The 2019 Monster Energy Cup Series season has proven to be tumultuous for Jimmie Johnson, his first full-time year without longtime crew chief Chad Knaus. On Monday, Hendrick Motorsports announced his race engineer Cliff Daniels will replace Kevin Meendering as crew chief of the #48 car effective immediately.
“We have great confidence in Cliff’s ability to win races with Jimmie and the team,” team owner Rick Hendrick stated. “He’s a natural leader and tremendously talented from both a technical and communication standpoint. Cliff’s familiarity with Jimmie and the #48 team culture will benefit us a ton. He will bring the spark that’s been our missing ingredient.”
After working for Stewart-Haas Racing, Daniels joined the #48 team in 2014 as Johnson’s race engineer, where he helped Johnson win his record-tying seventh Cup championship in 2016. For much of 2019, he was a member of Hendrick’s competition systems group before rejoining the #48 stable at Sonoma Raceway in June.
Johnson and Knaus, who won six championships and 81 races together as one of NASCAR’s finest driver/crew chief duos from 2002 to 2018, parted ways at season’s end. Knaus moved to Johnson’s team-mate William Byron‘s #24 team, while Meendering moved up from Hendrick affiliate JR Motorsports.
After the first 21 races of 2019, Johnson sits seventeenth in points with eight top tens and a best run of fourth at Chicagoland Speedway. The switch comes a day after Johnson finished fifteenth in the Gander RV 400 at Pocono Raceway, during which he scored his first stage win since Sonoma in 2017. Meendering will move to a senior competition role within the Hendrick organisation.
“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.“