Hendrick Motorsports names Cliff Daniels as Jimmie Johnson's new crew chief
Since the driver crew chief break-up of longtime Hendrick Motorsports pairing of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Johnson will have his second crew chief of the year atop the #48 HMS pit box, beginning with Sunday's race at Watkins Glen International. Hendrick Motorsports announced Monday that Cliff Daniels will replace Kevin Meendering as Johnson's crew chief.
“We have great confidence in Cliff’s ability to win races with Jimmie and the team,” Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick said. “He’s a natural leader and tremendously talented from both a technical and communication standpoint. Cliff’s familiarity with Jimmie and the No. 48 team culture will benefit us a ton. He will bring the spark that’s been our missing ingredient.”
Daniels first joined Johnson's #48 team after the 2014 season. He left the team at the end of the 2018 season for a position in HMS' competitions systems group but returned to the #48 team in the position of race engineer ahead of the Sonoma Raceway race in June.
“Cliff has really shined since he came back to the 48,’” Johnson said. “When he returned, there was an immediate change in the team dynamic that all of us felt. We’ve worked together for a long time, have a ton of mutual respect and a shared vision. I have no doubt the strong connection and working relationship is going to pay dividends right away. I’m so grateful to Kevin. He’s a truly awesome person who I think very, very highly of. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with him in his new role. He’s a brilliant guy and will make all of us better.”
The 2019 season, so far, has been a struggle for Johnson and the #48 team. Through the first 21 races of the 36-race season, Johnson has three top-fives and eight top-10 finishes. With five races remaining in the regular season, Johnson is 17th in the points standings, 12 points out of playoff contention. He last won a Cup Series race in June 2017 at Dover International Speedway.
Meendering will remain with Hendrick Motorsports in a senior competition role. He became Johnson's crew chief ahead of the 2019 season, replacing Knaus, who was moved to the #24 team to be William Byron's crew chief. The 2019 season also was Meendering's first as a Cup Series crew chief. He moved to the #48 team from the #1 JR Motorsports team, co-owned by Hendrick, in the NASCAR Xfinity Series upon the retirement of driver Elliott Sadler. He was Sadler's crew chief for three seasons on the #1 team.
“Kevin is a talent,” Hendrick said. “We have areas where he can make a major impact and help all four of our teams be successful. Everyone thinks the world of him, and we plan to keep him as a key member of our organization for as long as he wants to be here.”