Making his brief return as a NASCAR crew chief for Hendrick Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, Kevin Meendering is within reach of a milestone start. By participating in this weekend’s Xfinity event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Meendering will call his 100th Xfinity event as a crew chief.
A native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a degree in mechanical engeering, Meendering made his debut as a NASCAR crew chief in 2016 when he was paired with veteran Elliott Sadler in the Xfinity Series. By then, he had spent 16 previous seasons at Hendrick Motorsports, where he was an assistant engineer for Jeff Gordon for three seasons before spending the next five as a lead engineer for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
In his first event as a crew chief, Meendering led Sadler and the No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro team to a fourth-place result during the 2016 season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway. Eight races and six additional top-10 results later, Meendering notched his first NASCAR victory as a crew chief at Talladega Superspeedway in May after Sadler dodged a final lap incident involving Joey Logano to emerge out in front ahead of teammate Justin Allgaier and Brennan Poole at the moment of caution and return to Victory Lane following a one-year absence. Another 15 races later, Meendering and Sadler went to Victory Lane for the second time of 2016 after Sadler held off Denny Hamlin to grab a dominant win at Darlington Raceway in September. The two regular season victories mired with a consistent regular-season stretch were enough for Meendering and Sadler to clinch a spot for the inaugural Xfinity Series Playoffs.
Meendering and Sadler commenced the 2016 Xfinity Playoffs on a high note by winning at Kentucky Speedway in September, which enabled the team to advance from the Round of 12 to 8. During the Round of 8’s three events, Sadler finished second, sixth and 13th, respectively, which were enough for the No. 1 team to earn a spot to the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. During the post-race inspection process at Phoenix Raceway in November, however, Meendering was suspended for the Xfinity Series finale at Homestead after it was discovered that two lug nuts were missing from Sadler’s car, which finished 13th. With Meendering out for the finale, veteran Mike Bumgarner filled in as an interim crew chief for Sadler, who went on to finish in the runner-up spot in the final championship standings behind Daniel Suarez.
Returning as Sadler’s crew chief in 2017, Meendering guided the No. 1 JRM Chevrolet team to a consistent 26-race regular season stretch highlighted with one pole, five stage victories, 11 top-five results and 19 top-10 results as Sadler captured the inaugural Xfinity Series regular-season title. Meendering and Sadler extended their consistency throughout the 2017 Xfinity Playoffs as they transferred all the way to the Championship Round at Homestead in November, with Meendering calling the shots for the finale. During the finale, however, Sadler lost in a late battle against teammate William Byron after getting stalled behind Ryan Preece and making contact with the wall, which cut his tire and took him out of contention to win his first NASCAR championship. While Byron went on to win the 2017 Xfinity title, Sadler fell back to eighth place on the track and in the runner-up spot in the standings for a second consecutive season.
Remaining as Sadler’s crew chief for a third full-time Xfinity season, Meendering and Sadler commenced the season with a runner-up result at Daytona after Sadler was edged by teammate Tyler Reddick by 0.0004 seconds, which marks the closest-recorded finish in NASCAR history. The duo of the No. 1 JRM Chevrolet team went on to achieve 12 additional top-five results and a total of 21 top-10 results throughout the 26-race regular season stretch as they made the Xfinity Playoffs for a third consecutive season. By then, however, Sadler had made his decision to retire from full-time NASCAR competition at the conclusion of the season. Meendering and Sadler were able to transfer to the Round of 8 following three consecutive top-15 results in the Round of 12. During the Round of 8, however, they were unable to secure a championship spot for the 2018 Xfinity finale at Homestead despite notching three consecutive top-11 results. Meendering capped off Sadler’s final event as a full-time competitor in 14th place at Homestead and in fifth place in the final standings.
Following three full-time seasons in the Xfinity Series, Meendering graduated to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2019 to serve as a crew chief for the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro team piloted by seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. Twenty-one races into the season, however, Meendering was replaced by Cliff Daniels, though he remained at Hendrick Motorsports in a senior competition role. Three years later, Meendering, who serves as a competition development manager for HMS, returned as a crew chief at Road America this past Fourth of July weekend for the team’s No. 17 Chevrolet Camaro entry piloted by Kyle Larson, who dominated from pole position before finishing in the runner-up spot.
The Road America event was the first of three scheduled Xfinity road course events where Hendrick Motorsports will be fielding the No. 17 Chevrolet for its Cup Series roster. Following this weekend’s event at Indianapolis, where the No. 17 entry will be piloted by Alex Bowman, Meendering is scheduled to crew chief the No. 17 entry for a third and final time at Watkins Glen International in August and with William Byron set to drive.
Through 99 previous Xfinity appearances, Meendering has achieved three victories, three poles, 40 top-five results and 78 top-10 results while working with two different competitors.
Meendering is primed to call his 100th Xfinity Series event as a crew chief at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course on Saturday, July 30, at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC.