Hendrick Motorsports is “not ready” to embark on a standalone IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship program according to its VP of competition Chad Knaus, who said their attention is currently focused on the evolving NASCAR landscape.
The championship-winning NASCAR organization, which has linked up with Action Express Racing to field the No. 48 Cadillac DPi-V.R in this year’s Michelin Endurance Cup races, has been rumored to be part of Cadillac’s LMDh program potentially as early as 2023.
However, Knaus has dismissed claims of a Hendrick-run IMSA operation at least in the short-term amid NASCAR’s transition to its Gen-7 car next year.
When asked if Hendrick would consider having a greater involvement in sports car racing in the future, Knaus admitted that he “can’t say that for sure.”
“I would say that I just don’t know,” he told Sportscar365.
“Going into next year with the task of going into the Gen-7 car and obsoleting all of our Gen-6 cars, that’s not something we’re ready to embark upon.
“I think LMDh is appealing for sure, but I don’t know yet. We’ve got to see how next year goes and then maybe we can make a decision moving forward.
“I think in order to put together a proper LMDh program you would need a year of prep time. And we’re not prepared to do that yet. That’s in my mind, at least.”
Knaus, who visited this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, has suggested a possible longer-term affiliation with Action Express, which along with Chip Ganassi Racing will operate Cadillac LMDh machinery.
The No. 48 AXR Cadillac — featuring Jimmie Johnson, Simon Pagenaud and Kamui Kobayashi — has received assistance from other Hendrick crew members this year including its over-the-wall crew.
“I’m not going to say that we wouldn’t be in a similar situation as we are right now,” Knaus said. “That’s very possible.
“But for us to take something on and do it for Hendrick Motorsports, I just don’t know that we’re prepared for that yet.
“But the Action Express relationship is a lot of fun. So if it’s something where we go and do the Endurance series again, like the four races we had this year, it’s a possibility.
“But we’re just not there yet [as a full Hendrick team].”
The No. 48 car’s plans for next year are not yet finalized although Knaus believes there are benefits in it continuing.
“There are things in the works for the 2022 season,” he said. “I don’t know that anything is solidified 100 percent yet.
“But if Jimmie wants to do it and Action Express wants to have me back to work on race strategy, I would entertain it for sure.
“It’s a lot on top of what we’re doing at home with the races we’ve got. But it’s enjoyable for me to go out there and be a strategist on this side and be able to call the race again.
“It keeps me relevant, I feel. It’s very easy when you’re in any type of industry, as soon as you step away you lose the pain and that reality of what it is that the guys at the racetrack go through.
“So I think this keeps me relevant with their crew chiefs and NASCAR, because they’re calling every single week and here I’m doing it. It’s a good thing.”
Knaus: 24H Le Mans Visit “Educational”
The longtime NASCAR crew chief said his visit to this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans was “so educational” and could see himself returning there in an official capacity in the future.
“It was really cool to go there and be under the radar, just being a fan,” Knaus said. “That’s what I did.
“It was so educational. I have like 1,500 photos on my phone, just from Le Mans. So it was a great experience.
“It was good that I had some relationships already before I got there, which was great. So I got to spend some time with Nasr, Pipo and some other guys. I got a tour through Zak Brown’s deal. And the Corvette guys were fantastic, and I got to spend some time with them.
“I really got a good behind-the-scenes look into how it works over there. And just a phenomenal experience.
“The effort that goes into preparing for that race – just one event – is mind-boggling. It was pretty cool. I truly enjoyed it.
“Everybody over there from the WEC series just welcomed me with open arms. I got to see behind the scenes and got to see race control.
“I was able to get up on the flag stand, and pit lane. I got everything!
“There was nothing I didn’t see. My very first time there. If you were ever going to do something for the first time, that was the way to do it.”
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report