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Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus enter NASCAR Hall the way they should—together



(Photo by David Jensen/Getty Images

By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Call them inseparable.

Despite a few rough patches in their 17-year working relationship, driver Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus achieved a level of success at NASCAR’s highest level unparalleled in the current century.

Together, on Friday night in the Crown Ballroom at the Charlotte Convention Center, Johnson and Knaus reaped the rewards of their remarkable accomplishments—induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2024 in their first year of eligibility.

Johnson and Knaus entered the Hall along with Donnie Allison, elected to NASCAR’s highest honor from the Pioneer Ballot. An original member of the famed Alabama Gang, Allison helped elevate stock car racing’s visibility with both his driving skills and his fists.

Johnson earned high praise from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon, who lobbied on Johnson’s behalf when team owner Rick Hendrick considered adding a fourth team in 2002.

“He’s the best driver I ever raced against,” Gordon said in a video introducing his teammate.

In his acceptance speech, Johnson demurred with typical modesty, opening his remarks with a story about the motorcycle he found under the Christmas tree in 1979.

“I realize how many people played a role in this Hall of Fame induction,” Johnson said later in the speech. “Thank you to my family, friends, fans—everyone at Jimmie Johnson Racing, former team members and teammates, everyone who has been part of this journey.

“This success story of seven championships and 83 wins, and now this, is all about relationships. I’m truly grateful for the journey and the amazing relationships forged and the incredible companies I’ve represented like Lowe’s and Ally.

“Whether on two wheels or four, in SoCal or Charlotte, in the driver’s seat or up on top of the pit box, moonlighting as race car mechanic or driving a school bus (as his parents did), whether you’re looking up to your heroes, driving for them or competing against them… if you’re with us now or up in heaven, thank you for being a crucial part of this incredible run.

“This is beyond my wildest dreams—and I thought Christmas morning in 1979 was special.”

Johson reserved special praise for his teammate and team owner.

“I’m forever grateful to Jeff Gordon and Rick Hendrick,” Johnson said after receiving the Hall of Fame ring from his wife Chani. “You guys selected me for the No. 48 car, and I’m still not sure why.”

“Congrats, brother,” Johnson said to Knaus. “I’m so glad that we’re able to go in on the same ballot.”

After Tony Stewart won the 2005 series title, Johnson embarked on a remarkable run, claiming a record five straight championships from 2006 through 2010—a streak broken only by Stewart’s unexpected third title in 2011.

The pairing of Johnson and Knaus almost ended before the streak began. At the end of the 2005 season, they were barely speaking, and team owner Rick Hendrick considered splitting them up.

Before making a decision, Hendrick invited Johnson and Knaus to a meeting and served them milk and cookies on Mickey Mouse plates.

“If you’re going to act like children, I’m going to treat you like children,” was Hendrick’s blunt message to his driver and crew chief.

Hendrick made his point, and with the ice broken, the pair became NASCAR’s version of the “Untouchables” for the next five years.

“That shift allowed us to become champions,” Knaus said.

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The five straight Cup championships eclipsed NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough’s previous mark of three straight (1976-1978) and is one entry in the NASCAR record book that likely will remain unassailable. With two non-consecutive titles each, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano are the only active full-time Cup drivers with more than one.

Johnson added championships in 2013 and 2016, tying the record of seven held jointly by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr., both members of the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2010. He won his last Cup race—a track-record 11th victory at Dover Motor Speedway—on June 4, 2017, marking the 16th consecutive year he and Knaus had teamed to win at least two events.

That victory was Johnson’s 83rd, tying him with Yarborough for sixth on the career list. The book on Johnson’s career, however, is not quite closed. As co-owner of NASCAR Cup Series entry Legacy Motor Club, he will compete in select races this season, starting with the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 18.

Knaus’s wife Brooke presented the 2024 inductee ring to her husband.

“As I was growing up in the Midwest, my father taught me what it meant to have the best race cars,” Knaus said during his induction speech, “to have the proper maintenance schedule, to never settle for second and to continuously learn—and to always push the rules.”

Thanking his driver of 17 years, Knaus said, “Jimmie let me find out who I was by believing in me.”

A brilliant innovator dedicated to making Johnson’s No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets go faster, Knaus manned the pit box for 81 of Johnson’s 83 Cup wins, having been sidelined under suspension for the first two victories of 2006 for pushing the rules too far in trying to gain an aerodynamic advantage at Daytona.

After the Johnson/Knaus pairing ended following the 2018 season, Knaus served as crew chief for William Byron’s first career victory in the summer 2020 race at Daytona. In 2021, Knaus took on a management role as vice president of competition at Hendrick Motorsports.

From a career standpoint, Knaus’s seven championships as a crew chief are second only to NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Inman’s eight. His 82 victories are third all-time.

Allison and brother Bobby Allison accumulated the second-most Cup victories by two brothers (94), a number exceeded only by Kyle and Kurt Busch, who have accounted for 97 wins (with Kyle still active at 63).

Donnie Allison earned his greatest notoriety, however, after he had won the last of his 10 races (1978 at Atlanta). He and Yarborough were battling for the lead on the final lap of the 1979 Daytona 500, the first race featuring live flag-to-flag coverage on national network television, and after repeated contact between their cars, they both wrecked at the end of the backstretch.

The drivers climbed from their cars with anger in their eyes and started the fight that would captivate the television audience with its intensity. After Richard Petty inherited the victory, Bobby Allison parked his car near in Turn 3 and joined the fray, as the Alabama drivers ganged up on the South Carolinian.

The race and the fisticuffs that followed sparked interest in the sport of stock car racing and launched the sport’s steady growth over the next two decades.

Allison is the fourth member of the Alabama Gang to enter the NASCAR Hall of Fame, joining brother Bobby, nephew Davey Allison and Hueytown patriarch Red Farmer.

Asked what the induction meant to him, Donnie replied, “The closest thing was the feeling I got when I married my lovely wife Pat.”

Allison was the 1967 Cup rookie of the year. He also turned heads with a fourth-place finish in the 1970 Indianapolis 500, earning rookie-of-the-year honors for the race.

“All I can say is wow!” Allison said during his induction speech, during which, with tongue in cheek, he disputed the characterization of his altercation with Yarborough in 1979. “Fought? I never fought… I never touched that man. He never touched me…”

During the ceremony, pioneering driver Janet Guthrie was honored as the recipient of the Landmark Award for outstanding contributions to NASCAR. An accomplished sports car racer, Guthrie finished 15th in her NASCAR Cup debut in the 1976 Coca-Cola 600 and went on to compete in 33 Cup races, with a best finish of sixth at Bristol.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace received the Buddy Shuman Award for his charitable endeavors. Also recognized at the ceremony were two titans of the sport who passed away in 2023—broadcaster Ken Squier, co-founder of the Motor Racing Network, and Yarborough.

It was Squier, providing play-by-play for the 1979 Daytona 500 for CBS, who called the fight against Yarborough that Allison insists never really happened.

Squier’s legacy also extends to the Squier-Hall Award of Media Excellence, conferred on the late Shav Glick of the Los Angeles Times this year.

Local Racing

Historic Stock Cars to run at Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix




PITTSBURGH, PA (April 24, 2025) The Historic Stock Car Racing Association (HSCRA) is joining the lineup of racing groups at this year’s Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix (PVGP) Historics at Pittsburgh International Race Complex.  This is the first time the HSCRA will race in the PVGP Historics 3-day weekend, July 26 to 28, 2024.

“We are thrilled to welcome the HSCRA to our 2024 event,” said Dan DelBianco, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. “Their participation not only broadens the appeal of the PVGP Historics but also aligns with our mission to celebrate all automotive history. This is a fantastic opportunity for race fans of all types to witness the power and beauty of historic stock cars in action.”

The HSCRA, renowned for its commitment to preserving and celebrating the history of stock car racing, will bring a new dimension to the PVGP Historics. The group is open to all stock cars that ran in one of the major NASCAR series.

“The HSCRA is anxious to bring NASCAR to Pittsburgh,” said Carlus Gann of HSCRA. “We look forward to making this a regular stop on our tour. Western Pennsylvania has deep roots in racing, and building a world-class track at Pitt Race in Beaver County makes it a perfect fit.”

Three Rivers Karting

The most popular class is Generation 4 Cup cars built for the 1992-2007 seasons. During this era, teams built a few cars for the two road courses on the schedule.

“We are hoping for a full field of meticulously restored stock cars,” added Chris Evans of the HSCRA. “Former NASCAR winners like Joe Nemechek and a competitive lineup of today’s top historic stock car drivers will be on hand.”

Gary Moore, a seasoned participant in over a dozen PVGP races, knows the intricacies and challenges of the Pitt Race track. Moore will be showcasing his 1969 Mercury Cyclone (right), victoriously driven by Cale Yarborough, exclaiming, “It’s quite the adventure behind the wheel!”

The HSCRA will have a practice session in the morning and a qualifying race in the afternoon on Friday, July 26. A morning and afternoon practice session on Saturday, July 27. Sunday, July 28 will see the HSCRA have a short morning warm-up prior to being one of the featured Sunday afternoon races.

The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Motorsport Festival features two weekends of racing action. The first weekend is the PVGP Historics at Pittsburgh International Race Complex. The second weekend is racing through a 2.33-mile road course set on the streets of Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park. In addition to the race weekends, the PVGP stages car shows, parties, road rallies, and a black-tie formal. The PVGP’s mission is to provide residential care, treatment and support for people with autism and intellectual/developmental disabilities – donating $6.7 million to charity since 1983.

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Kyle Larson wins in an action-packed dash to the finish line



Sean Gardner/Getty Images

By Holly Cain
NASCAR Wire Service

AUSTIN, TX (March 23, 2024) – Kyle Larson was ultimately both patient and smart taking the lead on the final overtime lap to win an aggressive Featured Health 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Circuit of The Americas (COTA), the first road course test for the series this year that earned an “A” for high-drama and close competition.

New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen and Austin Hill were duking it out for the lead – and pushing each other high off the race line as the field approached the checkered flag. With those two fending each other off, Larson drove his No. 17 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet low around both and was able to pull away to a 1.215-second victory – the only lap the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champ led all day around the 20-turn 3.51-mile road course.

Van Gisbergen finished second in the No. 97 Kaulig Racing Chevy but was accessed a 30-second penalty for exceeding track limits in that last lap battle with Hill, which ultimately put him in 27th. So Hill, driver of the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet officially is scored runner-up.

Larson was all smiles climbing out of car, conceding he wasn’t surprised things got so aggressive in the end. He was one of the few cars – and only one among the leaders – to drop into pit lane on the final caution to get gas and had worked his way back up front.

“It feels really special because seems like every time we’ve run the 17-car – any of us four drivers – we’re always fast on track and somehow give it away,’’ Larson said. “Today I was definitely not the fastest, but we were patient. I knew the 21 [Hill] had shoved SVG [Van Gisbergen] through [turn] one and if he got to him it could get dicey.

“I was just trying to be patient. I was thinking when to make my move and when I saw him shoving him through [turns] 15 and 16, I thought this could get good and thankfully I cleared them off in that corner. Pretty crazy. Just wild there. … Really cool, just awesome to win here at COTA.’’

Neither Van Gisbergen nor Austin Hill were too happy with the final outcome – both their cars damaged from the aggressive beating and banging on the final lap. Asked if he would speak to Hill about the racing, Van Gisbergen said, “Yeah, I guess so.’’ But he was mostly positive about having a chance to win in only his fifth NASCAR Xfinity Series race of his career.

Three Rivers Karting

“It was a crazy race and the car got better and better,’’ Van Gisbergen said. “On that last restart he [Hill] just drove through me in [turn] one. I guess I stood up for myself. But it was pretty awesome racing with [teammate] A.J. [Allmendinger] and in the end just turned into a mess. That’s how it is.

“It was really fun. Wish I could have gotten through to the lead, but the car [Larson] just snuck through there. He was driving really well. A lot of fun.’’

While Van Gisbergen managed a smile for the post-race television interview, he definitely had to battle all afternoon – including with his Kaulig Racing teammate A.J. Allmendinger, a two-time winner of this COTA Xfinity Series race and the series’ best active road course driver.

They battled head-to-head for the final laps of the regularly scheduled race only for Allmendinger to get swept up and out in a three-wide attempt for the lead in Turn 1 during the first green-white-checkered flag period. He was running fifth at the time of the final caution that forced a second overtime start and ultimately finished 10th.

John Hunter Nemechek finished third, reigning series champion Cole Custer was fourth and Parker Kligerman rounded out the top five. Rookie Jesse Love, Austin Green, last week’s winner Chandler Smith, Sam Mayer and Allmendinger rounded out the top 10.

It was a particularly impressive day for Green, son of former Xfinity Series champion David Green, finishing eighth in his very first series start.

Big Machine Racing driver Kligerman earned his first stage win of the year claiming the Stage 1 victory. Brandon Jones seemingly won Stage 2 only to receive a penalty for cutting Turn 5 on the last lap of the stage. Second-place Stewart-Haas Racing’s Riley Herbst was instead awarded the Stage victory – his first of the season.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to competition next Saturday with the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway (1:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Chandler Smith is the defending winner – earning his career first Xfinity Series trophy there last Spring.

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Corey Heim charges to Victory Lane at the Circuit of The Americas



By Holly Cain
NASCAR Wire Service

AUSTIN, TX (March 23, 2024) – An afternoon of impressive restarts ultimately handed Corey Heim the winning finish in the XPEL 225 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race at the famed Circuit of The Americas (COTA) road course in Austin, Texas Saturday afternoon.

Heim dominated the race – his No. 11 TRICON Garage Toyota leading a race best 31 of the 46 laps and prevailing in an overtime finish to convincingly win his first race of 2024 and sixth of his career – by 1.625-seconds over his teammate Taylor Gray.

ThorSport Racing’s Ty Majeski, Spire Motorsports’ Connor Zilisch and NASCAR Cup Series regular Ross Chastain in a Niece Motorsports Chevy rounded out the top five.

“Just prepared so hard for this race,’’ Heim said, adding, “I came into this race last year and struggled really. Finished sixth with a penalty and just all over the place. To put together a solid race like this is just so special and really just shows you how good our trucks are back at the shop”.

Heim has finished sixth or better in all five races this season.

“Just great consistency and that was the name of the game last year to make it as far as we did,’’ he said smiling. “Didn’t have the result at the end [of 2023] but I think this year we can make it back and prove we’re champions. Super excited for the rest of the year, we’re really just getting started and I think our best tracks are in front of us, so really can’t wait.

Three Rivers Karting

Certainly Heim’s performance Saturday on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course was the afternoon standard, but there was plenty of good racing behind him. There were 14 lead changes among eight drivers, but no one other than Heim led double-digit laps.

Jack Hawksworth, a sportscar and IndyCar driver making his first NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series start certainly proved himself a talent to be reckoned with. He ran top five most of the day and led a lap. He finished sixth.

Reigning series champ Ben Rhodes, Christian Eckes, Dean Thompson and Tanner Gray rounded out the top 10.

The 17-year-old phenom Zilisch started from pole position in his first ever start in one of NASCAR’s premier divisions. Leading the field, he went into the first corner hard, however, relinquishing the lead to Heim immediately. After a pit stop for tires and a motivational reminder from his veteran crew chief Brian Pattie, he returned with vengeance. He and his Spire Motorsports team never gave up, getting him back on the lead lap and then in contention late in the race.

Zilisch was running in fourth place with less than five laps in regulation to go but was given a pass-through penalty for cutting the course. Fortunately, it came just as a caution flew and it only cost the teenager two positions. He opted to pit for gas during the ensuing yellow flag and was able to climb back to that impressive top five finish in his first race.

Nick Sanchez won Stage 1 and Heim claimed Stage 2 – both drivers’ first stage victories of the year.

The NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series returns to competition April 5 with the Long John Silver’s 200 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Heim is the defending winner.

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