Iconic Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus partnership ends after 17 years and 7 championships

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — For the first time in Jimmie Johnson’s 17 full-time seasons in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, he finished the year without a trip to victory lane.

The seven-time champion has 83 career wins, but the last one was in June of 2017.

And a winless season was also a first for longtime crew chief Chad Knaus, as they ran their final race together Sunday night in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

They’ll both remain with Hendrick Motorsports, but the iconic duo are splitting up in 2019 — a “tough” decision Johnson said was made mid-season.

“It’s time for us to move on and have a new project and have new people to work with, but he’s my brother — there’s just no way around it,” Johnson said on pit road after finishing 14th in the Ford EcoBoost 400.

Knaus will crew chief for 2018 Rookie of the Year William Byron and the No. 24 Chevrolet team next season, while Johnson will work with Kevin Meendering, who finished the year in the Xfinity Series with veteran Elliott Sadler and JR Motorsports.

For Johnson, it was also his final race with Lowe’s, the only primary sponsor he’s ever had. Ally Financial will be his new main sponsor in 2019. He called 2019 a “clean start.”

After Johnson pulled his No. 48 Chevrolet down pit road and climbed out, he busted open a cooler and began tossing Bud Lights to his teammates. The 43-year-old driver said he just wanted to make sure they could "cheers" one more time together and say thank you to Knaus.

Beer in hand, Johnson and Knaus repeatedly shook hands and hugged while smiling for photos, seemingly relieved after a difficult final year together finally ended.

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