Chase Elliott chosen to replace Gordon next season
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Rick Hendrick has named teen phenom Chase Elliot to drive the 24 Chevrolet in 2016 when Jeff Gordon hangs up his helmet. Elliot has been Hendrick’s protégé for a number of years, and won the NASCAR Nationwide championship for the organization last season. Elliot will run a full Xfinity series in 2015, as well as five Sprint Cup races. This will give him a taste for the more powerful Cup cars, but will still leave him eligible to run for Rookie of the Year honors in 2016. In an interview, Hendrick said he wasn’t planning on doing any more driver development, but when Chase came along he just couldn’t pass up that kind of talent.
A 24-hour endurance race is much like a war, in that the army which makes the fewest mistakes wins. Last Saturday and Sunday the second Ganassi Racing Ford Ecoboost DP benefited from a mistake by the Wayne Taylor Racing No. 10 Corvette DP in the waning minutes of the race, and went on to win. It seems someone in the Taylor pits wasn’t keeping close enough track of the time spent in the car by driver Jordan Taylor. When it became evident the team would incur a penalty if Taylor stayed in the car to the end of the race, it had to pit for a driver change. Instead of being in position to challenge the Ganassi car on the final restart, it ended up third. A number of cars that were expected to contend for the win (both overall and in class) fell victim to mechanical woes or accidents, and 20 of the 53 starters were officially out of the race when the checker fell. Scott Dixon finished the race for Ganassi, driving a 3 1/2 hour stint. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for teammates Tony Kanaan, Jamie McMurray, and Kyle Larson, and elevated McMurray to a lofty status in the record books. Only he, A.J. Foyt, and Mario Andretti have now won both the Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24. In addition, each of the three has won at Indianapolis (Foyt and Andretti in the Indy 500, McMurray in the Brickyard 400). Kyle Larson, who absolutely hated driving in the 24 last year, had a complete turnaround in attitude about the race. Funny how winning can do that.
The No. 3 C7R Corvette won the GTLM class after an intense duel with the BMW Z4 GTE, with less than half a second margin of victory after 24 hours of racing. Tom Kimber Smith brought home the Prototype Challenge victory in an Oreca FLM09, and the GTD win went to the Dodge Viper SRT, 7.588 seconds ahead of the first Porsche 911 GT America.
The beginning of the 2015 IndyCar season is going to be delayed, as the season-opening race at Brazil has been canceled by the promoter. The race was scheduled for March 8. With the cancellation, St. Petersburg on March 29 will now become the first race of the season.
Congratulations to the latest additions to the NASCAR Hall of Fame whose induction ceremony took place last night. They are Bill Elliott, Fred Lorenzen, Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly, and Rex White, all former drivers. And best wishes to Hall of Famer David Pearson, 80, who’s recovering from a stroke suffered on Dec. 9. Pearson is making good progress with therapy, and we wish him the best.