FOX NASCAR Insider
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — One transition sentence from Jimmie Johnson's Hall of Fame induction speech said it all.
“And then I met Chad.”
Johnson and Chad Knauss enjoyed the honor of a lifetime Friday night as they took to the stage with driver Donnie Allison as members of the 2024 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class.
Without Crew Chief Knauss, Driver Johnson would not exist. Without Driver Johnson, there would be no Crew Leader Knauss.
“We spent a lot of time together and became great friends,” Johnson said. “We could read each other's minds. He somehow had a vivid understanding of what I was experiencing behind the laptop.
“His work ethic and ability to get the best out of me was most impressive.”
During the 17 years of driver-crew chief cooperation that Johnson drove with Knaus leading the team, the Hendrick Motorsports driver won 83 times (including the two races in which Knaus was suspended). His five consecutive wins from 2006 to his 2010 rank among the most unlikely to be broken.
They won several big events, including the Daytona 500 in 2006 and 2013, four Brickyard 400s, four Cork 600s, four All-Star races, and two Southern 500s.
But beyond all the trophies and championships, they taught each other about life and winning. So it was no surprise that many at Friday's induction ceremony at the NASCAR Hall of Fame referred to them acting like “brothers.” In other words, they're like brothers who love each other but sometimes have brutally honest arguments.
“Jimmy honestly believed in me and helped me figure out who I was,” Knauss said in his inaugural speech. “From attending each other's weddings to meeting each other's children for the first time, Jimmy, you taught me that there is more to life than racing, even if you don't understand. Even if it took years to do so.
“I wasn't always the best for Jimmy, but I can always promise you that I wanted the best for you.”
Their success earned them the respect of virtually everyone in the garage.
“Any driver in this field would have loved to work with Chad,” Dale Earnhardt Jr., a teammate of Johnson and Knaus for several years and a NASCAR Hall of Fame driver, said ahead of Friday's ceremony. Ta. “Every driver out there would have wanted to know what his approach was and some of the things he was doing to make the car work.”
Johnson will enter the upcoming Daytona 500 on a 133-race winless streak, looking for his first win outside of Knaus' team. After three winless seasons (one with Knauss, then two after disbanding as a professional) and a two-year “retirement” from NASCAR, where he had been competing in IndyCar, Johnson last year announced that He took over the role of co-owner and ran several races. motor club. Nine races are scheduled this year.
NASCAR requires drivers to be retired for three years before taking over, but the definition of retirement is subjective. NASCAR's Board of Candidates and Voting Committee, which determines eligibility, determined that Johnson is eligible to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the 2024 class.
“Jimmy was very lucky to be in the back of that race car,” Earnhardt said. “Jimmy went out there and got the job done. He wasn't controversial, he didn't make any mistakes off the race track, he had a great personality and he did a great job all the way.
“He remains a great asset and a great asset to this sport as an owner and as a person behind the wheel.”
Their success didn't just create generations of fans; It has also produced many aspiring drivers.
“I look forward to seeing you whenever we have the opportunity to celebrate the history of our sport.” [and] It's the modern era,'' said William Byron, a Johnson fan since childhood who won six Cup games last year driving for Hendrick. …Jimmy and Chad are both still doing something in sports. ”
They have certainly left their mark.
“Congratulations, brother,” Johnson said in his inaugural address. “I'm so happy to vote on the same ballot tonight. I really miss those days and the great people I worked with.”
Bob Pockras covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, for ESPN, Sporting His News, NASCAR Scene His Magazine, and his The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Ta. Follow him on Twitter@bob pocras.
Get more out of your NASCAR Cup Series Follow your favorites to stay informed about games, news and more