At the end of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season Jimmie Johnson will find himself without Crew Chief Chad Knaus and title sponsor Lowe’s for the first time since 2001. Through their 17-year relationship this 48 team has seen 7 NASCAR Cup championships, 83 race wins, 35 pole positions, 222 top-five finishes, 341 top-ten finishes and more than 18,000 laps led. Looking at these statistics it’s easy to see why Jimmie Johnson is one of the best to ever do it. At the beginning of the 2018 season Jimmie made it clear he did not wish to retire until he earned that record setting 8th Championship. With the relocation of Chad Knaus and Lowe’s retirement from Motorsports we’re left asking, what now?
After a long and disappointing few years it seems right to make a change. Chad Knaus will become the Crew Chief for the 24 car driven by youngster William Byron. Byron has had proven success at the lower level: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) ROTY, most successful rookie season in NCWTS History, and winning the Xfinity Cup Championship in 2016. I love this move because Chad can use his experience at the higher level to help teach Byron the keys to success, maybe even help develop him into the next 7-time champion. When asked about his opportunity to work with Chad Knaus William Byron said, “it’s a huge honor and a blessing that I get to work with someone like that.” He continued to say “I feel like I do well in that environment and it’s going to push me to do better. That’s what I need and I feel like going into my second year, I’ve learned the ropes of the Cup Series and I can go out and our goal is to win.”
Meanwhile the Crew Chief of the 48 car will become Kevin Meendering. Kevin has been the Crew Chief for Elliot Sadlers Xfinity car the past 3 seasons. In those 3 seasons he has had 77 top tens, 39 top fives, 3 wins, and 1 Championship in 96 races. He brings a much needed change of pace to a struggling 48 team. Rick Hendrick had the following to say about Kevin Meendering “Over the last couple of years, he’s been one of the most sought-after talents in the garage,” Hendrick said of Meendering. “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.”
With the addition of Kevin Meendering and new title sponsor Ally Financial I believe Jimmie is in good shape to make a solid run at his 8th Championship. Chad Knaus has the ability to help young drivers find success at the highest level. William Byron has the benefit of a proven Crew Chief and a fast 24 car. The 2019 season looks to be a bright one for Hendrick Motorsports.
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