Saturday, April 12, 2008
Win the second consecutive at PIR for defending series champion
Nowhere in the Sprint Cup Series garage exists a crew chief with a greater tendency for risk-taking than Chad Knaus, and that was a fact proven again on Saturday night at Phoenix International Raceway.
The man at the helm of Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet delivered again in the clutch of the SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500™, keeping the defending series champion’s Impala on the track late in the race to help Johnson steal his second consecutive Sprint Cup Series win in Arizona.
Johnson led for much of the early stages of the race, but fell behind late as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin battled for the lead. Earnhardt looked primed to end his 69-race streak without a win, but Martin overtook the newest Hendrick star and appeared ready to recapture his Phoenix glory of 1993, when he defeated Ernie Irvan by 0.17 second for his only PIR win.
As the leaders pitted for fuel with 10 laps remaining, however, it was Johnson who assumed the lead. Knaus called over the radio, "Bring it down. Bring it down."
Johnson followed the orders of Knaus, allowing Clint Bowyer to gain ground and cut into a double-digit-second lead. Even with a full foot on the gas pedal, Bowyer had little for Johnson, who literally coasted to Hendrick Motorsports’ first victory of 2008.
“For whatever reason I didn’t worry,” Johnson said. “We don’t gamble that much so when we do we make it count.”
“That’s what you race for,” said Knaus. “You want to get your heart rate up.”
Johnson’s win was his second at PIR, making him the fifth driver to score multiple victories on the 1-mile oval. Each pair of victories for multiple winners has come back to back, and if listed in chronological order, the winner’s names are also aligned alphabetically: Davey Allison (1991, 1992); Jeff Burton (2000, 2001); Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2003, 2004); Kevin Harvick (April 2006, November 2006); Jimmie Johnson (November 2007, April 2008).
NASCAR returns to PIR for the Checker Auto Parts 500 Presented by Pennzoil and the Semi-Final Showdown in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, from November 6-9, 2008.
Tickets are available by visiting www.racetickets.com
on the Web, or by calling 1-866-408-RACE (7223)