CONCORD, N.C. – Jimmie Johnson’s numbers speak for themselves.
Seven NASCAR Cup Series championships, which are tied with fellow legends Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty for the most all time. In his 19-year career, Johnson notched 83 Cup Series wins, which are the sixth-most all-time. A historic partnership with crew chief Chad Knaus resulted in 81 of those victories and became the gold standard of success in the sport.
Three years after his final race as the driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, Johnson will take his rightful place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday night. Joining him will be Knaus, who was also elected as part of the Class of 2024, and driver Donnie Allison. It is a storybook ending to a legendary partnership that Johnson and Knaus enter into the Hall together.
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"To go in together is so fitting, very special and unique," Johnson said. "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. 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."
Johnson is especially looking forward to enjoying this moment and taking it all in alongside someone that he reached the top of the mountain with.
"We always worried about the next race," Johnson said. "When the offseason would hit, sure we would have a little fun but the next season was always looming. I don’t think we savored the moments like we should and I don’t think many athletes or teams have that opportunity. We can savor this moment and this experience together."
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After a three-race stint at the end of the 2001 season, Johnson began his full-time Cup Series career with the newly formed No. 48 team at Hendrick Motorsports. Knaus and Johnson hit the ground running, winning in just their 10th race together in Johnson’s home state of California. There were some growing pains in those beginning years though.
"Those early years in putting together the 48 team was a really special time because we had this great equipment that Jeff Gordon had just won his championship in," Johnson said. "Chad (Knaus) put together a fun and amazing group of guys and I look back on those years. Many of the guys were the same age and we built the 48.
"Of course, there are challenging moments and the pressure that comes with competition just weighs on you. There are moments where we definitely butted heads. I’m sure everybody heard it 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 be. 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."
Johnson and Knaus brought out the best in each other during their 17-year partnership from 2002 to 2018. The pair won an unprecedented five consecutive championships from 2006 to 2010 and titles in 2013 and 2016.
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.
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"Jimmie (Johnson) is just a great person and a great teammate," Hendrick Motorsports president and general manager Jeff Andrews told HendrickMotorsports.com. "I appreciate all that he did for this company. Outside of the wins, the numbers and the records that could stand possibly forever, he’s one of the greatest if not the greatest to get behind the wheel of a stock car. The way he treated teammates and those around him, it is so easy to respect the class he carries himself with."
Johnson and Knaus teamed together again 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.
Besides his dedication and commitment to the sport, one of Johnson’s biggest marks in the industry was how he treated people and the impact he had on his community. Launched in 2006, The Jimmie Johnson Foundation is dedicated to assisting children, families and communities in need and is currently focused on supporting K-12 public and charter schools in North Carolina through its Champions Grant program. The foundation has contributed over $13.3 million to organizations and public schools.
"He’s the nicest guy, the best race car driver ever to sit a NASCAR race car, a huge contributor or sport and contributes to society in so many different ways with the Jimmie Johnson Foundation," Knaus said. "He is the ideal picture of a Hall of Fame inductee."
Catch Johnson’s induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday, Jan. 19, at 8 p.m. ET. The event will stream live on Peacock and will also be broadcast on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).