CONCORD, N.C. – It’s been a whirlwind for the No. 48 team these past few races. As Cliff Daniels climbed atop the pit box as the team’s new crew chief, the group was in the midst of a battle to make the playoffs.
Ultimately, the No. 48 team came up just short of the playoffs following a late-race incident in the Brickyard 400 that took Jimmie Johnson out of contention.
It marked the first time in the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion’s career that he did not make the playoffs, but it hasn’t stopped the driver, his crew chief or the No. 48 team from striving to finish the season strong.
“The final result and the way it went down was tough,” Daniels told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Not being in the playoffs is incredibly tough. But even with that being said, the team has built so much momentum, the vibe inside the team has been so strong that I believe we are getting stronger by the week, which is incredibly encouraging.”
Even with the incident that ended the team’s day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Daniels was encouraged by their performance, which included earning points for top-10 finishes in both of the first two stages.
Despite the race incident that knocked Jimmie Johnson out of the playoff running, the team’s performance at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was solid.
“There is definitely a lot to be encouraged about,” Daniels said. “In qualifying, our practices were strong, and we had a really good driving car in the race.”
Looking to keep building momentum and adding fuel to the fire, the newly appointed crew chief and Johnson both have high hopes for the remainder of the season. Daniels noted the morale remains high, and the expectations are even higher for what they can accomplish as the final 10 races of the schedule begin at Las Vegas.
“There’s a lot we’ve seen and gone through together,” Daniels said of Johnson. “Seeing him as a competitor and the person he’s been the last couple of years, especially the beginning of this year and the 2018 season, it has been really difficult for him. What is so incredible is to see, is the leadership he’s shown and just the never-give-up attitude he’s shown. Circle back up to where we are now, his motivation and his passion and his fire, it’s as strong as I have probably ever seen.”
In addition to his “fire” as a competitor, Daniels said that Johnson is excited for this weekend, and it has motivated Daniels as well.
“Yesterday he was texting me at like 5 a.m., he was so motivated, couldn’t sleep, so excited about this weekend, and we’re out of the playoffs for the first time in his career,” Daniels said. “That speaks volumes in itself.”
With the team’s spirits high, Daniels said the group has one goal in its sights as the season nears its end.
“We're going to win a race,” the crew chief said. “And our team has been building ourselves into this position for a while. We have so much fire and so much energy right now.
“We’re foot to the gas, ready to move forward.”