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CONCORD, N.C - With the 2019 season in the rearview, Cliff Daniels reflected on his first-ever season as a crew chief for the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.

The 2019 season saw the No. 48 team kick the year off with a win on the high banks of Daytona in The Clash, ,  capture a pole award at Texas Motor Speedway, claim three top-five finishes and eight top 10s before Daniels was tapped as crew chief starting at Watkins Glen International – the 22nd race on the 36-race schedule.

Under his leadership, Johnson and the team notched three more top 10s and ultimately finished the 2019 season 18th in the standings.

“Looking back on 2019 it was definitely the toughest year on record for the No. 48,” Daniels said. “There’s no hiding that, and the statistics show that. With that struggle of the season that we had, there was also a lot of growth we experienced especially at the end of the year. We were really putting a better product on the track, the communication with the team, the teamwork we showed to jell together.”

For Daniels, his new role was a quick transition. With his first child due any day, the former No. 48 engineer had to switch gears to call the shots in what was a high-pressure situation to make changes on the No. 48 Chevrolet, putting the  team in contention to win races and make the playoffs.

“I can definitely see how intimidating it was for me at the time,” the crew chief said of his transition. “Just coming in, there was a lot of pressure on us to make the playoffs, and an expectation for results quickly to improve the performance of the No. 48 team. I think we showed that through some of the runs we were having; Darlington comes to mind; Indy comes to mind where we had top-10 performing cars and performance was headed our way. Looking back on that, I’m thankful for some of those challenges and troubles now. That made us stronger and provide us the opportunity to learn and grow.” 

Despite not having the results they were hoping for, the team was able to build their notebooks and improve throughout the season, giving them a base to build upon for 2020.

“You can’t just take a season like this and hang it up on the board as a bad season and forget about it and not pay attention to it, there’s always lessons to learn along the way,” he said. “Through those lessons learned, what can we apply to next year to make us better, to start out strong and continue to improve? There’s a lot through that process that we look at and try to help us. It was definitely a disappointing season; you can’t deny that. But we’re going to take the lessons learned, just the situational awareness, and we are going to apply that and hopefully have a better 2020.”

Now that a bow has been placed on the 2019 season, Daniels looks to recharge before his first full-time season as crew chief and seven time-champion Jimmie Johnson’s final full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“I’m looking forward to my first full-time season as a crew chief for many reasons,” Daniels said. “Just having that continuity of being there over the offseason and really make sure we are doing everything as a team and be more prepared going into the season. It’s also Jimmie’s final season so there’s so much excitement and energy and optimism with that.”

The Daniels and Johnson duo kick off their last season together at Daytona International Speedway with The Clash Sunday, Feb. 9 2020 at 3 p.m. ET on FS1.