Jimmie Johnson candidly admits therapy with Chad Knaus helped a couple win the final championship, but it all fell apart when things got personal


Thinking back to the history of the sport, some iconic duos have led to unprecedented success. Think Montana and Rice or Jordan and Pippen. In NASCAR, that duo was Jimmie Johnson and team leader Chad Knaus.

The two joined forces in 2002 on what turned out to be a record breaking trip that would include one of the greatest races in NASCAR history. Despite this success, it has not always been easy. In fact, it has become downright contentious. Johnson revealed it in a recent interview on In depth with Graham Bensinger, where he explained how the couple went into therapy together and ultimately how it got so bad (and personal) that the two had to quit.

Jimmie Johnson teams up with Chad Knaus and they sink into the history books

After several races in 2001, Jimmie Johnson made his full-time NASCAR Cup Series debut with Hendrick Motorsports in 2002. The rookie was paired with an untested crew chief in Chad Knaus. During that first season, the couple have proven to be surprisingly well-suited. Johnson has won three times and was fifth in the standings for the season. It was a precursor of things to come.

After racking up wins and finishing high in the final standings over the next two years, including a pair of runners-up in 2003 and 2004, Johnson broke through in 2006, winning his first Daytona 500 en route to five total wins this season. . and more importantly, win their first championship. Knaus was there every lap.

He was also there the following four seasons when Johnson recorded one of the most dominant stretches in NASCAR Cup Series history, winning the title in five consecutive seasons.

After a few seasons in the top 5, the pair returned to their league form in 2013 and again in 2016. After this final title, the victories declined considerably. And the relationship, which had been strained at times throughout their life together, began to break down. After the 2018 season, in which Johnson failed to win a race for the first time in a single season since he started racing full-time, the two paths went their separate ways.

Jimmie Johnson reveals how he and Chad Knaus got into therapy

As with any long-term partnership, hard times are inevitable. It’s what happens during these difficult times that can either strengthen the relationship or tear it apart. Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus have experienced their fair share of challenges together. During an interview on In depth with Graham BensingerJohnson admitted in order to save the relationship, they took a familiar path from many marriages and sought therapy.

“It was very little thought and very little finger pointing, ‘You said this. “‘No, you did that.’ It was like; it’s a mess. This is how we’re going to improve. And that really helped us for a while. I would say in 2013 we really got professional help and that got us to the championship in 2016 and then it kind of worked out from there and that was a big help.

Johnson also acknowledged that the therapy had benefited him on an individual level.

“A lot of things I learned at that time helped me in life in general and in my personal life,” admitted the 46-year-old pilot. “I always felt like there was Jimmie at work and Jimmie at home. And I quickly realized that we are who we are. There are different stressors on either side, but we are dealing, let’s analyze, deal with, or react all the same. It doesn’t matter if it’s personal or professional and that’s something I thought, “No, I’m just angry at work. I’m not bringing it back to the home Yes indeed I don’t overreact just to radio work with Chad I overreact here in my personal life too.

The working relationship ends, but they have reunited

Jimmie Johnson (L) celebrates with Team Chief Chad Knaus in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 and the 2016 NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2016. | Photo by Sarah Crabill / Getty Images

While therapy helped and allowed the couple to spend more time together, which included winning this latest championship in 2016, there were still issues. Johnson said there was a specific point in time when he realized the relationship was beyond repair.

“We had just won the championship,” Johnson said. “We’re coming back. Start of the 2017 season. And it really struck me that I wanted to be in Aspen and not Charlotte. And things started to get personal then. And him wondering. where was my heart with the team and the time and effort that I wanted to spend and be with the team was really the starting point of the rift.

The two remained together throughout the 2018 season, earning three wins in 2017, before going winless in 2018.

Knaus continued and worked with William Byron until 2020 while Johnson continued to run before retiring after the 2020 season.

The future Hall of Famer noted that the two have mended their strained relationship and are in an “amazing” place and “come full circle” by working together again at Hendrick with Johnson’s foray into endurance racing. IMSA.

Johnson and his relationship with Knaus can be summed up with one inspirational quote: “You get into the biggest fights with the people you care about because those relationships are worth fighting for.” ”

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