JR Motorsports announced earlier today that 18-year-old Chase Elliott will pilot the No.9 NAPA sponsored Chevrolet Camaro in 2014 for the team. The announcement is significant for a couple reasons. Chase is the son of 1988 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott and is running the No.9 just as his father did. He has yet to compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, but he’s a winner at the Truck, ARCA and K&N levels.
It’s rumored that he is in line to replace Jeff Gordon in the Hendrick Motorsports No.24 at the Cup level when the four-time champion hangs up the helmet, and this deal with Dale Earnhardt Jr. has only made those rumors seem more legitimate. NAPA has been a partner of Michael Waltrip since 2001, but has terminated their relationship after the “SpinGate” scandal. It was uncertain whether or not the auto parts giant would return to the sport, but this news has obviously wiped out all doubt. Also, it’s hard to ignore the irony in this pairing between Dale Jr. and Chase after considering the intense rivalry their father’s had.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Statement
“Chase has been extremely successful, and I think the Nationwide Series is only a short step for him. With the infrastructure we have at JR Motorsports and our close-working partnership with Hendrick Motorsports, we have every opportunity to continue Chase’s development as a driver while contending for a championship. He’s that good. The key in this is NAPA, and I feel privileged to welcome them to my race team after working with them so extensively earlier in my career. I recognize – and I think Chase does, too – the responsibility that comes with representing a company so significant in the lives of NASCAR fans. We welcome the opportunity and appreciate what NAPA means to this sport.”
“No doubt the historical element of this is pretty cool. Bill Elliott is one of the greats. I’ve always looked up to him. He had some great battles with my dad. I think there are a lot of Elliott fans and Earnhardt fans that will take interest in Chase’s career and support him 100 percent.”
Chase Elliott Statement
“This is the opportunity of a lifetime. My family and I are still trying to believe it all. I couldn’t ask to be partnered with anyone better than Dale Jr., Kelley and Mr. Hendrick, along with all of the people at their organizations who have put in countless hours to pull this together. Working with NAPA will be an honor. They’ve had a tremendous impact in NASCAR, and I’m proud to represent their brand, on and off the track, to race fans. I’m extremely pumped to get to work in 2014 with that first trip to Daytona and make the most of this opportunity.”
“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,” commented Dan Askey, President of NAPA. “Equally, we are proud to form this new partnership with JR Motorsports. Kelley Earnhardt Miller, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Rick Hendrick and its many employees have developed one of the premier teams in the Nationwide Series. 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.”
*Statements via JR Motorsports Press Release*
Nick DeGroot is a Contributing Writer For Rant Sports NASCAR. Connect With Him on Twitter @ndegroot8