CONCORD, N.C. – After winning seven NASCAR Cup Series championships together, it is only fitting that Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson will enter the NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2024.
The announcement, which was made at the Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a perfect capstone to their legendary and historic partnership. Both Knaus and Johnson were elected as the two selections from the Modern Era Ballot. Joining Knaus and Johnson in the Class of 2024 will be Donnie Allison, who was voted in on the Pioneer Ballot. Janet Guthrie was selected as the recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. The induction ceremony will take place on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the Charlotte Convention Center.
"To go in together is so fitting. Very special and unique," Johnson said of having his longtime crew chief right there with him when he goes into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. "When I knew my name was going on the ballot, I found out Chad’s was as well and something in the back of my mind was hoping that this opportunity would come about. I’m very proud of what we accomplished and the fact that we get to enjoy this moment and relive all those memories going into the Hall together makes this all the more special."
Knaus admitted he was a little surprised, describing himself as someone who "doesn't accept the trophy until it is in hand."
"There was a flush of emotions as I was watching the video play once Jimmie was nominated and saw the way that we grew up together," Knaus said. "As I sat back and was watching him, I was thinking my gosh, how much have I learned throughout my career just because of Jimmie? I was really proud of that.
"It’s a huge, huge day. Very proud of everybody that’s helped me and it’s an honor to be here with Jimmie. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Jimmie Johnson in a lot of different ways. It’s pretty awesome."
PHOTOS: Knaus, Johnson earn call to the Hall
With the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team, Knaus and Johnson won five NASCAR Cup Series consecutive titles from 2006 to 2010 and added championships in 2013 and 2016. They matched the Hall of Fame duo of driver Richard Petty and crew chief Dale Inman for the most championships by a driver-crew chief pairing in the sport’s top series. Knaus and Johnson won 81 Cup Series races together, which trails only Inman and Petty for the most wins by a driver-crew chief pairing.
"I cannot imagine a more fitting moment than Jimmie (Johnson) and Chad (Knaus) being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in the same class," Hendrick Motorsports team owner Rick Hendrick said in a statement. "As individuals, they’re truly unique, with different personalities, strengths and approaches to their craft. Each is a champion and generational talent in their own right. But together, they were pure magic. All of us at Hendrick Motorsports were fortunate to see greatness up close as they re-wrote the record book. On behalf of our entire organization, congratulations to two of the fiercest competitors – and best people – our sport has ever seen. We look forward to celebrating their unprecedented achievements."
Knaus’ racing roots took shape as he followed his father, John, to tracks around the Midwest. At the age of 14, he showcased his championship-winning pedigree at a young age as he worked as a crew chief for his dad when he won four straight track championships at Rockford Speedway from 1987-1990. Those titles came against drivers such as Mark Martin, Alan Kulwicki, Dick Trickle and Rusty Wallace.
Knaus’ history at Hendrick Motorsports begins in 1993 when the Rockford, Illinois, native was offered a position on the No. 24 team of driver Jeff Gordon. Over the next five years, he handled a variety of duties under the guidance of Hall of Fame crew chief Ray Evernham. Knaus started in the body shop as an assistant and worked his way to the fabrication department. Eventually, he oversaw body development and later became a member of the famed “Rainbow Warriors” pit crew. As a tire changer on the No. 24 team, he was part of Gordon’s championship efforts in 1995 and 1997. Following the 1997 season, he left the organization, becoming a car chief at Dale Earnhardt Inc. and later a crew chief at Evernham Motorsports and Melling Racing.
PHOTOS: Chad Knaus' historic career at Hendrick Motorsports
In 2002, Knaus returned to Hendrick Motorsports to serve as Johnson’s crew chief. He would go on to hold that position for the next 17 seasons. In 2019 and 2020, Knaus moved back to his roots with the organization, taking the reins of the No. 24 team with driver William Byron. In the 2020 regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway, Knaus guided Byron to his first win in the Cup Series. The victory also was Knaus’ 82nd and final win atop the pit box. Following the 2020 season, he transitioned to the team’s vice president of competition. He is the sixth crew chief to reach the NASCAR Hall of Fame, joining Evernham, Inman, Leonard Wood, Waddell Wilson and Kirk Shelmerdine.
Knaus and Johnson will become the ninth and 10th full-time personnel members of Hendrick Motorsports to be elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The others are:
Darrell Waltrip: Class of 2012; drove for team from 1987-1990
Hendrick: Class of 2017; team owner
Martin: Class of 2017; drove for team from 2009-2011
Benny Parsons: Class of 2017; drove for team in 1987
Evernham: Class of 2018; crew chief for team from 1992-1999
Gordon: Class of 2019; drove for team from 1992-2016
Wilson: Class of 2020; crew chief for team from 1987-1988, 1990-1991
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Class of 2021; drove for team from 2008-2017
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Johnson started his racing career in motorsports on dirt tracks all across the West Coast. He them moved to racing trucks in off-road stadium races, as well as American Speed Association events. From 1998-2001, he competed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series ranks with the Herzog family.
Johnson’s time at Hendrick Motorsports started in 2001 with a three-race schedule. He then began his legendary partnership with Knaus in 2002, scoring his first win in just his 13th Cup Series start. That victory came in the El Cajon, California, native’s home state at Auto Club Speedway. Driving for the team from 2001 to 2020, Johnson’s 83 wins are second to Gordon’s 93 victories in team history. Johnson is tied with Cale Yarborough for sixth on the all-time Cup Series wins list. With seven championships, Johnson is one of three drivers to hold that honor – Petty and Dale Earnhardt are the others.
"Those early years in putting together the 48 team was just a really special time because we had this great equipment that Jeff Gordon had just won his championship in," Johnson said. Chad put together a fun and amazing group of guys and I look back on those years. I think I was 25 years old to start the season and many of the guys were the same age and we built the 48.
"Of course, there’s challenging moments and the pressure that comes with competition that just weigh on you. There are moments where we definitely butted heads. I’m sure everybody heard on the radio. Many are familiar with the milk and cookies meeting. Ultimately, we had the same goal and that was to be the best that we could. I’ve never had anyone in my life push me as hard or as well as Chad Knaus has. He brought the best out of me every time I jumped in one of his cars."
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Throughout his Cup Series career, Johnson had a knack for delivering in crown-jewel events and setting new track records. He won two DAYTONA 500s, four Brickyard 400s, a record 11 victories at Dover Motor Speedway, nine at Martinsville Speedway and eight at Charlotte Motor Speedway, including four wins in the Coca-Cola 600. He led 18,941 laps in his time at Hendrick Motorsports. After running various IMSA and IndyCar events in 2021 and 2022, Johnson returned to NASCAR as the co-owner of Legacy Motor Club, which competes in the Cup Series.
More recently, Knaus and Johnson worked together on the Garage 56 project for the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. This initiative saw Hendrick Motorsports, in collaboration with NASCAR, Chevrolet, IMSA and Goodyear run a modified version of the Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 race car. The two have also teamed up for various IMSA events since Johnson retired from full-time Cup Series competition after the 2020 season.
All told, Johnson received 93% of the vote, while Knaus earned 81% percent among Modern Era candidates. The fact that a seven-time champion was not a unanimous selection seemed to puzzle his former crew chief.
"If this man here, isn’t a unanimous vote, I don’t know if anybody ever will be," Knaus said. "He’s the nicest guy. The best race car driver ever to sit in a NASCAR race car. A huge contributor to our sport. Contributes to society in so many different ways with The Jimmie Johnson Foundation. He is the ideal picture of a Hall of Fame inductee."
Hendrick Motorsports had ties to two other candidates on the Modern Era Ballot. Crew chief Harry Hyde worked in the organization for five years (1984-1988). During that time, he worked with drivers Geoff Bodine, Tim Richmond, Parsons and Ken Schrader. Nearly one-fifth of his wins as a crew chief – 11 of 56 – came with the organization. Hyde earned the first win in team history with Bodine at Martinsville in 1984 and helped guide Richmond to a seven-win campaign in 1986. Ricky Rudd was also on the ballot. He drove the No. 5 Chevrolet for the team for four seasons (1990-1993). Rudd earned four of his 23 wins with the organization.
NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Day sees a panel of voters (approximately 57 total ballots, including one ballot from a nationwide fan vote) consisting of members of the nomination committee, former drivers, former owners, former crew chiefs, manufacturer representatives, media members, the current Cup Series champion and representatives from the honors committee select two candidates (among 10) from the Modern Era Ballot and one (among five) from the Pioneer Ballot.