After 17 seasons together, the driver-crew chief pairing of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus will come to a conclusion at the end of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. Hendrick Motorsports announced Wednesday (Oct. 10) that Knaus will move from Johnson’s pit box to become the crew chief on William Byron‘s No. 24 Chevrolet next season.
For Johnson, he will have a new voice in his ear next season. Kevin Meendering, currently the crew chief for Elliott Sadler‘s No. 1 Chevrolet in the XFINITY Series, will take over as Johnson’s crew chief.
“Chad and Jimmie will go down as one of the greatest combinations in sports history,” team owner Rick Hendrick said in a press 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.”
The success that Johnson and Knaus enjoyed together is undeniable. Seven championships, including five in a row from 2006-2010. The vast majority of Johnson’s 83 Cup victories (with a couple of exceptions due to suspension), not to mention victories in 16 consecutive seasons. A record 11 victories at Dover International Speedway. Finally, a reputation as the toughest driver-crew chief combination in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in the sport’s modern era.
Johnson is thankful for his time with Knaus.
Chad and I have had unimaginable success together and I’m grateful for his friendship. I can’t thank him enough for his dedication to success and the drive to win. I’m looking forward to what the future holds for the entire @TeamHendrick organization. pic.twitter.com/zA8fse6XfI
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) October 10, 2018
For Johnson, 2019 will not be a complete unknown for him, but he’s never been without Knaus in Cup for long. Knaus has been suspended by NASCAR multiple times during his time as Johnson’s crew chief. One notable suspension came in 2006 when he was suspended for a violation found after pole qualifying for the Daytona 500. Darian Grubb was tabbed to sub and took Johnson to victory in the Daytona 500. Grubb, who is currently Byron’s crew chief, will move off of the pit box and into a new role as technical director for Hendrick Motorsports.
In Meendering, Johnson is getting one of the best minds in the garage to help guide him going forward.
“Over the last couple of years, [Meendering has] been one of the most sought-after talents in the garage,” Hendrick continued. “Kevin is an impressive person who came up in our organization and will hit the ground running on day one. We already know how well he works with our people and that he’s a respected, forward-thinking crew chief. Having worked with a veteran driver like Elliott Sadler for three years is extremely valuable experience.
“He’s the right fit for Jimmie at the right time. With an established No. 48 team behind them, I believe they will perform at a winning level next season and chase that eighth championship.”
Johnson enters this weekend’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega 14th in points after his move for the win at Charlotte cost him a chance at advancing to the Round of 12. He is currently on a 53-race winless streak, the longest of his career. Last weekend, he didn’t even get to the green flag before a ball joint broke on his Lowe’s Chevrolet, forcing Johnson to start the race 10 laps down. He has two top five and 10 top 10 finishes so far in 2018, career lows.
With Grubb, Byron is currently 22nd in points with three top 10 finishes. His best run so far this year has been a sixth at Pocono in July.