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He is only 27 years old, but there isn’t much Chase Elliott hasn’t accomplished yet in NASCAR. The 2020 Cup Series champion has won 18 of 257 starts in the top-tier series on every type of track, though the gems – the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, and Southern 500 – have proven elusive thus far.

Elliott renews his pursuit of the wins missing from his bucket list in less than a month. However, he has a prior commitment first as he tries something new at Daytona.

Chase Elliott has entered the Craftsman Truck Series race at Daytona

Past NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott will make a cameo appearance in the Craftsman Truck Series to kick off his season two days before the Daytona 500. Though Elliott has driven trucks 17 times since 2013 and won three times, he’s never competed on one of the superspeedways.

He’ll be driving McAnally Hilgemann Racing’s No. 35 Chevy.

“This will be the first time I’ve driven a truck at Daytona, let alone a superspeedway,” Elliott said in the MHR announcement. “There’s no better team owner than Bill McAnally to do it with, as he’s been involved in racing and been associated with NAPA for a long time.”

Elliott is even more proficient in trucks than in Cup Series cars. Aside from the victories at Bowmansville, Martinsville, and Charlotte, he’s scored 11 other top-10 results in his 17 starts. He made one start last year in a Spire Motorsports truck and finished seventh on the Bristol dirt.

Chase Elliott will be subbing for a young prospect

Chase Elliott poses for a photo during NASCAR Production Days at Charlotte Convention Center on Jan. 17, 2023. | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Chase Elliott poses for a photo during NASCAR Production Days at Charlotte Convention Center on Jan. 17, 2023. | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

If it seems unusual for a driver with a full-time Cup Series ride – particularly one as accomplished as Chase Elliott – to be driving in the Craftsman Truck Series on the first weekend of the season, that’s because it is. Ross Chastain drove to third place in 2019, but no Cup series regulars have tried it since.

Logically, Daytona is where the full-time teams in all the series want to put their best foot forward by showing off their drivers and promoting their sponsors. In this case, Elliott has the support of NAPA Auto Care, his primary Cup Series backer.

However, McAnally Hilgemann Racing has an issue that will keep Jake Garcia out of the truck at Daytona. Garcia, who made five starts last season with a best showing of 16th at Phoenix, doesn’t turn 18 until March 3. That makes him ineligible for now to race on the big tracks.

“We’re thrilled to have Chase step in and drive our No. 35 Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet at Daytona and everyone involved in our program is excited and glad that he’s able to do so,” team owner Bill McAnally said. “I think his presence at Daytona will benefit Jake (Garcia) and our entire group.”

It’s kind of a no-win situation, unless …


Chase Elliott Suffers Costly Loss to Start 2023

The critics will be out in full force over Chase Elliott’s decision to accept a ride in the Craftsman Truck Series. It’s nothing that Kyle Busch hasn’t heard while racking up 62 wins in trucks, the last 18 of which have come since he captured his first NASCAR Cup Series championship in 2015.

However, Elliott has won at Daytona in the Cup Series (the road course in 2020) and Xfinity Series (opening weekend in 2016). This gives him an opportunity at a personal triple crown of sorts. It’s not as though other Cup Series stars don’t routinely drop down and win, so an Elliott victory will rile the critics a bit more before they get over it.

From the team perspective, McAnally Hilgemann Racing is in its fourth full-time season and looking for its first victory. Whether Elliott wins or not, his appearance will bring the organization publicity it couldn’t possibly buy.

As for Jake Garcia, he gets to tell his kids and grandchildren someday how he replaced a Cup Series champion.

Got a question or observation about racing? Sportscasting’s John Moriello does a mailbag column each Friday. Write to him at [email protected].