CONCORD, N.C. – When Cliff Daniels climbs atop the No. 48 team pit box this weekend, it will be a familiar place – just a new seat for the new crew chief.
Daniels spent four seasons as a race engineer for the No. 48 team, watching races on top of the same pit box where he will now call the shots as crew chief.
“I’ve been around Cliff a lot of years,” seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson said. “Won a championship with him. I think the chemistry and relationship that we have and the depth of our communication is something that can be really useful for us trying to get the 48 back to where we want it, back to winning races, back to competing for championships and ultimately winning a championship.”
Daniels was named the new crew chief for Johnson and the No. 48 team on Monday, a day he called “incredibly exciting.”
“Being presented the opportunity, I was very humbled and grateful,” the Smithfield, Virginia, native said. “With the team that we have and with Jimmie, I know that we have high expectations that we need to go meet, and I’m just ready to get going.”
Assuming the role immediately, Daniels will be atop the pit box at Watkins Glen International for the Aug. 4 race. And with only five races remaining in the regular season, the new crew chief knows what’s at stake for the No. 48 team.
Currently, Johnson is 17th in the point standings, 12 points outside of the 16-driver playoff field.
“Our mindset’s simple – we need to keep improving, we need to make the playoffs,” Johnson said. “I feel that we can run well enough to point our way in, although I would much rather win, so we just need to be mindful of that and get every point that we can at the track. I feel if we do that, we’ll make the playoffs. Then, we have to step it up again and again and again through the playoffs to stay alive and hopefully keep that championship alive.”
The driver is excited to see how the team will respond under Daniels’ leadership, and he pointed to his new crew chief’s team pedigree – “he truly bleeds the 48” – as an important factor.
“I think our past history is one of the strong suits that we have moving forward,” Johnson said. “The fact that Cliff has history with myself and so many of these team 48 members should hopefully get things off to a quick start.”
Daniels, who rejoined the No. 48 team as a race engineer at Sonoma Raceway last month following a stint with the organization’s competition systems group, has seen first-hand the hard work put in by Johnson and all of the teammates at the track and back home on the Hendrick Motorsports campus.
The new crew chief knows everyone on the team has what it takes to translate that tireless effort into a winning formula on the racetrack.
“We don’t just have expectations, we have the highest expectations on the 48,” the 31-year-old said. “We have a great foundation of a solid team underneath of us – great team, great sponsor, best owner, great manufacturer and the best driver. So, it’s on us now to take all those tools and resources and put them together and go execute.”