XFINITY Series champ will start 27th on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) Vote: Who will win at Martinsville? " Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: Full starting lineup MARTINSVILLE, Va. – The weather issues might have been a concern, but nothing could dampen the spirits of Chase Elliott Friday at Martinsville Speedway . The 19-year-old will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut here in Sunday's 66th annual STP 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1), thanks to a qualifying effort that will see his Hendrick Motorsports No. 25 Chevrolet start 27th in the 43-car lineup. Joey Logano ( Team Penske ) will start on the pole. "I don't know how I feel about being excited about being 27th, but at the same time it's really exciting to making our first Cup race," Elliott said. "It's just crazy how different a world this is on this side of things, being timed so close. Just a couple of hundredths (of a second) would have had us in the top 24, and a tenth would have had you, heck, up in the teens. "I was doing my best to get in and that was our goal today. Certainly a lot of pressure off to not have to worry about that tomorrow and we can focus on our race car for Sunday afternoon." Because the No. 25 team was making its first appearance and had no owner points, Elliott needed to qualify inside the top 36, ahead of at least nine others, to guarantee himself a spot in the field. Forty-five teams made at least one qualifying attempt. Elliott will move into the Sprint Cup Series full-time next season, taking over the No. 24 ride of four-time champion Jeff Gordon . For 2015, he'll make five attempts on the Sprint Cup side, with Richmond (April 25), Charlotte (May 24), Indianapolis (July 26) and Darlington (Sept. 6) completing his schedule. The defending NASCAR XFINITY Series champion and driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in that series, Elliott rolled out onto the Martinsville half-mile with a little over half the 20-minute opening session remaining. He was 22nd after the first lap and improved to 17th with a second trip around. A third lap produced the seventh fastest time at that time while a fourth lap failed to improve upon that effort. After pulling back into the garage, Elliott and his team watched as other drivers began posting faster laps. He had fallen to 27th when Ron Hornaday Jr . crashed to briefly bring the first round to a halt. Elliott went back out for a second shot at improving his position, briefly climbed back into the top 24, but then just as quickly was bumped back out. "The challenge was obviously the weather, and just the lack of laps," crew chief Kenny Francis said. "Now all that's behind us and he's got a chance to get some laps tomorrow and we can work on our car, think about it without near the stress. And we can lean on our teammates some." While the No. 25 group is part of the Hendrick organization, Friday's weather delay meant the four full-time teams of Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne were busy trying to map out their own strategies for practice and qualifying. Because of the rain, the start of Sprint Cup practice was delayed by more than two hours, and the planned session of an hour-and 25 minutes was squeezed into about 45 minutes. "That was another challenge; yeah, we're part of Hendrick but I mean we're on our own down here (on the far end of the garage)," Francis said. "With the weather and the lack of time, those guys are on their own agenda … so there's not much to collaborate on. "That was a bit challenging. It was fortunate we had a good baseline from the 24 car (of Gordon)." The STP 500 is the sixth of 36 races on this year's Sprint Cup Series schedule. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Chase Elliott's #25 car gets worked on in the garage at Martinsville Speedway after losing power steering.
Chase Elliott runs into trouble at Martinsville during his Sprint Cup Series debut as he has to go to the garage with a power steering failure.
Chase Elliott talks about making the field for his first Sprint Cup Series race after qualifying 27th at Martinsville Speedway.
At age 19, Chase will attempt to qualify for first Sprint Cup race Vote: Who will win at Martinsville? " Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Think about this for a moment: Chase Elliott , son of the ever-popular Bill Elliott , will attempt to make his Sprint Cup Series debut at Martinsville Speedway , a track steeped in history and tradition, for Sunday's STP 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). Not only does he need to qualify for the race -- with Team Xtreme withdrawing, there are 45 cars on the entry list; 43 make the race -- but Elliott also will need to do it without having the benefit of much time spent in a Sprint Cup Series seat. And if that's not enough, if he qualifies for the race -- which is expected to be attended by none other than Richard Petty -- Elliott will do so at a younger age than Jeff Gordon did in 1992. Throughout his short history as a national series driver, Elliott has shown an unflappable, even-keel approach en route to such heights as last season's XFINITY Series title. But if any weekend were to test his Zen-like calm, who could blame him if this were the one? "If I wasn't nervous come this weekend, then I'd think something was wrong with me," Elliott said. "I think that should be the case. With as much excitement as this weekend brings I think you're going to have some nerves to go along with it. I'm looking forward to experiencing both of those sensations." If his nerves indeed need some calming, then Elliott can go to bat knowing he will have Gordon on his side. Jeff just happens to be tied with HMS teammate Jimmie Johnson for the most Cup wins at the track among active drivers with eight, so it's not like he's coming at Chase with a blank slate. "I think for me, Jeff will probably be the guy I lean on most this weekend," Elliott said. "One, our car is being prepared out of the 24 and 5 shop. Just to be familiar with that group of guys and how they do things, I think that only makes sense to kind of lean on those guys more than anybody else with the plans for next year. Last time I checked, Jeff had run a handful of races at Martinsville; I feel like he'll have some good information and a lot to be learned talking to him." Elliott said he hasn't driven a Cup car since January of 2014, and most of that experience was at Nashville Superspeedway, a 1.33-mile concrete track that was used for testing. Plus, in the time since Elliott drove a Cup car, a lot has changed thanks to the 2015 rules package. Add in the fact that Elliott will be working with crew chief Kenny Francis for the first time, and there are a lot of challenges he'll be facing beyond just the normal task of driving on a tough, tight 0.526-mile track. But besides having Gordon and the entire HMS team on his side, Elliott also has the benefit of it being a break in the XFINITY Series schedule. Therefore, he can concentrate on the very tall task at hand. But as one might expect, his own expectations for his first Cup race sound pretty reasonable. "Hopefully, for me, I just want to execute all weekend and put together a solid week," Elliott said. "I think for us, if we can run all the laps and stay on the lead lap and battle to run in the top 15, I feel like that's a great day to shoot for. I feel like that's possible and that would be a really good day." Of course, if he does something more than that, then it could add to the track's already thick history. It's a history that will be on the young driver's mind. "I think back of all the times I've gone to Martinsville to watch my dad race," Elliott said. "Even not that long ago. Weird to think I'm going to go run a Cup race and not be watching. ... Such a great opportunity and I want to make the most of it." Senior writer Holly Cain contributed to this report. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Defending series champion comes to Fontana with three straight top-10s Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live After starting the season with a disappointing 28th-place showing at Daytona International Speedway , Chase Elliott looks like he's back in his 2014 form. The same form that allowed the 19-year-old JR Motorsports driver to run away with the NASCAR XFINITY Series championship. Since Daytona, Elliott has registered two fifth-place finishes and a seventh-place showing. He will attempt to run for his fourth consecutive top 10 in Saturday's Drive4Clots.com 300 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California (4 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1). Elliott remains fond of the two-mile track where he finished sixth last season in his first-ever start there. "It's such a blast to race at Auto Club," he said. "There are so many different grooves drivers run, and that's what makes it so exciting. You may see four-wide as we fan out on restarts during Saturday's race. "If you're a race fan, this is a must watch, no question about it." Next weekend, Elliott will make his long-awaited NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at Martinsville Speedway , but first he must focus on defending his XFINITY Series title. The No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet driver ranks fourth in the standings, 25 points behind leader Ty Dillon . He hopes to close in on Dillon with a visit to Victory Lane. "The West Coast swing has been a good two weeks," Elliott said. "We are looking to close on a high note this weekend in California. A win would do that." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Chase Elliott talks about being nervous and excited to make his NSCS debut at Martinsville Speedway.
Rear-end damage makes for rough Sprint Cup debut
Chase Elliott loses control in Turn 2 while trying to pass Ty Dillon, sending the No. 9 around after contact with the No. 3.
Reigning XFINITY champion looks to balance title run, Sprint Cup slate Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The car looks familiar, and the driver is a year older but otherwise unchanged. The team that helped carry Chase Elliott to the 2014 NASCAR XFINITY Series title, however, has undergone a major overhaul. Gone is spreadsheet-wielding crew chief Greg Ives, who can now be seen heading up the efforts of JR Motorsports founder and namesake Dale Earnhardt Jr. in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series. Likewise, car chief Travis Mack has departed, and has assumed the same duties with Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports outfit. Veteran crew chief Ernie Cope, who previously handled the organization’s third team that featured several Cup drivers (Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne), is now overseeing the No. 9 team as Elliott begins preparations to defend his series title. Christopher Allen is the team's new car chief, while Tristan Smith (lead engineer), Seth Kookier (assistant race engineer) and Rick Pennington (rear end mechanic) are also new to the team. HMS’ Brad Thompson will serve as engine tuner. "I think it's kind of like starting over a little bit, I guess, with Ernie and really a whole new group of guys," Elliott , 19, said. "I think there are only two or three of us that are back with the team from last year, and that includes me. "Last year we worked pretty closely together. We tried to stay on the same page with setup stuff; we were usually very, very similar last year to (their) car and whatever they were running. I think that relationship helped. "And we got to work with them firsthand at Road America when Greg was at home with his (new) baby. Having that race behind us will hopefully help us get going." A three-time race winner last season, Elliott is attempting to become only the seventh driver in the history of the series to capture back-to-back titles. His first opportunity to get a leg up on the competition comes here on Saturday with the running of the Alert Today Florida 300 (FOX Sports 1, 3:30 pm ET) at Daytona International Speedway. The son of NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bill Elliott (himself a champion in NASCAR's premier series), the younger Elliott admits he's a long way from being an expert in the series. One season and one championship taught him plenty, but there's still much more to absorb. "It still kind of feels new to me; I definitely don't feel like a veteran, that's for sure," he said. "It's crazy to think that it's already been a year since that first (series) start and that we're back at Daytona. A year goes by fast. "I still have a lot to learn, still a lot of new things I'm experiencing, especially with the personnel changes this season." Elliott ’s journey up the racing ladder has been slow and steady by design. He competed in a mixture of ARCA, NASCAR K&N Pro Series and Camping World Truck Series races – and winning on more than one occasion – while filling the racing void with a Late Model effort. That schedule, he said, helped prepare him for the rigors of last year’s 33-race XFINITY Series schedule. "I can think back to a couple of years ago when we were running Late Model stuff and we ran something in the mid-40s," he said. "The number of (XFINITY) races, that didn't feel like a ton to me; the biggest difference was just the traveling." His Late Model efforts were primarily in the Southeast. There were no West Coast trips, or stops in the Midwest. In addition to defending his series championship, Elliott is also scheduled to make his Sprint Cup Series debut this season. He will drive a fifth car for Hendrick Motorsports in five events before sliding into the group’s No. 24 car in '16, replacing four-time champion Jeff Gordon. The five Sprint Cup races are Martinsville (March 29), Richmond (April 25), Charlotte (May 24), Indianapolis (July 26) and Darlington (Sept. 6). This schedule might be a bit more hectic on those weekends, but it's something Elliott said he’s eager to attempt. "The good part about it is that the first race at Martinsville is an off-weekend for the XFINITY Series," he said. "Having that opportunity to just try to get your feet wet a little bit will be a good time to do that – not having going back and forth. "But at the same time, I've always enjoyed running two races a weekend. I can remember from the go-karting days, I used to always run a couple of races. In Late Model races, the weekend where they had their bigger shows, I used to always try to run the Super and the Pro races as well. I've always really liked that." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule