DOVER, DE - MAY 13: Jimmie Johnson (L), driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, talks with crew chief Chad Knaus (R) in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on May 13, 2011 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Chad Knaus Told Jimmie Johnson To Intentionally Damage Car If He Won Talladega

A recording of Knaus and Johnson's conversation captured the crew chief telling five-time to crack the back end of his car on purpose if he won at 'Dega.

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Jimmie Johnson Surprised By Chad Knaus' Talladega Comment, Reaffirms Team's Innocence

Typically, Jimmie Johnson is talking about his championship run at this point of the season.

Instead, Johnson was busy Friday answering questions about a suspect comment by crew chief Chad Knaus prior to last weekend's race at Talladega Superspeedway. 

Johnson reasserted Knaus' innocence, saying NASCAR never raised an eyebrow while inspecting the No. 48 car.

"That car passed inspection multiple times throughout the course of the weekend," Johnson said. "At the end of the day, while Chad was trying to protect himself post-race, he made a foolish statement."

While he backed Knaus' story, he did admit he was "kind of surprised" when his crew chief leaned in and told him to wreck the back of the car, adding anyone could tell by his reaction in the car that Knaus' instructions were nothing he had ever heard before.

"This story can turn in a variety of ways and people are going to make of it what they want to," he said. "The facts are Chad released a statement, and that car passed inspection multiple times at the track. There really isn't more to it than that."

One of the best driver-crew chief combinations in the NASCAR garage, Knaus and Johnson have had their share of moments during this year's Chase. They have had heated discussions on the radio throughout races, Knaus accepted blame for Johnson's wreck at Charlotte and his surprise comment prior to Talladega caught his driver off-guard. 

Despite their struggles this year, Johnson said those issues are nothing new to the team. 

"There's no drama there," he said. "We've always prided ourselves in being honest with one another. There are times when he gets under my skin, and times I get under his. That's just pro sports. That's just the way it is."

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Jimmie Johnson Backs Chad Knaus Explanation For Talladega Audio Clip

Jimmie Johnson responded Wednesday to the audio clip of Chad Knaus telling him to intentionally damage his car in the event of a Talladega win, agreeing with Knaus' version of events while on ESPN2's NASCAR Now program.

Here's what Johnson told host Nicole Briscoe:

"When we're on those restrictor-plate tracks and have the bump-drafting, with all that takes place with the pushing and the bumper collisions, we're afraid of the tolerances following the race when it's over – when you win the race and go to inspection.

"If you have significant damage back there from the bumping and the contact, you're fine and NASCAR knows that's happened within the window of racing. You come back with the car moved around and you're outside of where the tolerances are, you've got an issue. So Chad was just making sure that I was aware of that.

"That car passed inspection after qualifying, been through inspection quite a few times. So it's not like we have an issue. NASCAR hasn't come to us and said, 'Your car is illegal.' We've not done anything wrong in that sense.

"What you did hear was Chad saying, 'Make sure we have some bumper damage just in case we win the race and go on to post-race inspection."

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NASCAR To Gather More Facts About Chad Knaus Order To Jimmie Johnson At Talladega

NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp has issued a statement in response to SB Nation's story Wednesday about Chad Knaus' instructions to Jimmie Johnson to intentionally damage the No. 48 car if he won Sunday's Talladega Superspeedway race.

Here is Tharp's statement in full:

"We became aware of this piece of audio this morning and certainly want to get all the facts before making an opinion and reaching any conclusions. We'll visit with the parties and pull all the facts together best we can.

"While Talladega is done and the No. 48 was not the winning or random car, we certainly have an interest in getting the facts straight on behalf of the balance of the competitors."

Though officials might be steamed at Knaus, it might be difficult for NASCAR to issue a penalty in this situation. While Knaus may have intended for Johnson to wreck the back of the car had the 48 team won the race, nothing ever actually happened.

NASCAR will likely tell Knaus it's not happy with his intentions, however.

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Chad Knaus To Jimmie Johnson: Damage Car In Case Of Talladega Win

A recording of Knaus and Johnson's conversation captures the crew chief telling his driver to intentionally crack the back end of the No. 48 car if he was to win Talladega.

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