NASCAR: Jeff Gordon and Chase Elliott Share Spotlight At Hendrick Media Event

Tom Baker Carolinas Racing, Featured, NASCAR, Southeast 0 Comments

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Story by Race Chaser Online Senior Editor Tom Baker — Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images photo —

It’s not often that a race team holds a press conference where one of its racers is going for his seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship and he gets overshadowed by a retiring teammate and a teenager with no Cup experience.

But then, Jeff Gordon is no ordinary “teammate”, and Chase Elliott is no ordinary “teenager”.

Gordon, second on the all-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win list and owner of four of those aforementioned Cup Series trophies, announced last week that he would retire from full-time competition at the end of this season. Elliott, son of NASCAR legend Bill Elliott, is the defending XFINITY Series Champ and preparing not just to make a few Cup starts this season but to replace Gordon in the No. 24 next year.

NASCAR’s 2015 Media Tour presented by Technocom came to a close with its most heralded organization holding their presser and making official the ironic changing of the guard.

Team owner Rick Hendrick started the event by paying homage to Gordon, who he says is “like family” and expects to play a significant marketing and management role in the organization beginning next year, something Gordon seems to be excited about.

Gordon said he actually made the decision last summer, but told only Hendrick and, after the season, Alan Gustafson (his crew chief) until the announcement was made last week. He wants to go out on top, and there’s little doubt that his team will be highly motivated to give their driver that trophy as a parting gift.

The announcement of Elliott’s ascension to the No. 24 car came as no surprise, as most insiders were expecting it from the time he started racing in the organization with JR Motorsports in the XFINITY Series. Chase pointed out that he does not look at it as if he’s replacing Gordon, because “Jeff Gordon is not replaceable.” He said his goal is just to be himself and do the job for his team.  He will make several starts this season in a fifth Hendrick Motorsports No. 25 NAPA Chevrolet.

Gordon was asked about the possibility of making a few starts in 2016 in a JR Motorsports XFINITY car, to which Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave two thumbs up, smiled along with Gordon and began wishfully pumping his fist as a show of support. Hendrick, not missing a beat, grinned and said, “That would be expensive.”

Earnhardt welcomed Nationwide as his new primary sponsor for 2015, explaining how his father had gotten him his first Nationwide Insurance policy when he was just 16 years old. He beamed when talking about his new crew chief Greg Ives, and stated his excitement for the way Ives’ ideas could help both his No. 88 car and Johnson’s team as well.

Of course, it would be silly to overlook Jimmie Johnson and teammate Kasey Kahne as they prepare for the upcoming season.  Both drivers should factor in the Race to the Chase quite heavily.

But on this day, all the buzz was about the imminent passing of the baton at Hendrick Motorsports, as the sport’s first young outsider (Gordon) begins a journey that will eventually see him step aside for one of the South’s most talented native sons to take the wheel.

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