Thursday, January 26, 2023

Chase Elliott adds another race to the Daytona schedule

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The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Champion kicks off his season with a busy weekend. Chase Elliott will drive double duty at Daytona International Speedway while competing in the Craftsman Truck Series.

According to a press release, Elliott will make his 18th career start in the Craftsman Truck Series. He will join McAnally Hilgemann Racing for the NextEra Energy 250. He will drive the #35 Gates Hydraulics/NAPA Auto Care Chevrolet Silverado RST while also becoming a teammate to former ThorSport Racing driver Christian Eckes.

“This will be the first time I’ve driven a truck, let alone a superspeedway, at Daytona,” Elliott said in a press release. “There is no better team owner than Bill McAnally as he is a racing enthusiast and has long been associated with NAPA.”

Elliott will be working with Mark Hillman, who is returning to the pits for the third year running. He previously worked with both Derek Kraus and Colby Howard, guiding them to a total of six top 10 finishes and one top 5. Hillman also helped Kraus win poles twice.

Why would Elliott take on double duty during the week of the sport’s biggest race? In this case, he will replace another driver who is not eligible to race at Daytona International Speedway. Jake Garcia doesn’t turn 18 until the drive to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, so Elliott takes the number 35.

The reigning Most Popular Driver does not traditionally compete in other national NASCAR series, at least not as often as his peers. One-off circumstances are usually the exception. For example, his last start in the Truck Series was at Bristol Motor Speedway (Dirt) while preparing to race in the Cup Series.

Another example is the 2020 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Elliott returned to the Truck Series after Kevin Harvick and Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis jointly provided $100,000 that would go to anyone who could put Kyle Busch head-to-head. Although the money ultimately went to a COVID-19 charity.

The press release announced that Elliott will be making a start for MHR to open the 2023 Truck Series season. It also named the crew chiefs who will command the two trucks as multiple drivers battle it out for victories.

Elliott and Garcia will both work with Hillman during the 2023 season. Meanwhile, Charles Denike will return to the No. 19 team after his move midway through the 2022 season. He used this limited schedule to lead Kraus to three top 10 finishes and a pole award.

Denike has been at the top of the pits in 66 Craftsman Truck Series races and has worked with a variety of drivers. Denike has two career wins in the series. He was at the top of the GMS Racing pits when Elliott won at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He also guided Sam Mayer to a win at Bristol Motor Speedway later in 2020.

“Mark and Charles had a good season last year and are motivated to improve the performance of both teams,” McAnally said in a press release. “Having Chad come on board is a good boost for us too.

“He was on the Chevrolet team, has crew chief experience and worked with Jake for the past season. I feel like we have many talented people on our team and we look forward to bringing it all together in our 33rd season with NAPA and NAPA Auto Care.”

“He was on the Chevrolet team, has crew chief experience and worked with Jake for the past season. I feel like we have many talented people on our team and we look forward to bringing it all together in our 33rd season with NAPA and NAPA Auto Care.”

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