Hendrick Motorsports splitting Chad Knaus, Jimmie Johnson after 2018 season
Hendrick Motorsports will split one of the most successful driver-crew chief combinations in the sport’s history after this season.
The organization announced Wednesday that Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson, who have been together since 2002 and won a record-tying seven championships, will not work together in 2019.
Knaus will be William Byron’s crew chief next year.
Johnson will have Kevin Meendering as his crew chief in 2019. Meendering is serving as Elliott Sadler’s crew chief in the Xfinity Series this season at JR Motorsports.
Darian Grubb, who is Byron’s crew chief this season, will be promoted to technical director at Hendrick Motorsports.
“Chad and Jimmie will go down as one of the greatest combinations in sports history,” Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick said in a statement. “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.”
Knaus and Johnson have been together 17 seasons, the longest active streak. Brad Keselowski and Paul Wolfe are the next longest driver-crew chief combination at eight years.
Johnson enters Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega SuperSpeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC) on a career-long 53-race winless streak.
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Since last season, Johnson has three wins, six top-five finishes and 21 top-10 finishes in 66 starts. That is the worst two-year period for Johnson and Knaus in their time together.
In their time together, they won one Daytona 500 (Johnson won a second while Knaus was suspended), two Southern 500s, four Brickyard 400s and four Coca-Cola 600s.
Pairing Meendering with Johnson next year brings Meendering back to Hendrick Motorsports. Meendering spent 16 years with the organization, becoming the lead engineer for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s team in 2011. Meendering has spent the past three seasons as Sadler’s crew chief in the Xfinity Series, leading Sadler to three wins and 38 top-five finishes.
On pairing Knaus with Byron, Hendrick said: “You can’t quantify how much Chad’s leadership and championship experience will benefit William, who is a special talent. 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.”
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