Johnny Klausmeier to reach 100 Cup starts as crew chief at Darlington

A significant milestone is in the making for Johnny Klausmeier, crew chief of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang driven by Clint Bowyer in the NASCAR Cup Series. When the green flag waves on September 6 at Darlington Raceway for the Cook Out Southern 500, Klausmeier will achieve 100 starts as a Cup crew chief.

A native of Perry Hall, Maryland, who is the son of an auto repairman, Carl Klausmeier, and a graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) with a mechanical engineering degree, Johnny Klausmeier was a race engineer for Stewart-Haas Racing when he made his crew chief debut at Pocono Raceway in June 2016 for the 2004 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kurt Busch. By then, veteran Tony Gibson, who was crew chief for Busch and the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet team, was serving a one-race suspension due to violating a section of the NASCAR Rule Book related to lug nuts infraction following the previous event, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

During the main event at Pocono and with former championship crew chief Greg Zipadelli alongside Klausmeier atop the No. 41 pit box, Busch took the lead with 32 laps remaining and survived on fuel to beat Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski to win. With Busch picking up his first victory of the 2016 Cup season and guaranteeing himself a spot in the Playoffs, Klausmeier recorded his first Cup victory in his first race as a crew chief. A week later, Gibson returned atop the pit box of Busch’s No. 41 team and for the remainder of the season while Kluasmeier returned to his role as engineer for SHR.

At Watkins Glen International in August 2017, Klausmeier returned as an interim crew chief for Kurt Busch and his No. 41 Ford team in place of Tony Gibson. Starting in 18th place, Busch finished in sixth place in Klausmeier’s one-race stint as a crew chief.

A month after the 2017 season concluded, Stewart-Haas Racing announced its crew chief lineup for the 2018 Cup season, with Klausmeier being promoted as a full-time Cup crew chief for Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford team.

Klausmeier’s first race as a full-time crew chief with Almirola was the Daytona 500 in February. During the event, Almirola, who was consistent throughout the event, took the lead on the penultimate lap and he started the final lap of the race. He was leading with two turns remaining until Austin Dillon made contact and turned Almirola into the outside wall entering Turn 3. Instead of a possible trip to Victory Lane with a new team and a new full-time crew chief, Almirola concluded the race in 11th place and with a wrecked race car while Dillon went on to win his first Daytona 500 crown.

From Atlanta Motor Speedway in February through Martinsville Speedway in March, Almirola and Klausmeier achieved six consecutive top-15 results, with Almirola ranked in 11th place in the regular-season standings. For the remaining 20 Cup regular-season races, Almirola and Klausmeier achieved went on to achieve eight additional top-10 results and 12 top-15 results. When the regular-season concluded at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in September, Almirola qualified for his second Cup postseason appearance as a title contender as Klausmeier made his first postseason appearance as a crew chief.

During the Round of 16, the first Playoff stretch at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, Almirola achieved results of sixth, fifth and 19th as he transferred to the Round of 12 in a three-way tie along with Kyle Larson, both of whom eliminated Jimmie Johnson from title contention. The following Playoff race at Dover International Speedway in October, which marked the start of the Round of 12, Almirola was leading in the closing laps until a late caution came out due to a single-car incident involving teammate Clint Bowyer. Opting to pit for four fresh tires and restarting back in the top 10, he was involved in a late multi-car accident while trying to fight his way back to the front. Instead of another possible trip to Victory Lane with Klausmeier, Almirola concluded the race in 13th place.

The following Playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway, Stewart-Haas Racing came into the event with a plan involving teamwork. For nearly the entire race, the four SHR competitors led by Kurt Busch ruled the track and all were primed to finish 1-2-3-4 on the track when a late caution fell due to a multi-car wreck. During overtime, teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch ran out of fuel and Almirola was able to take the lead on the final lap and hold off Bowyer to achieve his first elusive victory of the season and first with SHR. The win at Talladega marked the second Cup victory for both Almirola and Klausmeier as both secured a spot to the Round of 8 in the Playoffs.

After winning at Talladega and finishing in 10th place at Kansas Speedway to cap off the Round of 12, Almirola and Klausmeier achieved results of 11th, eighth and fourth in the Round of 8 at Martinsville, Texas and at Phoenix. Despite the results, Almirola fell short in advancing to the Championship Round along with teammates Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch while Kevin Harvick was the lone Stewart-Haas Racing competitor who contended for the title. Almirola went on to finish in ninth place in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November as he and Klausmeier capped off the season in fifth place in the final standings.

Coming off a productive 2018 season, Klausmeier remained as Almirola’s crew chief for the 2019 Cup season. The combo started off the season with a 32nd-place result at the Daytona 500 in February due to being involved in a late multi-car accident, but they rebounded with six consecutive top-10 results from Atlanta in February to Texas in April. For the remaining 19 Cup regular-season races, Almirola and Klausmeier went on to achieve four additional top-10 results and 11 top-15 results as Almirola and Klausmeier made the Cup Playoffs for the second year in a row.

During the Round of 16 in the Playoffs, Almirola finished 13th, 16th and 14th in the round’s three-race stretch, but he was one of four competitors who failed to transfer to the Round of 12. For the remaining seven races of the season, Almirola and Klausmeier achieved two additional top-five results, including a runner-up result at Texas in November, and they concluded the season in 14th place in the final standings.

Following a two-year run with Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing made changes to three of its four crew chief lineup for the 2020 Cup season. With that, Klausmeier was named crew chief for Clint Bowyer and the No. 14 Ford Mustang team while Mike Bugarewicz was named crew chief for Almirola and the No. 10 Ford Mustang team.

In Klausmeier’s first race with Bowyer, which occurred at the Daytona 500 in February, the Emporia, Kansas, native rallied from being involved in a late incident to finish in sixth place. Following the first four Cup races with Klausmeier atop the pit box and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bowyer achieved his first top-five result at Phoenix Raceway in March and was ranked in 13th place in the regular-season standings.

When the NASCAR Cup Series returned to on-track racing for a pair of races at Darlington Raceway in May, Bowyer and Klausmeier achieved a 17th-place result in the first Darlington event and both were dominant in the second Darlington event, where Bowyer won the first two stages of the race before he was involved in a late spin and settled in 22nd place. Three races later, Bowyer aand Klausmeier achieved their best result of second place at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Throughout the 26-race regular-season stretch, Bowyer and Klausmeier have achieved one pole, three stage wins, two top-five results, seven top-10 results and 182 laps led. With both making this year’s Playoffs and their third consecutive postseason season, Bowyer will start the Playoffs in 13th place in the standings with 2,004 points as he and Klausmeier pursue their first Cup title.

Catch Klausmeier’s milestone start at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, September 6, at Darlington Raceway, which will occur at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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