Martinsville NASCAR Notebook: Chase Elliott To Start First Sprint Cup Series Race On “Weird Weekend”

(NASCAR Wire Service)

By Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

MARTINSVILLE, Va.—There’s nothing unusual about Chase Elliott being at a race track.

The reigning NASCAR XFINITY Series champion is a full-time racer at age 19.

But coming to the track to start a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday-now that’s another matter.

For Elliott, Sundays at the track have always meant watching his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, but that will change this Sunday when Chase Elliott makes his first start in NASCAR’s top division in the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway (1 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1).

“This is definitely special,” Elliott said Friday night after qualifying 27th for his first Cup start. “For me, this is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Going to the race track and watching my dad running these races for a number of years, it’s very odd to be showing up here and not be coming to watch him. So, this is definitely a weird-feeling weekend, more than anything else right now.

“It’s definitely exciting. But at the same time, you don’t want to forget you’re still racing. You’re still in a seat and you’re still trying to achieve the same thing. So, you don’t want to lose sight of what your goals are, no matter what you’re driving. I think you’re going to fight some of the same things you fight in these cars and anything else you drive on asphalt. Hopefully we can try to manage it and have a solid day.”

With five Sprint Cup races on his agenda in 2015, as he prepares to succeed four-time premier series champion Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet next year, Elliott hopes to learn as much as he can from his limited Cup schedule this season.

“Obviously, we want to go as fast as we can for as long as possible,” Elliott said. “We want to do the best we can and make the most of these races and try to just gain as much knowledge as possible.

“To have an opportunity to go run five races doesn’t seem like a lot, but at the end of the day it really is, if you can get in all five, and make those laps. You’ve got to take it one at a time, first off. You just want to put together 500 solid laps on Sunday and try to run all the laps and hope we can have a good day.”


When Aric Almirola’s No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford pulled out of the garage for Saturday’s Sprint Cup Series practice at Martinsville, it recalled the halcyon days of Petty Enterprises when team owner Richard Petty won 15 Cup races at the .526-mile short track.

Now, Aric Almirola is carrying the striking Petty blue and red color of the STP-sponsored car, and he’s fully aware of the history that accompanies him.

“They’ve had a lot of success here, and any time you come here with the 43 car is special, but to come here with the STP colors on the car is that much more special with that iconic paint scheme,” Almirola said Saturday morning before practice for Sunday’s STP 500. “It’s such a neat weekend for us to have STP sponsoring the race and seeing how involved they are and how they’re activating at the race track and all they’re doing.

“It’s just a lot of fun to be a part of it. Any time you get to drive that STP 43 car it’s cool to see the reaction of all the fans and all the crew members, because you’ve got to think that most of the crew members and guys working in the garage, they’re all guys that grew up watching the sport, too. So they’ll walk up and are like, ‘Man, that’s awesome. That car looks so cool,’ and everybody loves it when that car shows up.”


Martinsville ace Denny Hamlin paced Saturday’s first practice session with a lap at 97.113 mph, and defending STP 500 winner Kurt Busch topped Happy Hour at 97.098 mph…

Eight-time Martinsville winner Jimmie Johnson slowed during the first practice, thinking he might have lost a cylinder. But the crew diagnosed and fixed an electrical issue, and Johnson was soon back up to speed, posting the second fastest time in the session at 96.988 mph…

A day before the actual race, drivers already were showing their short-track tempers. Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick gave Jamie McMurray’s Chevrolet a tap during Happy Hour, upset with what he considered continued blocking. Austin Dillon and Danica Patrick battled for five straight laps, trading some paint in the process.

If Saturday’s practices are any indication, Sunday’s race could have some spectacular fireworks.

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