Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus, Donnie Allison chosen for NASCAR Hall of Fame

From left, Donnie Allison, Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus, shown Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C., will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January.
From left, Donnie Allison, Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus, shown Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C., will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus teamed up to dominate stock car racing for years.

It seems only fitting that both were selected for the NASCAR Hall of Fame at the same time.

Johnson, one of the most accomplished drivers in NASCAR history, and Knaus, his former longtime crew chief, combined to win a record-tying seven Cup Series championships.

Now, along with former driver Donnie Allison, they'll form the class of 2024 for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, a development announced Wednesday, two months after Johnson and Knaus were revealed as two of the 10 modern-era nominees this year. Allison, who was one of five nominees on the pioneer ballot, Johnson and Knaus are set for a Jan. 19 induction ceremony in Charlotte.

In addition, Janet Guthrie was named the Landmark Award winner for her outstanding contributions to the sport. Guthrie became the first woman to compete in a Cup Series superspeedway race when she drove to a 15th-place finish in the 1976 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

"It's very special and unique," Johnson said. "When I knew my name was going on the ballot and Chad's was as well, in the back of my mind I was really hoping this opportunity would come about."

Johnson's seven Cup Series titles tied the record shared by Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt — both were members of the inaugural class in 2010 — and his run of five consecutive championships from 2006 through 2010 remain a series record. He also won titles in 2013 and 2016.

Johnson's championships came during an era of change for NASCAR as he earned titles under a variety of championship points formats and in three different generations of race cars.

Nicknamed "Superman," Johnson had a knack for coming up big at NASCAR's biggest races, winning all of the sport's crown jewel events at least twice. He won the Daytona 500 in 2006 and 2013, the Brickyard 400 four times (2006, '08-09, '12), the Coca-Cola 600 four times (2003-05, '14), the Southern 500 twice (2004, '12) and the NASCAR All-Star Race four times (2003, '06, '12-13).

Johnson's 83 Cup wins rank sixth in NASCAR history, and they came at 20 different tracks. He left the Cup Series after the 2020 season and raced the past two years in the open-wheel IndyCar Series before returning to NASCAR this year to run a partial schedule as an owner/driver for Legacy Motor Club.

Allison won 10 Cup Series races during his career, was a member of NASCAR's famed "Alabama Gang" and has been an ambassador for the sport for more than 50 years.

"It's quite an honor to join the Hall of Fame, and it's just about as big of a honor to be in the Alabama Gang," the 83-year-old said.

Allison is perhaps best known for his fight with Cale Yarborough at the 1979 Daytona 500, NASCAR's first nationally televised race. An intense battle for the win ended with both drivers wrecked and scuffling in the infield. The publicity from the altercation spurred the growth of NASCAR and remains one of its defining moments.

The 47-year-old Johnson, despite his accomplishments, was not a unanimous selection. He received 93% of the votes from a panel of 57 that included NASCAR executives, drivers, crews chiefs, reporters and industry contributors.

Johnson shrugged off word that four panel members didn't select him, saying it didn't matter to him. Knaus seemed to take exception.

"If he isn't a unanimous vote, I don't know that anybody ever will be," Knaus said. "He's the nicest guy and the best to ever sit in a NASCAR race car. He contributes to our sport and to society in so many different ways through the Jimmie Johnson Foundation. He is the ideal picture of a Hall of Fame inductee."

The 51-year-old Knaus should know. He was with Johnson throughout his wildly successful run.

Knaus came to Hendrick Motorsports as an assistant in the body shop, learning under Hall of Fame crew chief Ray Evernham as part of the "Rainbow Warriors" team that helped Jeff Gordon win multiple Cup Series crowns.

Johnson and Knaus first met at a race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2001. A few weeks later, Johnson, a Hendrick Motorsports rookie at the time, was paired with Knaus in the No. 48 Chevrolet, the start of one of the most productive partnerships in sports history.

Knaus said he was surprised and humbled to learn he got into the Hall of Fame, receiving 81% of the votes.

"It's an honor to be here with Jimmie," Knaus said. "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Jimmie Johnson."

Johnson said his relationship with Knaus wasn't always perfect given their competitive nature, but that they made it work.

"There were times we definitely butted heads, as I'm sure everybody heard on the radio," Johnson said. "But ultimately we had the same goal, and that was to be the best that we could. I never had anyone in my life push me as hard and as well as Chad Knaus."

Car owner Rick Hendrick said "each is a champion and generational talent in their own right. But together, they were pure magic. All of us at Hendrick Motorsports were fortunate to see greatness up close as they rewrote the record book."

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