When faced with change, two things usually happen. We can resist it or embrace it. Woefully look at the past or look happy to the future. It is no secret that Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus rode their roller coaster with the highest of highs and lowest of lows. Frustrations, disagreements, and arguments developed into champagne showers, confetti, and trophies. Through the spits and spats, sit-downs in the bosses office, and in-race mistakes, what they have achieved in their 17 years together has been unmatched. With 352 top-tens, 83 wins, and a total of 7 championships puts both of these men among the greats of this sport.
This change wasn’t a decision made overnight, nor was it made out of malice in their hearts. It was a topic of discussion that had been brewing since last year and finally came into fruition. Team owner Rick Hendrick himself made the final decision.
For 2019, Chad Knaus will sit atop the pit box for NASCAR youngster William Byron in the legendary #24. Jimmie Johnson will get the much sought-after crew chief Kevin Meendering, from JR Motorsports. Great moves like these typically serve a great purpose. This move is to build experience and develop a fundamentally stronger future with a young driver and a young crew chief.
A champion in the Xfinity Series, William Byron has shown his potential in the lower tiers of NASCAR with wins at every level. Having Chad Knaus on his pit box will give him mature voice, leadership, and understanding for the 2019 campaign. Under the guidance of Knaus, William Byron could be poised to take his next steps in NASCAR as a race winner and playoff contender. Jimmie Johnson will do the opposite for his rookie crew chief. Meendering will lean on the 7-time champion for his knowledge and understanding of what he wants from the race car. Also, he goes into a non-pressure environment as Jimmie has nothing to prove and everything to gain.
Both men are excited for 2019. New relationships and new challenges bring new expectations. It allows Hendrick Motorsports, a team they have invested their racing careers, to grow and mature for years to come. They always say change is inevitable, and once again, the saying proves to be true.