CONCORD, N.C. – Throughout the history of Hendrick Motorsports, the organization has had its fair share of dynamic driver-crew chief combinations. That is a testament to Rick Hendrick’s innate ability to pair the right people together.
The duo of crew chief Chad Knaus and driver Jimmie Johnson stand as the winningest combination in the team's history with 81 NASCAR Cup Series wins in their 17 years together. Knaus' 82 wins atop the pit box are the most in Hendrick Motorsports history and rank third among all crew chiefs in Cup history. Johnson's 83 wins are second only to Jeff Gordon for Hendrick Motorsports and rank sixth among all drivers in the history of the Cup Series. Their seven Cup Series championships are tied for the most by a driver-crew chief pairing.
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On Friday, Knaus and Johnson will become the 10th and 11th full-time personnel members of Hendrick Motorsports to be elected and inducted as part of the Class of 2024 of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The others are team owner Hendrick (Class of 2017), drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Class of 2021), Gordon (Class of 2019), Terry Labonte (Class of 2016), Mark Martin (Class of 2017), Benny Parsons (Class of 2017) and Darrell Waltrip (Class of 2012) and crew chiefs Ray Evernham (Class of 2018) and Waddell Wilson (Class of 2020).
Hendrick Motorsports team president and general manager Jeff Andrews cited intangibles and the impossible-to-quantify confidence Knaus and Johnson had in each other when discussing their greatness as a pairing.
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"It is a tremendous honor for both of them," Andrews said. "I was here to witness the start of their partnership. Their performance and achievements on the racetrack speak for themselves. The chemistry the two of them had and their faith in each other was on another level. They had you beat almost before you got to the racetrack because of how much they believed in each other.
"The level of commitment and the dedication that I watched them put into this sport is a tremendous testament to both of them. In my eyes during that time, nobody was working harder in this sport than Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson."
Gordon had a front-row seat to the Knaus-Johnson reign of excellence through the lenses of a teammate, car owner and competitor.
"I get to be excited about it now, but at the time it was a different story," Gordon joked. "I got firsthand to see what Chad (Knaus), Jimmie (Johnson) and that 48 team did. They didn’t just do it once or twice, it was year after year after year. Once they got on that roll, they just didn’t stop. You kept saying no way they do it again. It is just not possible and yet they did. That just goes to show you how much trust there was with that team and how much drive and passion that they had."
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"They were not only willing to take the resources and make the most of them here. They were willing to continue to outwork their competitors and push the limits of themselves every year, which inevitably pushed their competitors too and still come out on top for five years in a row. Then, going on to win seven (championships). It is truly amazing for me to have competed against them and see that happen firsthand."
Today, Knaus serves as the vice president of competition at Hendrick Motorsports. He oversees all the competition aspects for the 14-time Cup Series championship-winning organization.
"We are just so fortunate to have him as part of our company," Andrews said. "The perfection that he strives to achieve and how he pushes to make everyone better is second to none. It’s been great to watch him progress from guiding a 20-person race team to now having 170-some plus people who report directly to Chad and watch him push those groups as he’s done. He is just a tremendous asset to us. I am super proud of him and the leader he has become within the company."
Catch Knaus and Johnson’s inductions 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).