Who is Cliff Daniels? The Man Behind the Grand Success of Kyle Larson

Published 06/12/2021, 11:00 AM EDT
Jun 6, 2021; Sonoma, California, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson (5) smiles after winning the Toyota-Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports


In 2021, Kyle Larson has been in the form of his life at Hendrick Motorsports. The Asian-American driver has already picked up three wins this season. It also helps that he have a top class crew chief in the form of Cliff Daniels. The 49-year-old is regarded as one of NASCAR’s best strategists and a big boon for Hendrick Motorsports.

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Daniels is best-known for guiding Jimmie Johnson to the the 2016 title in the role of engineer. However, he has struggled since then, but has managed to redeem himself with his partnership with Larson. Last year was Daniels’ first full season as a crew chief, but he could not achieve much in Johnson’s final year.

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Although he enjoyed other sports, his heart lay in the NASCAR racing scene. That passion ignited right from the age of 7 when he received a go-kart. Daniels competed until 2007, after graduating high school. However, he soon decided that professional racing was not the path he wanted to pursue and opted to take a different path. During that time he pursued an engineering degree while simultaneously working as an ARCA and Xfinity Series mechanic.

Where has Cliff Daniels worked?

After graduation, Daniels was recruited into the RAB Racing team in 2011 in the capacity of race engineer. In the process he worked alongside veteran driver Kenny Wallace. Later on, he linked up with Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing in the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

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Jun 6, 2021; Sonoma, California, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson (5) does a burnout after winning the Toyota-Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Finally in December 2014, Cliff Daniels moved to Hendrick Motorsports to partner Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus. During that tenure, the three of them took 13 wins, 31 top-five finishes, 60 top-10s. In addition to that, Johnson racked up two pole positions and led 1,552 laps. The cherry on top was a record-equalling seventh Cup Series title in 2016.

Finally, he was promoted to Johnson’s crew chief in July 2019. Since then, he has remained in the Hendrick stable and is now nurturing a good relationship with Kyle Larson.

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DIVE DEEPER

Kyle Larson’s NASCAR Crew Chief Cliff Daniels Reveals Major Lessons from Jimmie Johnson-Chad Knaus Era

5 months ago

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Dhruv George

11760 articles

Dhruv George is a senior Formula One and NASCAR analyst for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.

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