Opinion: Chad Knaus Suspension Just An Occupational Hazard

Just like the NASCAR rulebook, there are no shades of grey when it comes to how fans view Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Chad Knaus.

Either you think Knaus is the best crew chief in the garage who simply is doing his job by pushing the envelope – and sometimes past what's legal – or you think he is one of the biggest cheats in the history of NASCAR.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Based on his 53 career wins as Jimmie Johnson's crew chief – Knaus wasn't the crew chief of record for two of Johnson's 55 wins, since he had been suspended by NASCAR – and five consecutive championships from 2006-10, Knaus obviously has the credentials that support him being called one of the great crew chiefs of all time.

Conversely, as is supported by him being punished by NASCAR on four separate occasions for rules violations, Knaus has a well-earned and well-deserved reputation as someone who has a difficult time playing within the guidelines imposed by the sanctioning body.

When you have a rap sheet like Knaus does, it will cloud fans' judgment of you and call into question the legitimacy of your accomplishments.

Not that it concerns Knaus.

"Honestly, I'm here to do the best I can for the 48 team, and that's all that really matters to me," Knaus said when he spoke with reporters two weeks ago at Phoenix. "As far as my reputation goes, I'm really not too concerned about that."

The irony in all this is what makes Knaus great and separates him from others in the garage is his ability to create shades of grey in the NASCAR rule book. That's no different than his mentor, Ray Evernham, who frequently came under the scrutiny of NASCAR for his "creative" interpretation of NASCAR's regulations.

If there is a loophole to be found, Knaus has shown time and time again he will find it and exploit it to his advantage. And that is exactly what he is supposed to do as a as crew chief for a top-flight team where the expectation is not that he just win races, but championships.

While there are times Knaus may step over the line of what constitutes right and wrong, that's OK. As long as he – and more importantly his car owner Rick Hendrick – are willing to accept the consequences of his actions, there is little reason for Knaus to reconsider his approach.

And why should he? After all, what's he doing has worked to great success so far, and if that means Knaus has to occasionally sit in the NASCAR penalty box, let's just call it an occupational hazard.

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