Chase Elliott, who became the youngest national series champion in NASCAR history last season, will join Hendrick Motorsports as a full-time Sprint Cup driver beginning in 2016. Elliott’s No. 24 Chevrolet SS team will be led by crew chief Alan Gustafson, who has earned 19 wins, 18 pole positions, 98 top-five finishes and 165 top-10s at the elite Cup level.
“Chase brings the kind of intangibles that make him the total package as a driver,” said Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick, who announced the news this morning during the team’s season kickoff employee event. “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.”
In preparation for 2016, Elliott, 19, will make his Sprint Cup debut later this year as part of a five-race schedule with primary sponsorship from NAPA AUTO PARTS. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native will be paired with veteran crew chief Kenny Francis during the limited campaign.
Driving the No. 25 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS fielded by Hendrick Motorsports, Elliott will be entered in 2015 Cup events March 29 at Martinsville Speedway, April 25 at Richmond International Raceway, May 24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, July 26 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Sept. 6 at Darlington Raceway.
“Chase has been a fantastic ambassador for NAPA,” said Gaylord Spencer, senior vice president of marketing for NAPA AUTO PARTS, which also is primary sponsor of Elliott’s JR Motorsports team in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. “As he embarks on this important next step in his career, we’re proud to support him across both series in 2015 and look forward to an exciting year on and off the track. The NAPA Family is behind Chase 100 percent.”
At the age of 18 years, 11 months and 18 days, Elliott became the youngest champion in any NASCAR national touring series when he won the 2014 XFINITY Series title. The first racer in NASCAR history to win a championship and rookie of the year honors in the same season, he also was voted by fans as the series’ most popular driver.
Elliott’s 2014 season included three wins, two pole positions and 26 top-10 finishes in 33 races. His first victory (Texas Motor Speedway) came in his sixth career series start and made him the second-youngest winner in XFINITY Series history (behind Joey Logano). He completed 99.6 percent of the 6,063 total laps run and became the first driver since 2010 to clinch the championship before the season finale.
Elliott and father Bill are only the fifth father-son duo to win NASCAR national series championships. They are members of an elite group that includes Lee and Richard Petty, Ned and Dale Jarrett, David and Larry Pearson, and Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Bill Elliott, the 1988 Sprint Cup Series champion, will be enshrined into the NASCAR Hall of Fame tomorrow evening.
“So many people have been behind me, and the first thing I want to do is thank them,” said Chase Elliott, who will run the full 2015 XFINITY Series schedule as the defending champion. “My parents especially have believed in me every step of the way, and I know this wouldn’t be possible without all the sacrifices they’ve made to focus on my racing career. This is such a big week for our family.
“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.”
Hendrick Motorsports will announce sponsorship for Elliott’s 2016 Sprint Cup season at a later date.
CHASE ELLIOTT YEAR-BY-YEAR:
2014: Became youngest NASCAR national series champion in history after winning the XFINITY Series title. Earned three victories, two pole positions, 16 top-five finishes and 26 top-10s in 33 races. Led 390 laps and posted an average finish of 8.0. Scored wins at Texas, Darlington and Chicagoland. Named XFINITY Series rookie of the year and most popular driver.
2013: Became the youngest superspeedway winner in ARCA Series history at Pocono Raceway on June 8. Nine-race NASCAR national series debut in the Camping World Truck Series reset the record books. In sixth start, became youngest (at the time) winner in CWTS history Sept. 1 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. Scored seven top-10 finishes and five top-fives. Became first driver to win all four super late model majors after All-American 400 victory at historic Nashville Fairgrounds.
2012: Scored first NASCAR win in K&N Series competition at Iowa Speedway on May 19. Became youngest pole winner in K&N history and was named the series’ most popular driver. In six ARCA Series events, never finished outside the top 10, earned first series pole and scored runner-up finish in first road course event at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Competed in 17 late model races, posting nine wins, five poles, 14 top-five finishes and 16 top-10s.
2011: Signed with Hendrick Motorsports in February. Earned national champion title in super late models with the Champion Racing Association. Won prestigious Snowball Derby (Pensacola, Florida) in December. Late model season featured seven wins in 23 events. In April, recognized as Sports Illustrated’s High School Player of the Week. Voted by fans as ESPN The Magazine’s “NEXT” racer.