48 Team Post Texas Motor Speedway Crash “Let’s Build Something Together” November 8, 2009Posted by claireblang in 2009 Season, Drivers, NASCAR, Trackside.
Tags: Chad Knaus, claire b lang, claireblang.com, Hendrick Motorsports, jimmie johnson, lowes, Ron Malec, Texas Motor Speedway
Dallas/Fort Worth 11/08/09 – Claire B Lang 5:48 p.m. EST Sunday
As the Lowe’s team lifted the cover on the #48 team’s crash cart to begin work on Johnson’s destroyed race car – I noticed the Lowe’s logo and the slogan printed adjacent to it in large white letters, “Let’s Build Something Together.” That is exactly what the Chad Knaus (crew chief) and Ron Malec (car chief) led race team did – they rebuilt the 48 car after a second lap crash not of their driver’s making.
As I watched the Lowe’s team work on their race car, I was expecting Johnson to jump out and grab a wrench and Chad for to ask him ( as he does in the Kobalt tools commercial), “What are you doing Jimmie?” And Johnson would reply, “I’m helping fix the car Chad.” But Johnson stayed right were Knaus wanted him -inside the car ready to pilot it back out when the time was right, because Knaus had supreme confidence that this car was returning to the race track.
The team replaced the rear end housing, drive shaft, rear deck lid, mounts, front end, welded the chassis and the list goes on and on. It’s easier to list what this team did not do to their race car. Watching this team work exemplifies what makes the 48 guys so good.
It’s as if they had rehearsed this scenereo to perfection. There were some 15 Lowes guys working in sync, without speaking, on the points-leading race car while three NASCAR officials looked on. Knaus, as always, carried himself like the team owner, keeping calm and overseeing a major reconstruction project.
Twenty five media folks, local, national, print, broadcast, all standing around watching the one hour plus repairs on Johnson’s ride in the garage here at Texas Motor Speedway. Their comments initially ranged from, “He needs to man up and get out of the car and talk,” to “This is so smooth it’s like watching doctors work in the ER,” to “They’ll never get this car back out there,” to “that’s incredible.” Most of the comments were about how this team went to work, didn’t show even so much as a frown or a facial expression of any kind, any of them, and, like machines, went to work to get the car back on the race track.
There was Chad Knaus pounding sheet metal to bend it using the side of the garage stall’s concrete wall to bend the piece. They were welding, pounding, fitting, inspecting, and screwing metal, hoses, tape and wiring. They carefully used a broom under the car several times to clear the way for the tires as they prepared to pull out of the garage and at one point welded near the gas tank and a fire extinguisher and safety tarp were brought over.
Three times, they’d get close to being ready to take the car out and Chad or one of the officials would see something that needed attention. So, once again without expression, the appropriate member of the team, or Chad or Ron would move in and finesse the area one more time.
Chad would feel around the spoiler, or a rim or area he was concerned about and the team would watch him like a hawk, instinct telling them what they needed to do next. Watching this team work on their car –one just knows that most of these guys know this race car better than they know their girlfriends, wives and family members.
As the car pulled out to return to the track, I watched the members of the 48 machine run out like a football team chasing on to the field to return to the pits. Leading those running out of the garage towards the gate that leads onto pit road was car chief Ron Malec and, as he ran, he turned around quickly once and look back over his shoulder at the team guys running behind him. His face lined with grease and sweat, he gave them a thankful and confident warm smile, in a trademark 48 calm and focused way – he did so faintly but I’m sure they picked up on it because I did.
And on the 48 went to take, once again, the field of battle in a car many thought would never make it back on this race track today.
Over the years I’ve covered this sport I’ve seen many teams make incredible repairs to race cars that we thought would never make it back out onto the race track- so this is not a first.
It was something to watch though.
They made it seem easy.