Concord, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Hendrick Motorsports revealed on Thursday that Chase Elliott will take over driving duties of the No. 24 Chevrolet full- time in the Sprint Cup Series, starting with the 2016 season.
Last week, Jeff Gordon announced that 2015 will be his last season competing for a championship in NASCAR's premier series. Gordon, a four-time series champion, has driven the No. 24 car for team owner Rick Hendrick since November 1992.
Elliott is the son of Bill Elliott, who is scheduled to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday. The 19-year-old Elliott won the championship in the Xfinity Series (formerly known as the Nationwide Series) last year, doing so in his rookie season as driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports. He became the youngest driver ever to win a title in one of NASCAR's three national touring series.
Hendrick announced the news of Elliott driving the No. 24 next year during the team's season kickoff employee event on Thursday morning.
"Chase brings the kind of intangibles that make him the total package as a driver," Hendrick said. "Not only is he a special talent inside the race car, but there's a natural combination of competitiveness, work ethic and smarts that you rarely see. Chase's personality and demeanor make him popular with fans, teammates and sponsors. He's a great fit for our organization on many levels, and we feel he and Alan will be a successful combination. There's a lot to be excited about."
Since Gordon had made his announcement of his future plans, it had been widely rumored that Elliott would replace him in the No. 24 at the conclusion of this season. Elliott is scheduled to make his Sprint Cup debut in late March at Martinsville, driving the No. 25 Chevrolet for Hendrick. He is also slated for the Sprint Cup races at Richmond (April), Charlotte (May), Indianapolis (July) and Darlington (September). Elliott will be paired with veteran crew chief Kenny Francis for the five-race schedule this season.
"So many people have been behind me, and the first thing I want to do is thank them," said Elliott, who will run the full 2015 Xfinity Series schedule as the defending champion. "My parents (Bill and Cindy Elliott) especially have believed in me every step of the way, and I know this wouldn't be possible without all the sacrifices they've made to focus on my racing career. This is such a big week for our family.
"I'm also extremely grateful to Mr. Hendrick and my teammates at both Hendrick Motorsports and JR Motorsports for believing in me. NAPA has been a huge supporter, and I'm honored to represent them on and off the track. Of course, the fans have been amazing to me, and I'm so appreciative of that. I know how rare this opportunity is and will work as hard as I can to make everyone proud."
Alan Gustafson will be paired with Gordon's current crew chief, Alan Gustafson, for next season. Sponsorship for the No.24 team in '16 will be announced at a later date.
Since his Cup debut in the '92 season-ending race at Atlanta, Gordon has made 761 consecutive and career starts. His 92 career victories places him third on the series' all-time race winners list, behind only Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105). Among those race wins include three in the Daytona 500 and a record five in the Brickyard 400. Gordon also holds the record for most victories on road courses with nine.
His Cup championships occurred in 1995, '97, '98 and 2001.
Gordon had one of his best seasons since his most recent championship in '01. He won four races, including the Brickyard 400, and had a series-high 23 top-10 finishes. Gordon came up one point short of advancing into the final four for the Nov. 16 championship race at Homestead. He finished sixth in the point standings.