CONCORD, N.C. – When Chase Elliott first made his way to the NASCAR Cup Series as full-time driver, he climbed into the seat previously occupied by Jeff Gordon – the No. 24 Chevrolet.
With Gordon set to officially be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as a member of the class of 2019 this Friday, Elliott recalled just how helpful Gordon was during that transition.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t really know Jeff before my time here at Hendrick Motorsports,” Elliott said. “I would say my first year in Cup, taking over the No. 24 car, having his history and whatnot there with it and then him being freshly removed and me being freshly inserted, we had a lot of dialogue and have spent a lot of time together since.
“That time period in general was crucial for our friendship.”
Driving for Hendrick Motorsports, Elliott said, has provided him with some unbelievable opportunities, not the least of which has been getting to know Gordon.
“Being surrounded by Hall of Famers – (Hendrick Motorsports owner) Mr. (Rick) Hendrick, Jeff, my dad, and obviously Jimmie (Johnson), I’m sure whenever he’s done, he’ll be first-ballot as well,” Elliott said. “Lucky to be surrounded by people like that because they’ve shaped a lot of the sport’s past.”
Like Elliott, Johnson noted he was helped immensely by Gordon’s presence as he was getting started in the Cup Series.
The seven-time champion said it’s hard to put into words what Gordon has meant to him over the years.
“Obviously, my opportunities came through those doors that he opened, and specifically when he decided to start the 48 team and picked me as the driver, it changed my life forever,” Johnson said. “To work with him, to work under him, be mentored by him personally and professionally, he’s had such an impact on my life. “
Now, both Elliott and Johnson are thrilled to see a teammate who has meant so much to them inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“He’s been a huge part of my life,” Johnson said, “and I’m really proud of him.”