With Jimmie Johnson’s induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday night at the Charlotte Convention Center, all three seven-time champions of NASCAR’s premier division will be represented among stock car racing’s elite.
Johnson will be ushered into the Hall along with his crew chief of 17 years, Chad Knaus, and Pioneer Ballot inductee Donnie Allison, a member of the famed Alabama Gang.
Johnson will join seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champions Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr., both of whom were members of the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2010.
Allison is the fourth Alabama Gang member to be voted into the Hall, joining his brother, Bobby Allison; his nephew, the late Davey Allison; and seemingly ageless Red Farmer, a Pioneer Ballot inductee from the Class of 2021.
Teamed with Knaus from the beginning of his full-time Cup Series career, Johnson won five of his seven series titles consecutively from 2006 through 2010, eclipsing the previous mark of three straight set by NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough from 1976 through 1978. Johnson added championships in 2013 and 2016 to tie Petty and Earnhardt for the series record.
Driving the No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, Johnson accumulated 83 career victories, tied with Yarborough for sixth all-time. He retired from full-time Cup racing after the 2020 season and subsequently spent two years driving for Chip Ganassi Racing in the IndyCar Series.
Last year, Johnson returned to NASCAR as co-owner of Legacy Motor Club and competed in three Cup races. He will continue to run a limited schedule this season, with his first appearance slated for the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.
Johnson has been anticipating the induction ceremony since his election to the class of 2024 last August.
“I knew the day was coming, and I’m very grateful for the success I’ve had in the car,” Johnson said Tuesday during an appearance on NBC’s Today Show. “But it’s been so fun to lean into this experience and share this moment with so many who helped me get here.
“As a race car driver, I often get looked at as just the one who gets it done, but people don’t realize how big of a team sport it really is. After 19 years of full-time Cup racing, I get to go into the Hall, and there’s a lot of people to share that with.”
No single person was more integral to Johnson’s success than Knaus, a brilliant innovator who oversaw the building and preparation of the cars Johnson drove. Together, the driver and crew chief were such an inseparable unit that it was difficult to tell where Johnson’s talent ended, and Knaus’ expertise began.
Knaus was adept at getting optimum performance from Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolets, occasionally pushing the limits of the rule book. In fact, Knaus was under suspension for Johnson’s first two victories of 2006, at Daytona and Las Vegas, with substitute crew chief Darian Grubb getting credit for the wins.
Knaus, however, added a victory with rising star William Byron in 2020, after his pairing with Johnson had run its course. Knaus currently serves as vice president of competition at Hendrick Motorsports.
Allison was particularly adept at the big tracks, winning three times at Charlotte, twice at Talladega and once each at Daytona and Atlanta. All told, Allison won 10 times at NASCAR’s highest level, his last victory coming at Atlanta in 1978.
However, the driver from Hueytown, Ala., perhaps is best known for a race he didn’t win. In the 1979 Daytona 500-the first NASCAR event featuring live flag-to-flag coverage on national television-Allison and Yarborough wrecked on the final lap while battling for the lead, handing the victory to Richard Petty.
After Petty took the checkered flag, cameras focused on the backstretch, where Allison and his brother Bobby had exited their cars to fight with Yarborough. In effect, Donnie Allison was part of an impromptu fracas that helped put NASCAR on the map.