Chad Knaus signs extension, remains crew chief for Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus have celebrated plenty of good times at NASCAR race tracks throughout their 17 years of racing, and the driver and crew chief will continue to work together at least through 2020.

Knaus, whose contract with Hendrick Motorpsorts was set to end following the 2018 season, told ESPN in an interview Saturday that he had inked a new deal in the last couple of weeks to continue working with Johnson on the No. 48 car as they seek to end their longest winless streak and to capture an eighth NASCAR Cup Series title.

"Obviously, Jimmie and I, although we are going through a bit of a slump right now, we have a great time racing together," Knaus said. "We have a long relationship and enjoy everything 48. ... It was pretty easy [to stay]."

With the exception of the three Cup races Johnson drove in 2001, Knaus and Johnson have worked together since Johnson's first full season in 2002.

Johnson is tied for sixth in Cup history with 83 victories and his seven titles is tied with Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Richard Petty for the most all time.

"In years past, it was maybe more just focusing on next week, but I'd be foolish and lying to not admit the fact that to get eight championships to put Jimmie on a pedestal by himself at the top of the standings with championships is a huge desire and something I definitely want to try to achieve," Knaus said.

Johnson, who already was signed with Hendrick through 2020, is 12th in the standings this season and mired in the longest winless streak of his career at 41 races.

"I'm a very competitive person and if we go three weeks without winning, I'm frustrated," Knaus said. "So it's just a matter of going out there and competing. I love to compete.

"The winless streak right now, although it's not where we want to be by any stretch of the imagination, it's where we are. It's our reality right now and we've got to fight through it."

Although Hendrick is working on signing sponsors -- Lowe's has announced it would leave the No. 48 car and NASCAR after this season -- Knaus said the timing of the extension was more about this being the right time of year to do it.

"This shows that we've got stability between Jimmie and I moving forward, which I think is obviously appealing to anybody [looking to sponsor]," Knaus said. "As we're going to battle and then vying for our eighth title, I would think anybody would be foolish not to be on board with that."

With their relationship where they can snap at each other on the in-car radio and let any criticism roll off their shoulders, Johnson has repeatedly said he doesn't want to have another crew chief other than Knaus.

Knaus said he didn't know when he would feel the urge to step off the pit box.

"I don't know what's going to happen," Knaus said. "We've signed for two more years. That lines me up with Jimmie's contract. It's nice to be in that same space as him. Beyond that, you just don't know."

With an innovative spirit and a fierce competitive streak, Knaus doesn't have many friends in the NASCAR garage as he shuns garage chit-chat to focus on his race car. But if Knaus decided he no longer would want to be a crew chief, he likely would be in high demand for his technical expertise, either at a race team or as a television analyst.

"I've got a lot of opportunities to do a lot of things in the future but right now, we're focused on trying to get the ship righted at Hendrick Motorsports and get our cars qualifying and racing a little bit better," Knaus said. "That's my primary goal."

The Knaus-Johnson pairing is double the length of any other crew chief-driver relationship in the garage. Brad Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe are in their eighth year together, while Joey Logano is in his sixth season with crew chief Todd Gordon.

"That probably has to do with Jimmie's patience -- he's a very tolerant individual," Knaus said. "Jimmie and I have got to the point to where we really understand one another.

"It's not a big question on the amount of effort that's going in from one side nor the other. We deeply care for one another. ... We've grown a lot together through life, and I think that has a lot to do with [our longevity]."