Elliott will 'probably' run Cup races in 2015
August 06, 2014, Staff report, NASCAR.com
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Rick Hendrick's plan for NASCAR Nationwide Series phenom Chase Elliott evidently entails a few NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts next season, the champion car owner said Wednesday in an interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
The 18-year-old Elliott tops the Nationwide Series standings and leads all series regulars with three race victories. Dale Earnhardt Jr., co-owner of his JR Motorsports race team, has said that Elliott is likely to run another full season on NASCAR's No. 2 circuit next year. Hendrick, also a co-owner at JRM, sounded as if a few premier series starts will also be sprinkled into that mix.
A test session in which Elliott tested the cars of Hendrick Motorsports champion drivers Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon convinced the team owner the youngster was ready, even before he took the Nationwide circuit by storm.
"We haven't arrived at a decision for sure, but I think you'll probably see him run a few races next year," Hendrick told the satellite radio network. "Before he ever won a Nationwide race, I watched him test Jimmie's car and Jeff's car at Nashville, and Jimmie and Jeff both commented to me, 'This kid is super smooth and super fast. He takes care of his equipment, and he doesn't get in a jam.'
"I said before he ever ran a race, I would put him in a 600-mile race at Charlotte and think he'd finish in the top 15, top 10, because he's so smart," Hendrick added. "He just understands the car and takes care of it. I think he's going to do a super job whenever the time comes. I think we'll surely, probably the second half of next year, we'll probably see him in some races."
Although Hendrick currently fields four full-time cars, the maximum for one organization as allowed by NASCAR, rules do permit teams to run an additional vehicle on a limited slate for prospective rookie drivers.
Elliott's crew chief, Greg Ives, will move to Sprint Cup next season to oversee Earnhardt's program. During the announcement of that move last week, Earnhardt said Hendrick had "a great plan" for Elliott, who will have a new crew chief for his Nationwide program in 2015.
"Mr. Hendrick has a great plan for Chase going forward that we all believe in, and those particulars will be filtering out and announced whenever they're ready to be announced. But now's not the time," Earnhardt said then.
"But we definitely have a lot of things that we're very, very excited about for Chase. We feel like he's got a great opportunity, not only in (2015) to have a great, successful season with whomever's his crew chief, but also this year with Greg and what they have remaining this year. I'm excited to get that information out there, and will do that when the time comes."