|Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway|
Surprising the motorsport world by announcing the end of his prosperous NASCAR career after 2015, Jeff Gordon was set to leave one of the top rides in the Sprint Cup series vacant ahead as of 2016. With only a week passing since Gordon's breaking retirement news, Hendrick Motorsports quickly defined the replacement pilot for the #24 Chevrolet by making a similar choice as 23 years ago in a youthful rising star.
In a predictable move following the retirement announcement of Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports named reigning champion of the NASCAR Xfinity Series (last year called the Nationwide Series) Chase Elliott as the future driver of the #24 Chevrolet. At 19 years old, Elliott became the youngest champion of the NASCAR ladder series and accumulated three wins in the process during his freshman year of competition with the cars. Also the 2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year, the Dawsonville, Georgia native drove the #9 NAPA Auto Parts-sponsored Chevrolet Camaro for JR Motorsports. JR Motorsports team is co-owned by Rick Hendrick along with Dale Earnhardt Jr and his sister Kelly Earnhardt Miller. The fact that Elliott has also been a development driver for Hendrick Motorsports since 2011 made the driver's progression to Sprint Cup a natural move.
Describing Chase Elliott as "the total package as a driver", team owner Rick Hendrick spoke highly of the 19-year-old's ability as the heir to the #24 car. "Not only is he a special talent inside the race car, but there’s a natural combination of competitiveness, work ethic and smarts that you rarely see. Chase’s personality and demeanor make him popular with fans, teammates and sponsors. He’s a great fit for our organization on many levels, and we feel he and Alan will be a successful combination. There’s a lot to be excited about.”, said Hendrick.
The son of 1988 NASCAR Cup series champion Bill Elliott, Chase Elliott's career in motorsports has been short but successful. Gaining his first major NASCAR win in 2013, Elliot forced his way to victory in the Camping World Truck Series event at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. He ran just nine races in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series before his full-season campaign in the Xfinity Series. Chase Elliott has also gained experience in the NASCAR K&N Series, ARCA competition and his won the Snowball Derby as well as the All-American 400 at the Nashville Fairgrounds.
For 2015, Chase Elliott will continue to drive full-time in the #9 Chevrolet as part of the Xfinity Series in defence of his championship last season. Additionally, Elliott is slated to take the wheel of the #25 NASCAR Sprint Cup series machine for five races in the upcoming season sponsored by NAPA Auto Parts. His Sprint Cup debut is planned for Martinsville Speedway on March 29th. Other races in the #25 NAPA Chevrolet SS will see Chase Elliott cutting his teeth in the series at Richmond International Raceway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and finally at Darlington Raceway.
Set to become the first new driver of the #24 car in what will be 24 full-season seasons after 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup tour, Chase Elliott position as a young up-and-coming driver compares closely to Jeff Gordon. Elliott will take the wheel of the #24 Chevrolet roughly a year sooner than Gordon. “I’m also extremely grateful to Mr. Hendrick and my teammates at both Hendrick Motorsports and JR Motorsports for believing in me. NAPA has been a huge supporter, and I’m honored to represent them on and off the track. Of course the fans have been amazing to me, and I’m so appreciative of that. I know how rare this opportunity is and will work as hard as I can to make everyone proud.” said Chase Elliott.