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Jeff Gordon to join Cadillac team for Rolex 24 at Daytona
Four-time NASCAR premier series champion Jeff Gordon will make his return to the Rolex 24 At Daytona for the first time in 10 years as Wayne Taylor Racing on Thursday confirmed Gordon alongside full-season co-drivers Jordan and Ricky Taylor and endurance driver Max Angelelli as the driver lineup in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R for the 55th Rolex 24 At Daytona. The race opens the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season on Jan. 28-29, 2017. Gordon's lone previous Rolex 24 appearance in 2007 came with the same team. He co-drove the No. 10 Pontiac Riley Daytona Prototype with Angelelli, Wayne Taylor and Jan Magnussen to a third-place result. "When I announced I would no longer be competing full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, my hope was that I would get an opportunity like this to compete again in such a prestigious event -- with Konica Minolta and Wayne Taylor Racing -- with the hopes of winning it this time," Gordon said. "I know that Ricky and Jordan are super-fast, and I believe it will be a very strong combination." Gordon , now an analyst on NASCAR on FOX telecasts, and the No. 10 team will be part of the debut race for the brand-new Cadillac DPi-V.R, which was officially unveiled Wednesday by the manufacturer. "I think it is exceptional to have Jeff back with us after 10 years," Angelelli said. "I look forward to sharing our new Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R racecar with him, discussing our setup and race strategy. It was great the first time -- we might have won that race if some things would have gone our way. Now that it's happening again, with the new car, it's going to be absolutely great." Ricky and Jordan Taylor, who finished third in the 2016 WeatherTech Championship Prototype standings, are also looking forward to running with the NASCAR legend. "It used to be common to have NASCAR guys joining teams for the Rolex but, over recent years, it's become less and less frequent," Jordan Taylor said. " Jeff Gordon is a name that everyone knows worldwide. I can't wait to compare notes and feedback with such a legend of our sport. It's going to be an experience of a lifetime." "Having Jeff Gordon join the team is really a dream come true for all of us," added Ricky Taylor. "It is a huge compliment to how well-respected the team has become over the years for someone with the history and career of Jeff Gordon to want to be a part of it. I'm sure he will be a great addition to the lineup and hopefully we can all get our first Rolex 24 win together." The No. 10 entry will compete for the overall Rolex 24 race victory in the WeatherTech Championship's Prototype (P) class. It will be one of three Cadillac DPi-V.R race cars in the field, as three-time defending series champions Action Express Racing confirmed its plans to field a pair of the new race cars earlier Thursday morning. Gordon , who has participated in private test sessions with the team in recent weeks, is expected to join the team for the upcoming IMSA-sanctioned test at Daytona International Speedway in Dec. 13-14, as well as the three-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 At Daytona test on Jan. 6-8, 2017 prior to the race on the final weekend of January. &lt;/p&gt;
F1 champ Nico Rosberg retires, Jeff Gordon drops hint at future?
The motorsports world was sent into a state of hysteria Friday morning when Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg, 31, abruptly announced his retirement less than a week after winning the title, garnering congratulatory tweets from a few NASCAR drivers. Wow! Congrats on being F1 Champion and on a outstanding career. Enjoy what comes next. https://t.co/iETU8ZVJa9 — Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) December 2, 2016 Congrats Nico https://t.co/YU22d5z2Pk — landon cassill (@landoncassill) December 2, 2016 I think @nico_rosberg broke twitter this morning. Bold move, love it. — Regan Smith (@ReganSmith) December 2, 2016 After the initial shock of the news subsided, speculation immediately began regarding who would fill Rosberg's coveted seat. There was one particular name that seemed to be making its way into a lot of speculatory tweets. Take a look at the guy pictured above sharing a laugh with Rosberg's (now former) Mercedes teammate and F1 standout, Lewis Hamilton. FOX Sports analyst Mike Joy jokingly tossed it out there ... Jeff , Maybe MB F1 need a high-caliber sub for '17 ! “ @JeffGordonWeb : Wow! Congrats Nico, on being F1 Champion and on an outstanding career.” — Mike Joy (@mikejoy500) December 2, 2016 ... and his FOX partner Gordon certainly didn't do much to quell those rumors. https://t.co/M3TAM6Xkdg — Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) December 2, 2016
Jeff Gordon reflects on Johnson's legacy as he runs for a seventh title
MORE: Buy tickets for Homestead-Miami Championship Weekend Jimmie Johnson . A worldwide household name, Johnson has reached remarkable feats in the racing world. This weekend could represent a pinnacle in his racing career, as he runs for his seventh championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway , the opportunity to tie the great Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most all-time Sprint Cup Series championships within reach. But "Six-Time" wasn't always that way: Former Hendrick Motorsports teammate and No. 48 car owner Jeff Gordon recalls when Johnson wasn't a world champion, a race winner or even a Sprint Cup Series driver. He was just Jimmie. • • • Gordon remembers a tremendously fast, red, white and blue car that took the track at an XFINITY test at Darlington Raceway back in 2000. "I was helping Ricky Hendrick -- (team owner) Rick (Hendrick’s) son -- who was getting in the XFINITY Series and wanted to run a few races and Darlington was one of the races on that schedule," Gordon told NASCAR.com on Thursday. "… So, I went down to Darlington for a day of XFINITY testing and I remember going out there on top of a truck … and a car was out there -- it was a red, white and blue car. Really had a nice line, carrying a lot of speed, right up next to the wall. You know, Darlington's a very intimidating track and usually it takes not just a lot of skill but experience to understand the track." Gordon complimented the driver's style, telling Hendrick "that's pretty much how you need to do it." Then he asked who the driver was. " Jimmie Johnson ," Gordon recalls Hendrick answering. With his seemingly experienced motor skills, Gordon wondered how many times Johnson had raced at "The Track Too Tough to Tame." Hendrick surprised Gordon by telling him he thought it was his first time. Gordon wanted to meet him. "I remember going down to the garage and Jimmie was sitting in his car and I went over there to him and said, 'Hey, what's up, how are you?' and introduced myself," Gordon said. "I said, 'So, have you ever been here to Darlington before?' And he said, 'Nope, today's the first time I ever saw the place.' "That to me in itself kind of floored me -- it looked like he had been there for years; tremendous speed," Gordon admitted. " So, I started watching him from that point forward. "… To me, (he) was an overachiever for the team and the equipment." Jimmie Johnson : A 24-year-old "overachiever" without a future ride, Sprint Cup win or championship to his name. Sounds about right for someone who would later be christened "Six-Time." RELATED: Johnson through the years in photos • • • The date is August 19, 2000. The now- XFINITY Series heads to the rolling Irish Hills of Michigan International Speedway . Already a three-time now- Sprint Cup Series champion under the Hendrick Motorsports umbrella, Gordon is making his fourth XFINITY start in the No. 24 Gordon -Evernham Motorsports ride. After the drivers meeting, Johnson approaches Gordon . "(He said), 'Hey, I've got some opportunities and some people talking to me and I'd love to pick your brain about it and get your opinion,'" Gordon recalled. "So, I was impressed that he was willing to come up and ask me and I felt honored that he thought to do that." The veteran driver was even more impressed during the race. "I was running, I think third or fourth or something on a late restart," Gordon said. "… I had a faster car than him all day long, but on that final restart he made a big, bold move and passed me, and I was like, 'Whoa!' I was like, 'This guy's got some real skills here.'" GALLERY: How Johnson became 'Six-Time' During that time, Hendrick Motorsports was a three-car team, fielding the Nos. 5, 25 and 24 cars out of three-separate shops on the Concord, North Carolina, campus. But soon, more teams began to adopt the four-car team concept, where each of the cars worked together to share information and were seeing positive on-track results. "When I left that Michigan race, I remember calling Rick (Hendrick) and I said 'You know, I was just racing in the XFINITY race -- Jimmie Johnson is extremely impressive … I really think that we could build this fourth team and hire him,'" Gordon said. Hendrick had met Johnson through his son Ricky, as the pair were friends. But he worried about a lack of sponsorship for a no-name rookie out of El Cajon, California. But Gordon was relentless. "Maybe a week or two went by and we talked some more about it," Gordon said. "and Rick said to me … 'Listen, if you're that adamant about it, why don't you be a partner with me on it and we'll go in together?' "I said, 'Done.'" On Sept. 22, 2000, Jimmie Johnson officially signed with Hendrick Motorsports to drive the No. 48 Chevrolet part-time. He made his first start behind the wheel of the No. 48 ride less than 13 months after that, signed with the team full-time in 2002 and earned his first Sprint Cup Series race 10 races into his rookie year. Less than five years after that, Johnson was celebrating his first Sprint Cup Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway . • • •
NASCAR touring champs set for gala celebration
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- Anthony Kumpen came the farthest, making the hours-long plane ride from Europe. It was a return trip he has happily accepted. Kumpen and six other champions from the NASCAR touring and regional series have congregated in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area this week for a celebration of their title-clinching seasons. The activities culminate in Saturday's NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards at the Charlotte Convention Center. Kumpen joins Justin Haley (K&N Pro Series East), Todd Gilliland (K&N West), Cayden Lapcevich (Pinty's Series), Doug Coby (Whelen Modified Tour), Burt Myers (Whelen Southern Modified Tour) and Matt Bowling (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champ) among those honored at Saturday night's gala. It's the Belgian-born driver's second visit in three years after capping off his second NASCAR Whelen Euro Series crown. "It's great to be back. It's a fantastic event, a fantastic week," Kumpen said. "We're really proud as European drivers that we can be part of the NASCAR family. The championship is growing, we had a sold-out event in the UK at Brands Hatch, so it's becoming big in Europe." Kumpen, 38, has already commemorated a special celebration of the championship in the Euro Series' season finale with a VIP guest. Kumpen has a connection with four-time NASCAR premier series champion Jeff Gordon that goes beyond the No. 24 adorning his Chevrolet: He hails from the same hometown in Belgium as Gordon's wife, Ingrid Vandebosch. Kumpen was already on edge entering the season's final weekend. Then came the e-mail popping into his inbox from Gordon , indicating that he'd be in attendance at the Zolder, Belgium, road course. "So the stress level went a bit up," he said with a laugh. "We asked him to become grand marshal of the race, which he did and which was fantastic for our championship." Kumpen said he was scheduled for a tour of the Hendrick Motorsports shop Friday with Gordon serving as his guide. But before the drivers don their formal wear for Saturday, the touring champions savored a rare opportunity to meet and interact, mixing it up in Thursday's karting challenge at GoPro Motorplex. "It's been super-special so far. Just being in the same place as all these other champions is super cool to meet them," Gilliland said. "I've heard their names and watched their races on TV, but I've never really met some of them. It's been really cool to meet them in an area like this and to be out here at GoPro Motorplex racing with them is awesome." RELATED: Meet Gilliland, complete NASCAR Next class Kumpen led the first half of a Media/Champions race then edged Haley by half a kart-length to prevail in the eighth annual Champions Karting Challenge. For the 17-year-old Haley, his participation in this week's events was a year-long wait after watching William Byron precede him as K&N East champion last season. "It's really, really cool what NASCAR does for us," Haley said. "I sat there last year and saw what William did on social media and how cool it was, so I thought it'd be a cool experience to come and do it myself."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. injury timeline
Dale Earnhardt Jr . was cleared to compete in 2017 after sitting out much of the 2016 season, Hendrick Motorsports officials announced Dec. 8. A crash at Michigan International Speedway in June is believed to be the cause of Junior's injury, and the ever-popular driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet said in July that he was going to focus on being healthy and ready to compete at the 2017 season opening Daytona 500 . Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman split fill-in duty for Hendrick Motorsports in the No. 88 car for the second half of the 2016 season. Read through the progression of Dale Jr.'s injury and recovery through the timeline of events below.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. cleared to resume NASCAR competition
RELATED: Dale through the years " Recovery timeline CAIN: Dale Jr.'s strong stand makes him, sport better NASCAR premier series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr . has received medical clearance to resume his racing career, Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday. Earnhardt, 42, was sidelined for the final 18 races of the 2016 season after suffering a concussion. On Wednesday, he participated in an on-track testing session at Darlington Raceway under the supervision of Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty. Earnhardt was cleared by Dr. Micky Collins, medical director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program in Pittsburgh. Collins, who consulted with Dr. Petty following Wednesday's on-track activity, has overseen Earnhardt's rehabilitation program and also treated him for a similar injury in 2012. "I expected things to go really well yesterday, and that’s exactly what happened," Earnhardt said of an afternoon spent behind the wheel at the 1.366-mile South Carolina track. "Actually getting in a race car was an important final step, and it gives me a ton of confidence going into 2017." Earnhardt completed 185 laps in his No. 88 Chevrolet during the course of the nearly five-hour session. Crew chief Greg Ives was on hand to oversee his driver’s efforts as well. Earnhardt, recently voted the series most popular driver for the 14th consecutive season, said he expects to do more testing in January "to help knock the rust off." RELATED: Junior wins NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver Award "When it's time to go to Daytona, I' ll be ready," the winner of 26 premier series races said. The 2017 racing season officially gets underway with the 59th running of the Daytona 500 , scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 26 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Earnhardt will not compete in the annual non-points, season-opening race, The Clash at Daytona International Speedway (Feb. 18, 8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Instead, HMS officials said Alex Bowman , who filled in for Earnhardt in 10 of the final 18 races of 2016, will drive the team's No. 88 entry. Bowman won the pole at Phoenix in November, his first in the series. "Everyone agreed that he more than earned (the opportunity)," Earnhardt said, "and (sponsor) Nationwide was 100 percent on board." RELATED: NASCAR community reacts to Junior's return It's possible Earnhardt could participate in up to two additional tests – Hendrick Motorsports is one of four teams expected to take part in a Goodyear tire test scheduled for Jan. 10-11 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway , and the season's first organizational test is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 31/Feb. 1 at Phoenix International Raceway . Collins called Earnhardt "one of the hardest-working patients I've ever encountered." "He's done everything we've asked, and we believe he is ready to compete at a professional level again and can withstand the normal forces of a race car driver," Collins said. "Dale has been very open with us, and we've had plenty of time for his treatment, so we feel very good about his long-term prospects and how this has been managed by everyone involved." Team owner Rick Hendrick said he's proud of Earnhardt "for listening to his body and standing up to take responsibility for his health. "He's worked extremely hard and set a terrific example for others," Hendrick said. "It's great news as we go into the offseason, and we can't wait to see him back on the race track at Daytona." In addition to Bowman, four-time series champion Jeff Gordon also drove for the team in eight starts during Earnhardt's absence. Earnhardt was 13th in points with six top-five finishes before being sidelined prior to the July race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and wound up 32nd in the final standings. The 2012 injury forced him to miss two races; he finished 12th in points that season. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Knaus: 'Jeff is a nervous ninny'
Chad Knaus jokes about how intense Jeff Gordon was while on the No.48 pit box during the race.
Will Jeff Gordon's second final race really be his last?
MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Similarities abounded Sunday at what could be Jeff Gordon 's second final race of his NASCAR career. Like his most recent farewell last November at Homestead-Miami Speedway , he posed for a pre-race team photo with Hendrick Motorsports personnel. And though there was far less fanfare in Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway , Gordon wound up with the same result -- a sixth-place finish in his final start before heading back into retirement. Or is it? Gordon said "based on the information I have in front of me," it was. "But I didn't see me running eight races this year, either." The four-time premier series champion's capable relief stint this season in place of injured Dale Earnhardt Jr . came to a close Sunday at the .526-mile track where he's enjoyed many successes -- nine of his 93 career wins. Among active Sprint Cup Series drivers, only teammate Jimmie Johnson has as many Martinsville triumphs, tying Gordon's benchmark with a victory in Sunday's 500-lapper. The 45-year-old Gordon showed plenty of pep in his Martinsville swan song, logging loads of laps among the top five. A slight fade over the final green-flag stretch left him with a top-10 effort and the best result of his interim tenure in the No. 88. "Well, I would rather have won," Gordon said. "I felt like we had a fourth- or fifth-place car the run before that so I always wanted to get the most out of it. I was a little disappointed it didn't take off there at the end. … But I was proud of this team, proud of my performance. Best finish I've had in this car, so all in all, it was a good way to end our run here this year in (the) 88 car, and I think it's going to be the last one. We'll see." If team owner Rick Hendrick has his say -- and he joked Sunday that he typically does -- Gordon may still have some racing left to do. When Earnhardt's concussion-like symptoms first were diagnosed this summer, Hendrick said Gordon was atop his list as a possible replacement. The longtime car owner and NASCAR Hall of Fame electee said Sunday's performance did little to sway that notion, confirming that "absolutely" Gordon would be his first call from the bullpen. "In the middle of the race, he was coming. Man, he could win this thing," Hendrick said. "It's really tough to be out of the car and jump back in and race with these guys without having the week-to-week input into the car. "Don't you guys agree, he's too young to retire? I mean, he's too good. Maybe we'll vote him back in. Maybe we can come up with a new deal." New driving assignments notwithstanding, Gordon will head back to the broadcasting booth with FOX Sports in 2017. But before making that transition, the future Hall of Famer took time Sunday to savor another celebrated send-off. "Just like Homestead, you don't really know how special some of those moments are until years down the road," Gordon said, "or maybe that's just my personality when I can reflect on it, go back through my career. This has really done a lot for me integrating into the team and the organization. … It's memorable, certainly, but I think it's ironic that this is the last one."
Dale Jr: 'I doubt it's Jeff Gordon's last race'
Dale Earnhardt Jr. joined Dirty Mo Radio to recap his time at Martinsville Speedway after teammate Jimmie Johnson punched his ticket to Homestead-Miami Speedway and how he believes Jeff Gordon will race again.
Despite bumps, Elliott's impressed Gordon , father in rookie season
MORE: Buy tickets for Homestead-Miami Championship Weekend Bill Elliott remembers the conversations with his son. "I said 'If you want to race, then we'll go race. But if you want to go hang out with your buddies on Saturday night, then you can do that. It's your choice,' " Elliott recalled recently. Chase Elliott wanted to race. He wanted to race small cars and big cars, on dirt and on asphalt. So he did. He raced and he won and he lost and he learned. And in 2016, two years removed from winning NASCAR's XFINITY Series title, the youngster was handed the keys to his future -- the seat in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driven at the time by four-time series champion Jeff Gordon . Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) signals the end of the '16 season. Elliott will enter the race 10th in points, having qualified for the championship-determining Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup but falling out of title contention after a difficult second round. There have been "a lot of ups and downs this year," he said. "I think the biggest thing I've seen as I've run throughout this year, and Jeff touched on it as we talked in the offseason, he just kept bragging on this group of guys and how good they were and kept saying, 'Man, you're going to a really good group.' I think you have to see some of those things firsthand to really recognize it and appreciate it and as I've gone through this season I really have. I've got some of the best cars you could have to drive. They make me look a lot better than I am. "Those are the kinds of people you want to be surrounded with if you can do that. I really had nothing to do with the group of people that I was assigned, I was just lucky to fall into place where I did at the time I did. That's been one of my biggest takeaways." "I've had some really good cars to drive and I think having that good relationship with this group and to be able to count on the job that Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) does ... he does an incredible job and doesn't get enough credit; he makes my job as easy as you could have it." Elliott has 10 top fives and 17 top-10 finishes this season and won a pair of poles -- at Daytona's season opener and the unpredictable Talladega. He earned career-best second-place finishes at both Michigan races this year and was third twice in the opening round of the Chase. "I think he's very competitive and in the race car to me he's a veteran," Gordon said. "I know he's beat himself up a few times outside the race car but I like that. That means that second or third is not good enough for him. He's got a bright future." The fact that he was able to qualify for the Chase, Gordon said, wasn't a surprise. Not after Elliott won the XFINITY Series title his first time out while driving for JR Motorsports. Paired with teammates Jimmie Johnson , a six-time series champion, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr ., at HMS, Gordon expected the 20-year-old to excel. "You still never know," Gordon said. "Especially at the Cup level it's very competitive. Not just in the garage level but at Hendrick. To have Jimmie and Kasey and Junior as your teammates, that's going to make you have to step up. But I don't think we would have put him in there if we didn't believe in him. And you know there are going to be some growing pains. I would say there have been far less than I anticipated." Gustafson worked with Kyle Busch , Mark Martin and Gordon at HMS. He said there was never a question of talent when it came to Elliott. But others with talent have come and gone. Younger drivers can go fast but going fast is only part of the equation. Race conditions, passing, altering one's line to adapt to changing track conditions, and the race on an off pit road are additional hurdles to overcome in order to contend. It's what Gustafson refers to as "the art of racing" and said it is something that's "definitely underappreciated" today. "He does that really well," Gustafson said. "Typically in my experience it takes some time to master passing or running in traffic or where you need to move on the track, what you need to do to improve your position. He does a really good job at that. You always can get better -- I think it's something he can learn and change and grow with but I've been pretty impressed with his first year and how he handles all that. "His maturity and mental aptitude and demeanor are pretty far beyond his years. ... Everybody makes mistakes but I think he minimalizes a lot of what you typically see in rookie." LEARNING CURVE Gustafson said Elliott's ability to adapt and digest information quickly when he has struggled in a particular area or at a venue has been impressive. Often, it's the next trip back to that track, or even a year or two, before such improvements bear fruit for a driver. For Elliott, it's sometimes much sooner. Over the course of a weekend in some cases. "It doesn't change through practice but then once he's able to go and digest it, think about it and come back with a game plan ... he attacks it and makes significant improvements," Gustafson said. "It's impressive. I don't know that I've ever worked with a driver that had that ability." The technology available today has been a big help. Elliott will often pour over information gleaned from his teammates while awaiting changes to the car during practice or at day’s end. Where someone brakes in the corner, how fast they pick up the throttle, how much steering they're putting in their car can help when he’s searching for more speed or a better handling ride. And he isn't hesitant to change. The stopwatch doesn't lie, he said. "If the guys have found a way to get you out on the track better for one lap or get you around the race track better for long runs, and that's a proven fact from the stopwatch or tire falloff or whatever data that you can see, then there's no denying that fact," Elliott said. "I think that opens your mind up to try and see what they are doing and how they're going about their job. Amongst our guys or any of the guys in the garage, I just can't see that person X has a car that's that much better than mine. I think you have to recognize that we're in a pretty tight boundary of competition and for you to be way off, well maybe you need to think about how you're driving. Because I know my guys haven't missed it that bad." Gordon , now a FOX NASCAR analyst, says being young or new to the series is a plus; it's easier to absorb the reams of information available without the baggage of preconceived ideas. "You're a sponge," he said, "so you can adapt quickly. "As a team we have to take advantage of that because the longer you go, the harder it is to do that. I think that's one of the things that's made Jimmie so great over all the years is he's been able to do that as well or better than anybody that I know. Someone like Chase, that's as talented and young as he is, I see that in him. That's why I think they've performed consistently very well." Bill Elliott says he tries to look at his son's progression as a driver and not as his son. Either way, he's been impressed with what he's seen. "I think he's done a great job from a driving standpoint," Elliott said. "I really didn't know ... when you come into these deals and you think 'OK, I'm getting in Jeff Gordon 's car and it's already got a pretty good history to it, a damn good history to it, and what are the expectations for a kid that's come in and only run a handful of Cup races prior to this? I've been very impressed." A FAN FAVORITE The elder Elliott won the series' most popular driver award, overseen by the National Motorsports Press Association, a record 16 times. Earnhardt Jr. has won the award the last 13 years. In fact, the award, which has been presented annually since 1953, has gone to someone named Elliott or Earnhardt every year since 1991. Could the younger Elliott be the next in line? He has quickly developed his own following of younger fans while appealing to those who were fans of his father, the 1988 series champion, and to those who were fans of Gordon and the No. 24 team. Voting for this year's MPD award closes Sunday at 11:59 p.m. ET. ( www.mostpopulardriver.com ) "The fan base that I acquired the years that I ran was just so phenomenal," Bill Elliott said. "They supported me through thick and thin. I'd fall out of races on some days and there would be fans that would tell me, 'We don't care if you never win another race; we're behind you 100 percent.' To have that kind of following ... I think it just had to do with my background, how I got into the sport, I wasn't part of the established group. I worked hard and tried to do things the right way, which I didn't always do that. But I tried really hard to take care of the race fans because I really respected the fans, whether they were pulling for me or the other drivers. "I think Chase has been very good and very gracious with the fans and he's been able to pick up that group, plus Jeff had a strong fan base. When you've got everything else ... being involved with Dale Jr. on the XFINITY Y side got him exposed to a lot of people. Winning that championship the first year and coming back and finishing second last year, there was a lot going on." Chase Elliott says seeing fans wearing the No. 24 gear carrying his likeness and name wasn't something he was expecting as the year got underway. And while the competition side of the sport is where he's focused, he understands the importance of the fans. "They're what makes it go around," he said. "One thing my dad always touched on was if you're having a bad day or not feeling well, not doing too good, you have to recognize that whether there are two people at an event or 2,000, if you make one person’s day then that goes a long way with that person. Coming from him, I think that's a pretty good word of advice and something to help keep things in perspective." He listens. And he learns. Even if it's sometimes hard to tell. "We were in the shop one day and we were working on the Late Model car," Bill Elliott said. "He asked me how to do something and I told him. Then he argued with me and I told him, 'Well, do it your way.' So there you go. "You know how kids are."