Meet The Class of 2024
by Tom Jensen August 16, 2023
Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and Donnie Allison are the latest NASCAR heroes and legends to join the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The votes have been counted and the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2024 has now been elected, and what a class it is.
In addition, pioneering female racer Janet Guthrie is the winner of the 2024 Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR.
Southern California native Jimmie Johnson is only the third driver to win seven Cup Series championships, joining fellow Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, both of whom were inducted into the inaugural Hall of Fame Class of 2010.
Johnson is the only driver to win five consecutive championships and he ranks sixth all-time with 83 race victories. He has won all of NASCAR’s major races, most more than once.
He got his first dirt motorcycle at the age of 4 and won his first dirt bike championship at 8. From there, Johnson moved to off-road trucks as a teenager. In 1998, Johnson switched to pavement racing in the old American Speed Association series. After running a handful of races in the Busch Grand National (now Xfinity) Series in 1998-99, Johnson ran full-time in the series with Herzog Motorsports in 2000-01, winning one race.
On the advice of Hendrick Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon (Class of 2019), Johnson was signed by team owner Rick Hendrick (Class of 2017) in late 2001. As a Cup Series rookie in 2002, Johnson won three races and finished an impressive fifth in points. The 2006 season was a breakthrough one for Johnson as his five race victories and 13 top-five finished earned him first Cup Series championship. From there, Johnson would go on to set a NASCAR record by winning five consecutive titles.
Johnson would go on to set a NASCAR record by winning five consecutive titles.
— Tom Jensen
After winning five consecutive championships, Johnson wasn’t finished yet. He added his sixth title in 2013, and his record-tying seventh in 2016. Along the way, Johnson won every NASCAR major, including a pair of Daytona 500s, a record four NASCAR All-Star Races, three consecutive Coca-Cola 600s, four Brickyard 400s and a pair of Southern 500s.
Johnson retired from full-time NASCAR competition following the 2020 season. He then drove in the NTT IndyCar Series for two years before returning to NASCAR in late 2022 as a co-owner of the Legacy Motor Club team, where he drove in a handful of races in 2023.
Away from the track, Johnson is a dedicated fitness enthusiast and has appeared on many television shows and in films. He was named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year in 2009 and is heavily involved in philanthropic efforts for causes benefitting children.
With seven NASCAR Cup Series championships to his credit, all with driver and fellow Class of 2024 inductee Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus ranks second all-time among crew chiefs, trailing only Dale Inman (Class of 2012), who won eight. Knaus is the only crew chief in NASCAR history to win five consecutive titles.
Over the last two decades, Knaus built a dynasty at the Hendrick organization, where he was Johnson’s crew chief from 2002-2018 and William Byron’s from 2019-20. He was atop the pit box for 81 race victories with Johnson and one more with Byron. In 2020, he was promoted to Vice President of Competition at Hendrick Motorsports.
Prior to achieving his NASCAR success, Knaus got his start on the short tracks of the Midwest. He was just 14 years old when he became crew chief for his father, John, in his native Illinois. John won seven track championships at Rockford Speedway, including four consecutive titles from 1987-90, when he raced against Hall of Famers Rusty Wallace (Class of 2013), Mark Martin (Class of 2017) and Alan Kulwicki (Class of 2019), among others.
Over the last two decades, Knaus built a dynasty at the Hendrick organization.
— Tom Jensen
After graduating high school, Knaus left Illinois to move south to pursue a career in NASCAR. From 1993 to ’97 Knaus joined Hendrick Motorsports to work on the No. 24 Chevrolet of Jeff Gordon (Class of 2019). While at Hendrick, Knaus worked in the body shop and the fabrication department before being promoted to lead the body development efforts for the team. He also served as a rear-tire changer on the fabled “Rainbow Warriors” pit crew assembled by Gordon’s crew chief, Ray Evernham (Class of 2018).
In 1998, Knaus left Hendrick and through 2001 served as a car chief for Steve Park at Dale Earnhardt Inc., then worked at Evernham Motorsports with driver Casey Atwood. Next, he became Stacy Compton’s crew chief at Melling Racing.
In 2002, Knaus returned to the Hendrick organization, where he was paired with rookie Jimmie Johnson. The rest, as they say, is history, as Knaus and Johnson were the dominant force of the 2000s and the 2010s, winning seven titles and every major race on the NASCAR schedule.
A charter member of the “Alabama Gang” of racers along with fellow Hall of Famers brother Bobby Allison (Class of 2011), nephew Davey Allison (Class of 2019) and longtime family friend Red Farmer (Class of 2021), Donnie Allison was voted as the winner of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Pioneer Ballot for 2024.
Allison began racing in 1958 and got his first NASCAR license two years later. In his early years, Allison concentrated on racing the short tracks of the Southeast, where he won more than 500 races, including many in the Modified and Sportsman ranks. He made his Cup Series debut in 1966, when he ran just two races.
Driving for legendary chassis builder and team owner Banjo Matthews, Allison scored his first Cup Series race victory in the 1968 Carolina 500 at North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham. In that race, and in Allison’s next two triumphs in 1969 and 1970, respectively, the runner-up in each of Donnie’s first three Cup victories was older brother Bobby.
Allison scored his first Cup Series race victory in the 1968 Carolina 500 at North Carolina Motor Speedway ...
— Tom Jensen
Although he never ran a full Cup Series schedule, Donnie Allison won 10 races, and scored 78 top-five and 115 top-10 finishes in 242 starts over parts of 21 seasons. Allison was at his best on longer, faster tracks, winning twice at Talladega Superspeedway, three times at Charlotte Motor Speedway and once each at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Daytona International Speedway.
Allison’s most famous race was one he didn’t win. In the 1979 Daytona 500, Allison was leading on the last lap when he was hit by Cale Yarborough (Class of 2012), knocking both cars into the wall and out of the race. Afterwards, the two brawled in the infield, with Bobby Allison stopping to join the fracas.
That race, the first 500-mile NASCAR event to feature live flag-to-flag television coverage, became one of the most famous in NASCAR history. After Allison and Yarborough collided, Richard Petty (Class of 2010) went on to win his sixth of a record seven Daytona 500s. Thanks to a huge snowstorm that blanketed the East Coast, the race, and the now famous brawl, were seen by an estimated 15 million viewers.