Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus, and Donnie Allison Inducted into NASCAR Hall of Fame
The NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2024, Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus, and Donnie Allison took to the stage on Friday night, delivered their speeches, and were officially inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The wine was flowing, the stories were, too.
Friday night was induction night for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2024. Three more legendary names were officially inducted into the sport's hallowed hall, and with the induction ceremony came a lot of great moments and stories from Donnie Allison, Chad Knaus, and Jimmie Johnson.
Without further adieu, here are the nuggets that came from the excellent induction speeches for the 2024 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class.
A member of the famed Alabama Gang, and one of the instrumental figures in the iconic finish of the 1979 Daytona 500, Donnie Allison was officially inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2024.
Allison crashing with Cale Yarborough while battling for the win on the final lap of that iconic race put NASCAR on the map. For those who think the 1979 Daytona 500 was one of the most important races in NASCAR history, Allison says, "It was THE most important, Mr. France."
Allison, a career journeyman, racked up 10 victories in his NASCAR Cup Series career despite never running a full schedule in the series. Allison also enjoyed success in the Indianapolis 500 as he finished fourth and won Rookie of the Year in the event in 1970, and he recorded a sixth-place finish in the 1971 Indianapolis 500.
The big break for Allison came in 1968 when he received the call to run for legendary race car builder Banjo Matthews. Allison would score his first career NASCAR Cup Series win that season at Rockingham.
Red Farmer, 2023 NASCAR Hall of Famer, said in a fireside chat on Friday evening that no driver got more out of less than Donnie Allison.
Following his career as a driver, Allison mentored many young drivers on their way up the ranks including Joey Logano, Ricky Hendrick, and John Hunter Nemechek.
The standard for NASCAR Cup Series crew chiefs -- Chad Knaus -- took his spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday night. Knaus was introduced for his speech by his wife Brooke Knaus, and throughout Knaus' speech, we learned a lot about the origin story of one of the greatest crew chief careers that there will ever be.
After trudging through on Stanley Smith's fledging No. 49 team, Knaus cold-called Hendrick Motorsports in 1993 in hopes of getting a job interview. In this call, Knaus got in touch with Ray Evernham and spilled his guts about how badly he wanted to work for Hendrick Motorsports. The timing was perfect, as Evernham had just fired an employee that day.
Evernham told him to come into Hendrick Motorsports for a job interview the next day. There's only one problem; Knaus was living in Birmingham, Alabama, and had no personal car. He also had a day job that he couldn't call out from.
However, Knaus made up a story that his grandmother was "sick" and that he was needed in Wisconsin to visit her. His boss allowed it. Knaus borrowed a friend's car, and instead drove to Hendrick Motorsports overnight, where he slept in the car in the parking lot.
The next morning, Knaus got ready for the interview in a very unique way.
"I can remember waking up early the next morning, and I had a fountain drink in the cup holder. And I used the melted ice to kind of rinse out my mouth and brush my teeth, and work on my hair -- it wasn't thinning quite as much then when I was working on it," Knaus recalled. "Then I put on a new polo and I went in and spoke to Ray."
Knaus got the job, and after a $1,000 loan from his friend Jimmy, "Chadwick," as Jimmy called Chad was on his way to the world of NASCAR.
After several successful seasons of being a crew member for Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team, Knaus was recruited by Dale Earnhardt to help with the startup of the Dale Earnhardt Inc. NASCAR Cup Series team. After receiving the blessing of Rick Hendrick, Knaus moved to DEI.
After his stint at DEI, Knaus moved to Melling Racing with Stacy Compton as his driver in 2001. As Melling Racing closed its doors, Knaus found himself heading back to Hendrick Motorsports, where he would be paired with a young rookie driver -- Jimmie Johnson.
The rest was history. Seven championships, including five-consecutive from 2006 to 2010, 80-plus wins, and now Knaus is a NASCAR Hall of Famer.
The greatest of all time? It depends on who you ask, but when you are a NASCAR Cup Series driver and you are in the G.O.A.T. conversation, you know you are truly special. That is certainly the case for record-tying seven-time NASCAR Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson, who was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday.
"This is incredible," an emotional Johnson stated during his induction speech.
Johnson, who spent the mid to late 2000s whipping the competition and continued his dominance through the 2010s, endured numerous styles of car, and points formats as he climbed his way through the NASCAR record books. The California native racked up five consecutive NASCAR Cup Series titles between 2006 and 2010, a feat that will likely never be matched again.
In his speech, Johnson said that his journey in motorsports began in Christmas of 1979 when he received a motorcycle from his hard-working parents. On his journey racing in his youth, Johnson was paired with Herzog Motorsports and the Herzog family.
Johnson credited the Herzogs for convincing him to give stock car racing a shot. He went ASA Racing and then moved to the NASCAR Xfinity Series (then Busch Series) and after just a couple of seasons, he was in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Johnson's path to the NASCAR Cup Series was equal parts luck and tenacity.
"My first day in North Carolina looked like this; I secured a P.O. Box, a local cell phone number, and a box of business cards. I was even bold enough to put 'Professional race car driver,' across the bottom of the cards," Johnson quipped. "I passed them out all over Mooresville to anyone wearing a race team crew shirt, but I was always on the lookout for a pressed button-down. That shirt meant management, and they needed a card."
As Johnson grew a following through his business cards, he caught the eye of someone high up on the NASCAR food chain, fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon.
Johnson's chance to set records and ultimately tie the all-time championship record in the NASCAR Cup Series wouldn't have been possible without Gordon believing in him. Gordon saw something in Johnson and voiced that Rick Hendrick should bring in Johnson as the driver of the team's newly created fourth entry, the No. 48 car.
Johnson got choked up as he joked in his speech that he still, to this day, doesn't understand why he got the call from Hendrick and Gordon.
Johnson proved Gordon correct and forged an illustrious career that was certainly worthy of the NASCAR Hall of Fame and one that put Johnson on the Mount Rushmore of NASCAR Cup Series drivers.
Landmark Award Recipient: Janet Guthrie
In addition to the induction of the 2024 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class, Janet Guthrie was honored as the 2024 recipient of the Landmark Award for outstanding contributions to NASCAR.
Guthrie, a native of New York, competed in 33 NASCAR Cup Series events from 1976 to 1980. The trailblazer scored five top-10 finishes and 17 top-15 finishes. Guthrie, who was unable to attend the 2024 NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Friday, apologized and thanked NASCAR and the NASCAR Hall of Fame voting committee for the extreme honor.
Guthrie thanked many who helped her achieve what she did in the sport, including team owner Lynda Ferreri, and NASCAR Hall of Famers Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison.
"I really love NASCAR Cup racing and will always regret that I was unable to continue for longer than my 33 races," Guthrie said in the video statement.
Squier-Hall Award Recipient: Shav Glick
The iconic journalist, who was stationed in California throughout his 70-year sports journalism career, helped bring attention to the sport of NASCAR on the West Coast through his thoughtful and engaging coverage of the sport.
Photo Credit: Chris Graythen, Getty Images