Hendrick To Split Jimmie Johnson & Chad Knaus

Chad Knaus (left) will crew chief a driver other than Jimmie Johnson (right) for the first time next season (NASCAR photo)

CONCORD, N.C. – Hendrick Motorsports has named new crew chiefs for the organization’s No. 24 and No. 48 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams for the upcoming season.

Chad Knaus will become crew chief for William Byron and the No. 24 team with its respective personnel, while Kevin Meendering will become crew chief for Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team with its respective personnel.

Knaus has been with Johnson for the entirety of the seven-time champion’s Cup Series career, while Meendering is currently the crew chief for NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff contender Elliott Sadler.

Currently the crew chief for Byron, Darian Grubb will be promoted to technical director, an executive leadership role supporting Hendrick Motorsports’ engineering and vehicle development resources.

The assignments represent new roles for veterans Knaus and Grubb, along with the return to Hendrick Motorsports for Meendering.

“Chad and Jimmie will go down as one of the greatest combinations in sports history,” said team owner Rick Hendrick. “They defied the odds by performing at a championship level for longer than anyone could’ve possibly imagined. What they’ve accomplished together has been absolutely remarkable and will be celebrated for generations. This has been an incredible, storybook run.”

Knaus, 47, will complete his 17th season as crew chief for Johnson and the No. 48 team, representing the longest-running crew chief-driver relationship in NASCAR.

The pair has won a record-tying seven Cup championships together and this season competed in the series playoffs for a record 15th time.

“It’s no secret that Chad and Jimmie have experienced their ups and downs over the years,” Hendrick said. “They’re fierce competitors, great friends and have immense respect for one another. They also fight like brothers. All three of us agree it’s finally time for new challenges and that a change will benefit them and the organization.”

Knaus will return to the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team he originally joined 25 years ago. From 1993 to 1998, the Rockford, Ill., native assumed a variety of duties under the direction of crew chief and mentor Ray Evernham.

He oversaw body development and served as a tire changer for the No. 24 team, proving to be an integral part of driver Jeff Gordon’s 1995 and 1997 Cup titles.

“You can’t quantify how much Chad’s leadership and championship experience will benefit William, who is a special talent,” Hendrick said. “The two of them are a great match, and I’m excited to see what they can do together. Chad has the Rainbow Warriors pedigree and truly appreciates the history of the No. 24. I’ve asked him to build another winner and given him the green light to put his stamp on the team and do it his way.”

Meendering, 37, oversees Sadler’s team for Hendrick Motorsports affiliate JR Motorsports. In three seasons as an Xfinity Series crew chief, the Grand Rapids, Mich., native has led the veteran driver to three wins, 38 top fives, 75 top 10s and the 2017 regular season title.

Before joining JRM, Meendering spent 16 years at Hendrick Motorsports beginning with a high-school internship in the chassis department. In 2008, he was named assistant engineer for the No. 24 team with Gordon and in 2011 became lead engineer for the No. 88 team of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Meendering holds a mechanical engineering degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

“Over the last couple of years, he’s been one of the most sought-after talents in the garage,” Hendrick said of Meendering. “Kevin is an impressive person who came up in our organization and will hit the ground running on day one. We already know how well he works with our people and that he’s a respected, forward-thinking crew chief. Having worked with a veteran driver like Elliott Sadler for three years is extremely valuable experience. He’s the right fit for Jimmie at the right time. With an established No. 48 team behind them, I believe they will perform at a winning level next season and chase that eighth championship.”

Grubb, 43, will finish the season as crew chief for the No. 24 team with Byron, who leads the Cup Series rookie of the year standings. The Floyd, Va., native served in a variety of technical roles with Hendrick Motorsports from 2003-2008, including race engineer, engineering manager and crew chief.

“Darian has established himself as a respected leader in our company, and we’ve seen him thrive in an executive role,” Hendrick said. “We’ve identified opportunities for improvement, and we know having him step up to technical director will help move us forward in those areas. He’s a champion who brings a wealth of knowledge that will continue to benefit us.”

After stints at Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing, where he won a Cup title as crew chief for Tony Stewart, Grubb returned to Hendrick Motorsports in January 2016 as vehicle production director. He was promoted to director of competition systems in August 2017 before being named crew chief of the No. 24 team.

Grubb holds a mechanical engineering degree from Virginia Tech.

“We believe these decisions will provide us with a tremendous opportunity for success in the future,” Hendrick said. “As an organization, we are here to win races and compete for championships. Everything we do comes down to putting our people in the best possible positions to further that objective.

“Winning is what it’s all about.”