Meendering not rattled by 48 team's struggles

Image by Kinrade/LAT

Meendering not rattled by 48 team's struggles

NASCAR

Meendering not rattled by 48 team's struggles

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Kevin Meendering, crew chief of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson.

Get used to such a description for Meendering as the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season approaches. By taking the reins of Johnson’s team, Meendering inherits a Hendrick Motorsports group associated with 83 race wins and seven championships. He is just the second full-time crew chief in the team’s history.

From the outside looking in, that might provide a pause or at least a loud gulp. Crew chief for Johnson? Replace Chad Knaus? Talk about a high-pressure situation.

Think again, because Meendering isn’t fazed by the role.

“I feel like I’m ready,” he said Tuesday during pre-season media availability at the HMS campus. “I feel like the more prepared you are, the more work you put in, the less pressure there is because you’re ready for those situations. Like I’ve said several times, I think having all the resources here and surrounding yourself with great people definitely helps you make those tough decisions and take some of that pressure away.”

Whether it was Tuesday or during his introduction last fall as Johnson’s next leader, Meendering projected a calm, no-worries attitude. Countless questions about getting Johnson back to victory lane after a winless 2018 season and leading him to a record-breaking eighth championship never seemed to put a dent in his demeanor.

For Johnson, it’s comforting to see his crew chief go undaunted.

“I had that same early observation early in the meetings before we offered the job and he took it,” Johnson said. “He doesn’t seem really worried about this whole thing. As time has gone on, I’ve learned more about him, and that’s him — he just doesn’t get rattled easily.

“He believes in himself and his work ethic and data, and we’re going to put our heads down and work in this direction and figure it out. So, it’s really nice to have that and not have to worry about second-guessing. We’re just going to stay focused and work on this thing.”

Meendering’s confidence extends to what Johnson will do on the track. At one point while talking of Johnson’s desire to put last year’s struggles firmly in the rearview mirror, Meendering predicted, “we’ll be back in victory lane this year.”

Johnson has not won since early June 2017 at Dover and he finished a career-worst 14th in the standings last year.

When told of Meendering’s comment Johnson smiled and said, “Feels great. I can’t wait to get there.”

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