Jimmie Johnson losing 7-time NASCAR Cup champion crew chief Chad Knaus next year
Knaus joins William Byron after 17 years with Johnson
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion combo Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus will part ways at the end of the season. Knaus will take on a new role as William Byron's crew chief in the No. 24, while Kevin Meendering will take over the No. 48 garage.
Byron's current crew chief, Darian Grubb, will be promoted to technical director at Hendrick Motorsports. The team announced all three decisions at once in a release on Wednesday.
Johnson and Knaus have been together for 17 seasons, making them the longest-running crew chief-driver pairing in NASCAR history. Together, they won a record-tying seven Cup titles and made the playoffs a record 15 times. However, despite a rich history, the two have failed to win a race in 53-straight tries.
"Chad and Jimmie will go down as one of the greatest combinations in sports history," team owner Rick Hendrick said in a release. "They defied the odds by performing at a championship level for longer than anyone could've possibly imagined. What they've accomplished together has been absolutely remarkable and will be celebrated for generations. This has been an incredible, storybook run.
"It's no secret that Chad and Jimmie have experienced their ups and downs over the years. They're fierce competitors, great friends and have immense respect for one another. They also fight like brothers. All three of us agree it's finally time for new challenges and that a change will benefit them and the organization."
The move to the No. 24 is actually a return for Knaus, who worked with the Rainbow Warriors from 1993 to 1998 under crew chief Ray Evernham. During his time there, he was a tire changer and oversaw body development for two of Jeff Gordon's championship seasons.
"You can't quantify how much Chad's leadership and championship experience will benefit William, who is a special talent," Hendrick said. "The two of them are a great match, and I'm excited to see what they can do together. Chad has the Rainbow Warriors pedigree and truly appreciates the history of the No. 24. I've asked him to build another winner and given him the green light to put his stamp on the team and do it his way."
Johnson's new crew chief, Meendering, currently oversees retiring driver Elliott Sadler's team for Hendrick affiliate JR Motorsports. In three seasons in the Xfinity Series as a crew chief, he led Sadler to three wins, 38 top fives, 75 top 10s and the 2017 regular season championship. Meendering has Hendrick roots has well, spending 16 years with the powerhouse team, working inside both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon's garages.
"We believe these decisions will provide us with a tremendous opportunity for success in the future," Hendrick said. "As an organization, we are here to win races and compete for championships. Everything we do comes down to putting our people in the best possible positions to further that objective. Winning is what it's all about."
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