shop heads wouldn’t be disrupted at all. Ron Malec would have the chance to prove himself as a crew chief and Jimmie Johnson could prove he can win with a crew chief that isn’t named Chad Knaus.