By David Morgan, Associate Editor
INDIANAPOLIS – Chase Elliott didn’t expect to be racing in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but when the opportunity came calling, he made the most of it.
With Michael Annett still recovering from a recent leg surgery, JR Motorsports came into the need for a replacement driver prior to qualifying Saturday morning. After a number of missed calls from Hendrick Motorsports Vice President of Competition Chad Knaus, Elliott finally got the message to report to the No. 1 garage for duty.
Elliott’s first laps on track came during Xfinity Series qualifying, with the defending Cup Series champion and winner of seven road course races since 2018 timing in 25th fastest. Despite having his work cut out for him during the 62-lap race, it didn’t take long for Elliott to showcase his talent turning left and right.
He would pilot the JRM Chevrolet to a ninth-place finish in the first stage, but fell back to 22nd by the end of the second stage. Over the course of the final stage, Elliott would move back up through the field, eventually settling into third-place before dropping to fourth by the time the checkered flag flew.
“I got the call. I was still asleep when I got the call,” Elliott explained. “I rolled over and I had like 10 missed calls and one was from Chad Knaus. It was the last one I saw. I was like ‘I’ve done it. I’ve slept through practice and I’m getting fired. It happened today.’ That’s like nightmare fuel for a race car driver.
“Fortunately, that was not the case. Unfortunately, Michael couldn’t drive today. Obviously hope the best for him, first and foremost, but it was an opportunity for me to get some more laps that I couldn’t turn down on a new race track for us.
“It was good experience from where I started the day to where I feel like we finished. It was a lot better, so I’m excited for tomorrow. I appreciate everybody at JRM, Chevrolet, Hendrick Engines, everybody for letting me come drive.”
After an extra day of track time, Elliott will look to parlay the experience into another road course win in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Verizon 200 at Indianapolis. First up will be qualifying to set the field at 9:05 am Sunday, followed by the 82-lap main event at 1:00 pm Eastern on NBC.