Cliff Daniels

Crew Chief

Cliff Daniels

Cliff Daniels enters the 2024 season in his fourth year paired with Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson on the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Overall, this is the Smithfield, Virginia native's fifth full-time season as a crew chief. Through three seasons with Larson, Daniels has led the No. 5 team to 16 wins and its 2021 championship.   

Last year, the Smithfield, Virginia, native navigated Larson to a runner-up finish in the NASCAR Cup Series standings. The team's victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to open the Round of 8 secured Daniels and Larson's second trip to the Championship 4 in three seasons. Daniels was also atop the box in September when Larson won at Darlington Raceway for the 500th national series win for the Hendrick Motorsports engine department. In 36 races, the No. 5 team collected four wins plus the non-points paying All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway, two pole positions, 15 top-five finishes, 18 top-10s with a series-high 1,127 laps led. 

In 2022, Daniels directed Larson and the No. 5 team to three race wins. Together, they scored victories at Auto Club Speedway, Watkins Glen International and Homestead-Miami Speedway. The south Florida race win secured the No. 5 team a spot in the owner’s Championship 4.  

In 2021, Daniels' first victory atop the pit box occurred at Las Vegas in just his fourth start with Larson. The driver-crew chief duo posted three consecutive runner-up finishes followed by three consecutive race wins in May and June. During that streak, Daniels also spearheaded the No. 5 entry’s $1 million victory in the annual non-points NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway.  

With wins at Sonoma Raceway, Watkins Glen and the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, Daniels helped Larson become the first driver in series history to capture three road course victories during one season. The Daniels-led team took home the 2021 championship, tied the record for most wins during a 10-race playoff with five and rolled off another three-race win streak during the postseason.

The 2020 Cup Series campaign was Daniels’ first full year as crew chief at Hendrick Motorsports, as he called the shots for seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson’s final full-time season as driver of the storied No. 48. The pair ended the year with a fifth-place finish in Johnson’s final drive in the Hendrick Motorsports entry, their fifth top-five and 10th top-10 finish of the season.

Auto racing is in Daniels’ blood. Growing up in Smithfield, Virginia, he played baseball and tinkered with stock cars in his family’s garage. It seemed inevitable that the curious kid would follow in the footsteps of his father, Charlie Daniels, a full-time late model stock car driver who competed at Langley Speedway and throughout Virginia in the 1980s and '90s. After Charlie closed the chapter on his own racing career in 1992, Cliff maintained a passion for motor sports.

Although he excelled at baseball, racing was Daniels’ true focus. He received a go-kart at age 7 and his first bandolero car at 9. As a driver, Daniels competed at South Side Speedway near Richmond, Virginia, and progressed to legends cars at Langley by 2001. He competed in late models at South Boston Speedway from 2004 until 2007, the year after he graduated high school from Hampton Roads Academy in Newport News, Virginia.

Daniels decided not to pursue professional driving, instead electing to pave a different path toward a career in racing. He set his sights on college and in the summer of 2006 moved south to enroll at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He pursued an engineering degree while working as a mechanic for a team competing in the ARCA Racing Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series.

After graduating in 2010 with a degree in mechanical engineering with a concentration in motor sports and a minor in mathematics, Daniels landed a job at RAB Racing in 2011 as the race engineer for veteran driver Kenny Wallace. He then moved to Stewart-Haas Racing, where he served as the race engineer for the No. 14 Chevrolet of champion driver Tony Stewart in 2013 and 2014. In December 2014, Daniels moved to Hendrick Motorsports to serve as the race engineer of the No. 48 Chevrolet driven by Johnson and led by legendary crew chief Chad Knaus. From 2015 to 2018, he helped power the team to 13 wins, 31 top-five finishes, 60 top-10s, two pole positions and 1,552 laps led. In the process, Johnson won his record-tying seventh Cup Series title in 2016.

Following the 2018 season, Daniels moved to a new role as an engineer in Hendrick Motorsports' competition systems group before rejoining the No. 48 team at Sonoma Raceway in June 2019 as lead engineer. He was promoted to be the crew chief for Johnson on July 29, 2019. Entering the 2024 season, Daniels has coached two drivers to 16 wins, 50 top-five finishes, 74 top-10s, seven pole positions and 4,332 laps led in his Hendrick Motorsports crew chief career. 

Daniels’ hobbies include snowboarding, cycling, running and mountain biking. He is a fan of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and resides in Huntersville, North Carolina, with his wife Shannon, daughter Ivey and son Ethan.