Throughout their years of competing together in the NASCAR Cup Series, it was Chad Knaus who played the role of motivator and reassuring leader to Jimmie Johnson.

But when it came to the NASCAR Hall of Fame ballot, it was Johnson who had to be the cheerleader for Knaus.

“Honestly, I was a little surprised,” Knaus said of his selection to the 2024 class. “I didn’t know that …”

“He wasn’t expecting it,” Johnson interrupted. “I was giving him a hard time over it the last day or two.”

Johnson was the more confident of the two about the selections and over the last week or two “it’s really been top of mind, and I’ve been try ing to assure him that he would be a first ballot and we would go in together, and he’s like, ‘Man, you’re crazy.’”

It would only be fitting the two were voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame together, and in the first year both were on the ballot. Johnson and Knaus won seven Cup Series championships together, including being the first driver and crew chief to win five consecutive championships.

Both would admit they would not have had the careers they did without the other. Johnson’s resume speaks for itself as a driver worthy of all the accolades he’s received over the years.

But so does the resume Knaus put together from atop the pit box as one of the greatest crew chiefs in the sport. Knaus was an innovator, relentless, attention-driven and one-of-a-kind leader.

Knaus guided Johnson to 81 of his 83 career victories while the two were paired together for 17 seasons (2002 through 2018). Before stepping away from the crew chief role at the end of 2020, Knaus took William Byron to victory lane for the first time in Byron’s career.

“I obviously felt that Jimmie was a lock, but the other people that were up for nomination are obviously very worthy and contribute to the sport in many different ways,” Knaus said. “So, I really didn’t know (if I’d be selected). But I can you that there was a flush of emotions as I was watching the video that played once Jimmie was nominated and saw the way we grew up together, and as I sat back and was watching him, I was like, my gosh, how much I’ve learned throughout my career just because of Jimmie.

“I was really proud of that and probably more proud of the fact that he’s in there than actually I am. But for me personally, it’s a huge, huge day. Very, very proud. Very proud of everybody that’s helped me and it’s an honor to be here with Jimmie, obviously. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Jimmie Johnson in a lot of different ways, so it’s pretty awesome.”

Knaus trails only Dale Inman (193) and Leonard Wood (96) for all-time wins by a crew chief. Inman was selected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2012 and Wood in 2013.

“A lot of close friends and colleagues and people close to me have been giving encouragement,” Knaus said. “I think I’ve always been the one to not accept the trophy until it’s in hand. I didn’t know.

“Like I said, the people on the ballot are very deserving and great contributors to our sport. The people on the panel are very diverse in the way they look at things and the perspective in which they approach our sport. So, I just didn’t know. But it’s an honor to be here, quite honestly. It really is. It’s humbling. It’s an honor. I’m proud to be here.”