For Daniel Knost, this year will mark his first year sitting on the pit box as crew chief.
Knost has spent the last couple years as the lead engineer Ryan Newman within the organization. Newman was replaced this year by Kevin Harvick while Knost moves up the ladder to work with the team’s other new drivers – Kurt Busch. Knost says it’s a tremendous opportunity.
“The good news is you know if you make the right news and you focus on the right things, that you’re going to be successful. There’s no question about it,” Knost added. “You know if you’re struggling, you’re missing the boat so you got to get better. So I would say that makes the picture really clear. It definitely puts pressure on you to perform, but at the same time, you know the tools are in place – you just have to find the right combination.”
Knost says the biggest challenge in taking on his new role will be making the right strategy calls when necessary.
“We made some very aggressive calls at times last year and its easy for me to say it, but Matt (Borland) had to have the guts to go for it,” he commented during yesterday’s media day festivities at Stewart-Haas Racing. “He’s been in that situation before and he’s made calls works so he could make that work. So you know that’ll be the challenge – having the confidence that you’re making a strong play at the right time.”
Along with it being his first year atop the pit box, Knost will have to get used to working with some new blood. Chad Johnston and Rodney Childers have both joined SHR as crew chief (Johnston with Tony Stewart; Childers with Harvick) after working at Michael Waltrip Racing. The only returning face at SHR will be Danica Patrick’s crew chief Tony Gibson.
Knost has started to get to know both Johnston and Childers, noticing that they’re both methodical and analytical – like himself.
“I would say their communication and interaction is really strong; it’ll probably take a little longer for Tony and I to get to that,” Knost added. “But we’re working on it. I would say the main thing is the work we’ve been doing has been good. I don’t think people are hiding anything. They’re just working, going about their business.”
Knost says the crew chiefs have been sharing information with how they each look at things, how to prioritize things, what to focus on when building a racecar, and also understanding how each keeps track of their results.
“I see people that are very methodical, very analytical like myself so I think I can look through at the results of what they’ve done and see the progression of it and that’s been good,” he continued. “Other than that it’s been kind of getting to know people.”
SHR Competition Director Greg Zippidelli commented that all of the cars are more closer together than they’ve been. Knost attributes that to Childers and Johnston’s past, along with the uncertainty in the rules.
“A lot of the games and tricks you used to play with the car you don’t have to do anymore,” he commented. “People are looking for ideas right now and that sparks dialogue. Then you go to the Charlotte test and the 4 car was really good there. so suddenly there’s a stake in the sand and you all say you need to huddle around that flag.
“As we get more comfortable with what each driver wants and how we work with them, you’ll see some diversions. I think that’s healthy as it encourages as a rapid growth rate if everybody is allowed to grow in the dimension they think is most important. But every time someone wins or sets on the pole, it kind of recenters the group to what is critical.”
Knost says communication across the board will come with time, but right now he is focused on getting his group of people around the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet working with him and Busch.
Some people have wondered how that will go given Busch’s past of being hard on crew chiefs. Knost say it will be about understanding where Busch is coming from and understanding that he wants to be the best.
“I can identify with that; I can identify with wanting to be the best,” Knost said. “At the same time, I say when those situations come up for me, my primary focus will be on finding what’s the problem and how are we going to fix it. I don’t see the other ways of being productive.”