Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson will get a new crew chief starting at this weekend’s Cup series race at Watkins Glen.
After Johnson, who is without a win in 2019, finished 15th on Sunday’s Pocono race his Hendrick Motorsports team decided to make a change, with Cliff Daniels becoming his crew chief.
Daniels was Johnson’s race engineer during the 2016 Cup season, which Johnson won, after joining Hendrick in ’14.
Last year, Daniels joined Hendrick’s competition systems group following the 2018 season before rejoining Johnson as his race engineer at last month’s Sonoma event.
“We have great confidence in Cliff’s ability to win races with Jimmie and the team,” said Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick.
“He’s a natural leader and tremendously talented from both a technical and communication standpoint.
“Cliff’s familiarity with Jimmie and the #48 team culture will benefit us a tonne. He will bring the spark that’s been our missing ingredient.”
Daniels will replace Kevin Meendering – who only moved into his role as Johnson’s crew chief after the 2018 season.
Meendering will remain with Hendrick in a senior competition role. In the 21 Cup races so far in 2019, Johnson has scored just one pole position and eight top-10 finishes.
“Cliff has really shined since he came back to the #48,” Johnson said.
“When he returned, there was an immediate change in the team dynamic that all of us felt.
“We’ve worked together for a long time, have a tonne of mutual respect and a shared vision.
“I have no doubt the strong connection and working relationship is going to pay dividends right away.
“I’m so grateful to Kevin. He’s a truly awesome person who I think very, very highly of.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to work with him in his new role. He’s a brilliant guy and will make all of us better.”
Daniels is a former stock car driver. After earning a mechanical engineering degree from the University of North Carolina, he was hired by RAB Racing in 2011.
He worked as a race engineer for driver Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing for two seasons (2013 and ’14) before joining Hendrick.
“We have an opportunity to win an eighth championship and a lot more races with Jimmie,” Daniels said.
“I’m proud to be in this position and have total faith in the team and our ability to perform at the level everyone expects.
“We have the best driver, the best organisation and the best leadership, so everything we need to be successful is in place.
“It’s always been my goal to become a crew chief, and I’m thankful to Mr Hendrick for his confidence.”