NASCAR America: Assessing Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus’ historic tenure

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After 17 years, seven Cup championships and 81 wins, the checkered flag will wave on Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus this weekend.

Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway will mark the final time Johnson and Knaus will work together as driver and crew chief.

In 2019, Johnson will be paired with Kevin Meendering while Knaus will work with William Byron on the No. 24 team.

On NASCAR America, three-time Cup champion and Hall of Fame crew chief Ray Evernham and Kyle Petty discussed the legacy of the Johnson-Knaus pairing and how it compares to what was accomplished by Richard Petty and crew chief Dale Inman and Jeff Gordon and Evernham.

“The most underrated record in this sport is five (championships) in a row,” Petty said, referring to the No. 48 team’s title run from 2006-10. “Nobody gives them enough credit, I just don’t think so. … The crew chief job that Ray did is a completely different job than what Chad does. The crew chief job that Chad does, Dale Inman wouldn’t even recognize it in 1967, ’68.”

Said Evernham: “Jimmie and Chad are right there with those guys. Without a doubt it’s Petty-Inman, Johnson-Knaus. What Jeff I did together was great, but we weren’t together that long. … To me it’s incredible to win that many championships, not just mechanically, but what it takes emotionally to do that. To hold those teams together and be that good for that many years is to me incredible. That’s longer than most marriages.”

Watch the above video for more.

 

Martin Truex Jr. to start at rear for engine change

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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FORT WORTH, Texas – Martin Truex Jr. will start at the rear of the field for the second consecutive weekend after his Furniture Row Racing team made an engine change Saturday.

Truex started at the rear last weekend at Martinsville after failing post-qualifying inspection. Truex will give up his 13th starting spot for Sunday’s race (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Truex was third on the speed chart in the final practice session with a top lap of 191.844 mph. He ranked 14th in the best average over 10 consecutive laps in the session.

Truex is one of four drivers going to the rear this weekend.

Daniel Suarez, who qualified 19th, will go to the rear for an engine change. Both Suarez and Truex have Toyota horsepower.

Chris Buescher, who qualified 21st, will go to the rear for an engine change. This team is using a Hendrick Motorsports engine this weekend only. JTG Daugherty Racing runs Earnhardt Childress Racing engines but will switch to Hendrick horsepower next season.

Matt DiBenedetto, who qualified 31st, will go to the rear for a transmission change.

 

Dale Tales: When Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove Kyle Busch’s car at Texas in 2007

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The history books shows that Dale Earnhardt Jr. first drove for Hendrick Motorsports in 2008 when he began racing the No. 88 Chevrolet.

But Earnhardt’s first time in a Hendrick car actually came in 2007 in a race where he drove both his Dale Earnhardt Inc. No. 8 Chevrolet and Kyle Busch‘s No. 5 Chevrolet.

Earnhardt recalled this odd episode in his career on this week’s “Dale Tales.”

The episode occurred on April 15 at Texas Motor Speedway. It began when Busch rammed into the back of Earnhardt’s car as they navigated through a smokescreen created by Tony Stewart, who had spun exiting Turn 4.

Earnhardt’s team was able to make repairs to his No. 8 car and return to the race. But his engine eventually expired on Lap 288.

He returned to the garage where Busch’s car had been repaired from their incident but Busch was nowhere to be found.

“So there was this interesting perfect timing for me pulling and their car’s ready to go,” Earnhardt recalled. “I’ve talked to Kyle since this and his version of the events is he didn’t think the car was going to get fixed and he felt he got cleared to leave. So a buddy of a mine, one of my drinking buddies that was on the 5 car that I hung out with during the week, he comes over and is like, ‘Hey man, can you drive out car? We’re in a points situation, we need to get a couple more points here and go out and run.’

“I’m like, ‘This is awesome. I’ve always wondered what the Hendrick cars felt like. What the motors felt like. This is a crashed car but maybe I can at least feel the power compared to my car and what I’ve been driving.'”

Earnhardt called it “recon” and said there was nothing behind his decision to drive the No. 5 “other than my own curiosity.”

Watch the above video for more.

Hendrick Motorsports reveals Jimmie Johnson’s sponsor for 2019-20

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Ally Financial will serve as the primary sponsor for seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson’s car for all 38 races in 2019 and 2020, Hendrick Motorsports announced Sunday on NBCSN.

Ally Financial, which will be on Johnson’s car for the 36 points races and two non-points races, replaces Lowe’s, which had been Johnson’s primary sponsor since his rookie season in 2002.

“This is a proud day for our entire organization,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “Ally has built a tremendous brand by putting the customer at the center of their decisions and doing things right. In the same way, Jimmie has always put people first and handled himself like a champion in every sense of the word. Ally’s full-season commitment makes a powerful statement about their enthusiasm for him, our program and the direction of our sport. It’s an unbelievable fit, and all of us are thrilled to launch what will be a long and successful partnership.”

Ally Financial is a leading digital financial services company. Ally’s full scope of financial services offerings includes its award-winning online bank, auto finance and insurance businesses, digital wealth management and online brokerage platform, mortgage-lending services, and Corporate Finance operation. 

“We are beyond thrilled to be in the fast lane with Jimmie Johnson, one of the most successful drivers in the history of NASCAR, and with Hendrick Motorsports, a premier organization in professional sports,” said Jeffrey Brown, CEO at Ally, in a statement. “Both share Ally’s passion for delivering results for our customers and for our communities, with a deep commitment to ‘do it right’ for the people who count on us most. We look forward to working with this extraordinary team to build a strong and successful relationship as Ally enters this exciting sport.”

Said Johnson, who is signed with Hendrick through the 2020 season, in a statement: “The opportunity to work with a partner like Ally is incredible. Their commitment to leading in both the workplace and the community is something that resonates with me in a big way. They’ve sent a strong message about how much they believe in me and in our team, and I will do my part to make sure it’s the best investment they’ve ever made. I’m ready to chase more history with Ally on board the ‘48.’”

Hendrick Motorsports states that this announcement is the organization’s 17th new partner or renewal this season. That list includes Axalta (renewal through 2022), Hertz (new partner through 2019), Hooters (renewal through 2021), Mountain Dew (renewal through 2020), NAPA Auto Parts (renewal through 2020), Nationwide (renewal through 2020), Club Car (new partner through 2020) and Valvoline (renewal through 2022).

 

 

Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and the pantheon of pro sports partners

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Four races remain for one of NASCAR’s greatest crew chief-driver duos, and Martinsville Speedway might mark the best hope for one final win by Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus.

The No. 48 Chevrolet has nine victories at the 0.526-mile oval, which ranks Johnson first among active drivers. It’s been 55 starts since the last victory (June 4, 2017 at Dover International Speedway) for the seven-time series champion, who will have Kevin Meendering as crew chief next year as Knaus moves on to lead the team of Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron.

In the feature essay above, Sports Illustrated senior writer Tim Layden puts the 17-year partnership in perspective, ranking Johnson and Knaus among the great player-coach tandems such as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson; and Joe Montana and Bill Walsh.