As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway for the second time in 2014, Daniel Knost, rookie crew chief for Kurt Busch and the No. 41 Haas Automation “America’s Machine Tool” Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is making his first return trip to a racetrack as a crew chief.
When Knost drove into Daytona International Speedway for the season-opening Daytona 500, he knew he was going to be the one calling the shots from atop the pit box for Busch and the newly assembled No. 41 Haas Automation team. Since the No. 41 team was new to SHR, it was up to Knost and crew to ensure the team raced its way into the season-opening event because it did not have owner points from the previous season.
As the series heads to the 18th race of the season, Knost has experienced the highs and lows of a Sprint Cup campaign, even if it is only reaching its halfway point this weekend.
The No. 41 team had mixed results at Daytona during Speedweeks. First, it was involved in a seven-car pileup on lap 35 of the Sprint Unlimited. Then, it finished third in the second Budweiser Duel at Daytona. Finally, it finished 21st in the Daytona 500 after suffering damage during a pit-road collision with Trevor Bayne.
Since the team left Speedweeks at Daytona, it has experienced the high of winning when it claimed victory in the 500-lap event at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. It added third-place finishes at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California and Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The team also suffered through a period during which it struggled to complete races – at one point registering four DNFs (did not finish) in a six-race stretch from Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
Since leaving Charlotte after the Coca-Cola 600, Knost, Busch and the rest of the No. 41 team has found its footing again and is looking to add to its current streak of four consecutive top-15 finishes and five top-20s in a row. Busch would most love to score his second win of the season in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400.
Knost knows the No. 41 team’s win at Martinsville in March virtually guarantees a spot in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Adding a second win would cement the team’s place in NASCAR’s 10-race playoff. Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson is the only driver with three wins, while SHR teammate Kevin Harvick, Team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Roush Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards each have two wins this season. Busch is one of four single-race winners as the series heads to race 18 of 36.