RIDGEWAY, Va. – Sunday was a banner day at Martinsville Speedway for Hendrick Motorsports and Chase Elliott, as the rookie made his Sprint Cup Series debut in the No. 25 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS.
HendrickMotorsports.com was with him throughout the experience, allowing for an inside look at the momentous occasion.
8:09 a.m.: Elliott’s alarm sounds, but he is already wide awake.
“I’m not usually a morning person, so for me to wake up before my alarm went off, I’d say, is pretty special,” he said. “Just excited and ready to go.”
The day of his Sprint Cup Series debut has arrived.
10 a.m.: Elliott spends some time in his No. 25 NAPA hauler, executing interviews with a handful of outlets including Rolling Stone and HendrickMotorsports.com. Decked out in an Under Armour NAPA Racing hoodie, he also sends fans a quick message over Twitter.
10:30 a.m.: Elliott hops in a golf cart and heads to a Martinsville Speedway suite, where he spends time with guests from NAPA. There, he answers some questions from the gathered crowd, grants some autograph requests and even leaves his signature on the wall of the suite.
11 a.m.: From the suite appearance, Elliott rides back on the golf cart to his trailer only to quickly head back out to walk to his first Sprint Cup Series driver meeting.
“I think that will be cool,” he said of the meeting. “Maybe I can learn something there and hopefully we can abide by the rules today and try not to get in any trouble."
He sits beside Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon.
11:32 a.m.: NASCAR Hall of Famer Leonard Wood drops by to wish Elliott luck – and snap a few quick photos.
11:35 a.m.: The pre-race responsibilities aren’t finished yet – Elliott heads back to the front of his hauler, where a crew from FOX Sports 1 is waiting.
12:30 p.m.: Driver introductions begin. Elliott, with a starting position of 27th, receives one of the loudest ovations of the field. He heads off the stage, high-fiving fans on the way to his car.
12:55 p.m.: Standing by his No. 25 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS, Elliott is greeted by his parents – Bill and Cindy – and Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick. The start of the race is less than 20 minutes away.
1:07 p.m.: Elliott climbs into his car and prepares himself for the race. Moments later, the command is given: “Drivers, start your engines.”
“I’ll try to do my part on the racetrack, I know (crew chief) Kenny (Francis) is going to do his job on pit road, and we'll just try to make the most of whatever comes."Chase Elliott
1:13 p.m.: The pace car heads for pit road and the green flag is dropped for Elliott’s Sprint Cup debut.
“When you get in the car, when we start doing pace laps and take the green, it's going to be a special moment, for sure, for me,” Elliott said. “I'm looking forward to experiencing all the emotions that come with it."
He continues to communicate with Francis throughout the race, letting him know early on that he might need reminders about his ability to adjust the track bar from inside the car, “because I’m not used to that.”
Unfortunately, after an incident on a restart caused some damage to the front of his vehicle, Elliott reports that he has lost power steering. Francis sends him back to the garage area so that the No. 25 team can take a look.
Elliott remains in the car.
2:20 p.m.: Elliott returns to the track and proceeds to gain four positions before the end of the race, taking the checkered flag in 38th.
“It was a hard one to swallow, but the team was exceptional by getting us fixed up to go back out and compete,” he said.
5:09 p.m.: Elliott climbs out of his car at the end of the race exactly nine hours after his alarm first sounded, closing out his Sprint Cup debut.
“It was a tough day for our NAPA AUTO PARTS team, but we gained a lot from it,” Elliott said. “We are looking forward to the opportunity at Richmond in a few weeks to get more experience competing against these guys."
“I want to thank NAPA and the entire Hendrick Motorsports organization, from the chassis and engine shops to Mr. Hendrick himself, for believing and giving me the opportunity today. I’m so incredibly thankful for them and look forward to building on this performance.”Chase Elliott
Check out our previous "A Day in the Life" feature and follow Jimmie Johnson as he tackles NASCAR Media Day to kick off the season.