Chase Elliott to drive NAPA-sponsored Nationwide Series entry for JR Motorsports

Jerry Markland

Chase Elliott, the son of former NASCAR champion Bill Elliott, will drive full-time in the Nationwide Series in a car co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Considered one of the sport's future stars, Chase Elliott has secured a ride with JR Motorsports and will drive the entirety of the Nationwide Series schedule using the No. 9 his father made famous.

Elliott, 18, became the youngest winner in Truck Series history in September when he went to Victory Lane at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. The teenager is the son of Bill Elliott, the 1988 Cup Series champion and long a fan favorite. Bill won 44 races in his career, including a pair of victories in the Daytona 500 (1985, '87), and 38 of those victories came with the No. 9 on the side of his car.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime. My family and I are still trying to believe it all," Chase Elliott said in a team release.

The deal also includes the return of longtime NASCAR sponsor NAPA, which initially withdrew from the sport and severed its relationship with Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of last season. NAPA's decision came following one of the biggest controversies in NASCAR history, as MWR conspired to manipulate the finish of the Sept. 7 at Richmond International Raceway. NASCAR fined the organization $300,000 and banished NAPA-sponsored driver Martin Truex Jr. from the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Embarrassed by the scandal, the company announced shortly thereafter it was terminating its reported $16-million sponsorship despite two years remaining on its contract with MWR. However, it would appear the opportunity to align itself with a rising star with a well-known last name was too good to pass up.

"NAPA is pleased to continue its long standing involvement in NASCAR, the most popular form of motorsports in the United States supported by its many loyal and passionate fans," NAPA president Dan Askey said in a statement. "Chase Elliott is a young and talented, future star in the sport and will represent NAPA well both on and off the track. We welcome Chase and the entire JR Motorsports organization to the NAPA Family."

JRM, co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., has a technical alliance with Hendrick Motorsports, which has had Elliott under a developmental driver contract since 2011 when he was a freshman in high school. His Nationwide debut will come Feb. 22 at Daytona International Raceway.

"Chase is the genuine article," Rick Hendrick said. "He's a real talent, and his next steps will be exciting to watch."

Elliott will be paired with crew chief Greg Ives, who last season led JRM driver Regan Smith to two wins and a third-place finish in points. Smith will remain with JRM and continue driving the No. 7 Chevrolet full-time; Ryan Pemberton will serve as his crew chief. JRM will also field part-time entries for Earnhardt and Kevin Harvick.

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