With these two weeks of racing at Charlotte circled on the calendar, Knaus, meticulous in his preparation, made three changes to his pit crew in the week leading into the race. It’s not that anything was wrong with the No. 48 team _ Johnson has a 44-point lead in the Sprint Cup standings over second-place Carl Edwards _ but Knaus thought the team could be stronger.
It paid off on the final pit stop _ a four-tire change in 11 seconds _ and it made the difference in his All-Star victory.
“I really didn’t think that we would be able to come down pit road and have a stop that fast, and man, those guys just absolutely nailed it,” Knaus said. “My hat’s off to them. They’ve been working really, really hard trying to improve, and we’ve had to switch some things around during the course of the last month or so and the guys really rose to the occasion.
“I’m very, very proud of the effort from everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and everybody with the 48 team and what they’ve been able to accomplish over the course of the last few weeks to improve our pit stops.”
That could mean trouble for the competition, especially as Johnson heads into Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600.
But that’s a week away, and Johnson wanted to savor Saturday night’s record-making win. It gave him another spot in the history books, and another opportunity to reflect on where he stands in NASCAR lore.
Of course, Johnson deferred.
“I don’t think it’s a question I have to answer. I still have a lot of years left in my career,” he said. “That’s something the public and masses will have to come up with. I don’t think it’s right for me to sit here and say I’m this guy or the guy. I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished and I still feel like there is a lot more I can do in this sport.
“I’m working hard to do that and when I’m old and sitting in a rocking chair hopefully people will think highly of what I’ve done and give me a tip of the hat.”
Even the haters.