RIDGEWAY, Va. – Chase Elliott can breathe a sigh of relief.

The rookie knew before the weekend began that qualifying would need to be his main focus, as he had to earn his way into the field at Martinsville Speedway to make his Sprint Cup Series debut.

And he did just that.

“I wanted to get in the race probably more than anybody else wanted me to get into the race,” Elliott said. “I did my best to try to get in and that was our main goal today. Certainly a lot of pressure off to not have to worry about that.”

He was just happy that he got a chance to qualify at all after a rainy start to the day added to the stress level. But all it meant was a slight delay for on-track activities.

Once he got his shot, he took advantage of it and will start Sunday’s race from the 27th position.

“I’m not sure how I feel about being excited about being 27th, but at the same time I’m really excited to make it here in our first Cup race,” Elliott said. “It’s just crazy how much different of a world this is on this side of things. Just a couple hundredths would have had us in the top 24 and a tenth would’ve had you up in the teens. It’s crazy how close things are. But we’re excited and looking forward to the race.”

After years of heading to tracks to watch his legendary father race in the Cup series, Elliott said it feels “odd” to now be the one in the driver’s seat.

But it means that a dream of his has come to fruition.

“This is definitely special,” he said. “But at the same time you don’t want to forget you are still racing and you’re still in a seat and you’re still trying to achieve the same thing. So you don’t want to lose sight of what your goals are, no matter what you’re driving.”

Elliott was quick to thank crew chief Kenny Francis and the entire No. 25 team for all the hard work back in the race shop to add a fifth car to the Hendrick Motorsports roster for the weekend.

“For them to do it in the way that they did it and to bring as nice of a car as they brought for me to drive this weekend is very impressive,” he said. “I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the team I’m on and want to try to do my job for them.”

Ultimately, Elliott said his goal is to gain as much knowledge as he can and put together 500 solid laps on Sunday.

And having that Hendrick Motorsports equipment will go a long way toward that goal.

“That is going to help and assist him to get himself up to speed and understand how to drive the cars,” teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “He has also driven Cup cars before in testing for us. It’s not like it’s going to be a new animal to him.

“I expect him to have fun. He is going to be a handful. He is going to be up there running with us and racing for positions and I expect him to be a great teammate and a lot of fun to work with.”