Johnson, Knaus to split in 2019

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Johnson, Knaus to split in 2019

NASCAR

Johnson, Knaus to split in 2019

Hendrick Motorsports has made a significant change with two of its crew chiefs for the 2019 season.

Chad Knaus will move from the No. 48 to the No. 24 team with William Byron. Knaus takes over for Darian Grubb.

Byron will be just the fourth driver Knaus has worked with in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Notably tied to Jimmie Johnson since Johnson arrived in the Cup Series in 2002, together Knaus and Johnson have 81 wins and seven championships, which included a record five-straight from 2006-2010.

“Chad and Jimmie will go down as one of the greatest combinations in sports history,” Rick Hendrick said. “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.”

Johnson will work with Kevin Meendering, who will return to the Hendrick organization from JR Motorsports where he currently works with Elliott Sadler in the Xfinity Series. Meendering was previously with HMS for 16 years, named assistant engineer on the No. 24 team in 2008 and then lead engineer on the No. 88 team in 2011.

Eliminated from the playoffs after the first round, Johnson is in the middle of his longest winless drought in the Cup Series. The No. 48 has not been to victory lane since Dover in June 2017, and Johnson has never had a winless season. Sitting 14th in the point standings, Johnson has 10 top-10 finishes and just two top-five finishes.

“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.”

Grubb will finish the year with Byron and then shift to the role of technical director, supporting the organization’s engineering and vehicle development resources.

Grubb rejoined Hendrick Motorsports in 2016 and finished out the final nine races of the 2017 season serving as Kasey Kahne’s crew chief. When he was announced as Byron’s crew chief for this season it put Grubb back on the pit box full-time for the first time since 2015 when he won two races with Carl Edwards.

“We believe these decisions will provide us with a tremendous opportunity for success in the future,” Hendrick said. “As an organization, we are here to win races and compete for championships. Everything we do comes down to putting our people in the best possible positions to further that objective.

“Winning is what it’s all about.”

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