Cliff Daniels has been named the crew chief for seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, effective immediately.
Daniels replaces Kevin Meendering and will call his first race as the leader of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team this weekend at Watkins Glen. He is no stranger to the team, having joined the group in 2014 and been a part of the 2016 Cup Series championship as race engineer. Most recently a member of the HMS competition system, Daniels rejoined the team last month in his former role.
“We have great confidence in Cliff’s ability to win races with Jimmie and the team,” said Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick. “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.”
Said Johnson, “Cliff has really shined since he came back to the 48. 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.”
A former late model driver, Daniels has a mechanical engineering degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Hired by the Xfinity Series team RAB Racing in 2011, Daniels also has experience as the race engineer for Tony Stewart (2013, ’14) before he joined HMS.
“We have an opportunity to win an eighth championship and a lot more races with Jimmie,” Daniels said. “I’m proud to be in this position, and have total faith in the team and our ability to perform at the level everyone expects. We have the best driver, the best organization and the best leadership, so everything we need to be successful is in place. It’s always been my goal to become a crew chief, and I’m thankful to Mr. Hendrick for his confidence.”
Meendering had assumed the role of Johnson’s crew chief coming into this year. He will move into a senior competition role within Hendrick.
“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.”
Johnson has just eight top-10 finishes this season and one pole. Sitting on the outside of the playoff grid, Johnson has five races to overcome a 12-point deficit. He has been winless since June of 2017.