DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. â Cliff Daniels, the race engineer who helped Jimmie Johnson win the 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, has been named as the new crew chief for Johnsonâs No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team, the organization announced Monday.
Daniels, 31, replaces Kevin Meendering, effective immediately, and will guide the No. 48 team this weekend at Watkins Glen International. Daniels had been working in Hendrickâs competition systems group before rejoining the No. 48 team as race engineer for the June event at Sonoma Raceway.
Meendering, who took over as Johnsonâs crew chief this year after longtime pit boss Chad Knaus moved to William Byronâs car, will remain with Hendrick Motorsports in a senior competition role.
âWe have great confidence in Cliffâs ability to win races with Jimmie and the team,â said team owner Rick Hendrick. âHeâs a natural leader and tremendously talented from both a technical and communication standpoint. Cliffâs familiarity with Jimmie and the No. 48 team culture will benefit us a ton. He will bring the spark thatâs been our missing ingredient.â
A seven-time champion at NASCARâs highest level, Johnson hasnât won a race since June 2017 at Dover International Speedway. He is currently 17th in the series standings, 12 points outside the cutline for the playoffs with five events left in the regular season.
Two of Johnsonâs teammates, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman, already have qualified for the postseason with victories this year. Byron is 12th in the standings, 62 points ahead of the seven-time champion.
Daniels earned his engineering degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and served for two years as race engineer for Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing (2013-2014) before moving to Hendrick Motorsports. A former driver himself, Daniels raced late models at short tracks in Virginia before embarking on his career as an engineer.
âCliff has really shined since he came back to the â48â,â Johnson said. âWhen he returned, there was an immediate change in the team dynamic that all of us felt. Weâve worked together for a long time, have a ton of mutual respect and a shared vision. I have no doubt the strong connection and working relationship is going to pay dividends right away.
âIâm so grateful to Kevin. Heâs a truly awesome person who I think very, very highly of. Iâm looking forward to continuing to work with him in his new role. Heâs a brilliant guy and will make all of us better.â
Daniels brings an air of confidence to his new role.
âWe have an opportunity to win an eighth championship and a lot more races with Jimmie,â Daniels said. âIâm proud to be in this position and have total faith in the team and our ability to perform at the level everyone expects.
âWe have the best driver, the best organization and the best leadership, so everything we need to be successful is in place. Itâs always been my goal to become a crew chief, and Iâm thankful to Mr. Hendrick for his confidence.â