Chase Elliott will fill Jeff Gordon’s spot at Hendrick Motorsports when the 43-year-old retires from full-time Sprint Cup racing at the end of this year. Gordon told the Associated Press Elliott is a good replacement for him, saying the reigning Xfinity series champion is “extraordinary.”
To help prep Elliott for his full-time NASCAR drive, Rick Hendrick has entered him in five cup races this year. The 19-year old will run at Martinsville Speedway in March, followed by Richmond, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and at Darlington on Labor Day weekend. He will campaign a NAPA-sponsored No. 25 Chevrolet SS in all five races.
Elliott will have big shoes to fill in the No. 24 car. Gordon has the third most Sprint Cup championships of any driver in NASCAR history, and he did it all while driving the 24. Furthermore, Elliott will become part of one of NASCAR’s strongest driver lineups, consisting of six-time champion Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne.
Gordon said Elliott’s rapid progression played a part in his decision to leave full-time racing behind. Gordon had a sore back and a desire to spend more time with his kids, and with Elliott on the come up, Hendrick didn’t want to risk losing his opportunity to scoop him up.
“That definitely has played a factor in the timing being right, because there’s no doubt Rick has put pressure on me and had discussions with me,” Gordon said. “Rick noted, ‘We don’t have a driver that can fill the shoes and sponsors.’ He and I would go back and forth in these conversations, and we all kind of saw the timeline of Chase. As last season progressed and he was doing so well, it was obvious he was going to be ready for 2016.”
“It didn’t make my decision, but it helped me make my decision.”
Elliott managed three-wins in the Xfinity series last year, along with 26 top-tens and 33 starts. Hendrick says he is a “special talent,” in a racecar and brings “a natural combination of competitiveness, work ethic and smarts,” to the table.