CONCORD, N.C. — Story by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman and Associate Editor Kyle Magda — Hendrick Motorsports photo —
The wait is over.
NAPA Auto Parts’ absence in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be no more when Chase Elliott steps behind the wheel of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in 2016, and Elliott revealed his new NAPA scheme Monday evening on FOX Sports’ NASCAR Race Hub. The auto parts chain will sponsor the 2014 XFINITY Series champion in 24 races, including the season-opening Daytona 500, next season.
The scheme features a set of light blue stripes down the side of the car, reminiscent of NAPA’s color scheme on Ron Capps’ NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series entry for Don Schumacher Racing.
“I think the car turned out great and hope everybody likes it,” said Elliott. “They were really open and willing to some of the ideas that we had. The light blue stripes actually came off of their drag car that [Ron] Capps runs. So it’s kind of cool to keep it all in the family and I think it turned out pretty cool.”
Team owner Rick Hendrick joined Elliott on the Race Hub set, and the duo’s appearance was simulcast in New York City’s Times Square on the plaza’s FOX video screen. Hendrick spoke highly of Elliott once again and added that current No. 24 driver Jeff Gordon was the biggest proponent of keeping the number in the team’s lineup after his retirement at the end of the current season.
“NAPA is such a great partner and sponsor, and we’re just super excited about this young man,” Hendrick said. “I asked Jeff, ‘Do you want me to retire it for a year? Because I will, I’ll go to NASCAR and I’m sure they’ll do that for you,’ but he said, ‘No, I want you to keep running it.’ He believes in this young man, and he’s very high on him, so that made the decision a very easy one, really.
Elliott made five Cup starts in 2015 in a fifth Hendrick car under the guidance of crew chief Kenny Francis. His best finish in the No. 25 car was a 16th back in April at Richmond, but the young star says he is excited and grateful for the support that current Hendrick drivers Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne and Gordon will provide him as he moves to the top step of American stock car racing.
“Even this season going to the races that we ran and just being able to go next door and ask a question about the racetrack and what we’re experiencing or, ‘Hey, are you experiencing the same things I am?’ All that stuff matters and it goes a long way with me,” he said.
The second-generation driver will be the youngest of the Hendrick quartet of drivers once the green flag drops on the 2016 season at just over 20 years old. As he continues to learn, however, Elliott is ready to realize his childhood dream of racing at the Cup level — just as his legendary father Bill did — and admits that the thought is still slightly overwhelming to him.
“I’ll be honest — it is weird,” he smiled. “It may be weird for other people, but it’s definitely weird for me. Just to have a chance to go do something that you’ve wanted to do since you were a little kid, for me, is special. I don’t think it’s going to completely set in until we’re about to go to Daytona next year because that’s going to be the realization that this is about to happen. Even right now seeing this car and how great it turned out, having NAPA on board is awesome. But for me, I think until we’re getting ready to load this thing up to go to the 500 next February, it’s going to be quite a feeling.”
The reigning XFINITY champ is currently second in points, 28 markers behind Chris Buescher, and has no plans to make any additional Cup starts this season.
About the Writers
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network. Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 21-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for both the United Sprint Car Series and the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
Kyle Magda is Race Chaser Online’s Associate Editor and a co-host of both Motorsports Madness and the Stock Car Steel/SRI Motorsports Show, airing at 7 p.m. ET on Monday and Thursday nights, respectively, on the Performance Motorsports Network. Magda broke into racing in mid-2001 as the sport’s tide was beginning to change towards the current modern-era formula, but still has an affinity for the history of NASCAR’s earlier days.
The 22-year-old currently studies print journalism at Penn State University and can be found traveling to numerous tracks across the country, covering everything from NASCAR and the ARCA Racing Series to the UNOH All-Stars Circuit of Champions and the Super Cup Stock Car Series.
Email Jacob at: [email protected]
Email Kyle at: [email protected]
Follow Kyle on Twitter: @KyleMagda
Email Race Chaser Online: [email protected]
Follow RCO on Twitter: @RaceChaserNews