Chad Knaus isn’t listening to what Mike Ford has to say about whose team is better with two races left to determine the 2010 Sprint Cup champion.
While he acknowledged he had not heard everything Denny Hamlin's crew chief had said Sunday following the Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway, Knaus said he does not agree with Ford’s declaration that his Joe Gibbs Racing team of Hamlin was better than the Knaus-led Hendrick Motorsports team of Johnson.
“I don’t know that they’re a better team by any means,” Knaus said Tuesday when talking about the swap of the Johnson and Jeff Gordon pit crews. “I think it’s funny that they’re more worried about us than themselves. How’s that? I think I’d be more worried about folks on the 11 car [of Hamlin] than the 48 [of Johnson].”
After Hamlin won Sunday, Ford said he believed Johnson’s pit crew felt the pressure of pitting next to Hamlin, and that could have been a reason why the No. 48 crew made mistakes and were replaced during the race by Gordon’s crew.
Hamlin leads Johnson by 33 points heading into the final two races of the season.
“I think our race team is better than their race team, and I’m not going to tiptoe around them because of where they’re at,” Ford said. “I’m going to do what it’s going to require for us to win a championship - beat them. … I stayed focused on what we needed to do.
“We did see all that go on, saw them making mistakes, saw them studying us real hard, and when you put your focus on watching other people, you make mistakes, so I was glad to see that they are watching us and paying attention. That means they are chasing. And they made mistakes in doing so.”
Ford also said that swapping crews was a sign of desperation.
“They removed their team,” Ford said. “Their team got them to this point and they pulled them out, so this is more about trying to win a championship for the company and not the team.”
Knaus said the change is not an act of desperation and said the swap is the essence of teamwork.
“That’s not a very good team over there then,” Knaus said. “If we start to think about the individuals here we don’t operate as a team. You guys know us very well. Especially in this building [of Johnson-Gordon crews], we’re thick as thieves, man. This 24-48 group, we will do whatever we can.
“If we’re racing one other, we’re going to kick and fight and punch, but if you mess with one of us and you’re the competition, it’s a completely different circumstance. This team is thick and strong, and it’s looking to go out there and try to win this championship.”
Not since 1992 has the driver who leads the standings with two races remaining lost the title.
“I think we have got some damn good chances because we’re a bad-ass team, man,” Knaus said. “That’s all there is to it.”
His boss, Hendrick Motorsports General Manager Marshall Carlson echoed that sentiment.
“I’m entirely confident that the 48 will come back and win the title,” Carlson said. “They’re an incredible team. There’s not another team on the circuit as strong as they are.”
Carlson also dismissed Ford’s comments.
“I’m just surprised Mike Ford is thinking and talking about the 48 team so much,” Carlson said.