Four-time champion will start 18th in Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX) RELATED: Starting lineup in Charlotte With 92 NASCAR Sprint Cup victories and four championships, Jeff Gordon has said that NASCAR was "meant to be" for him. But Sunday afternoon, the former open-wheel prodigy also got to drive the path not taken, and lead the Indianapolis 500 field to the green flag as the official pace car driver. After a tutoring session from IndyCar great Johnny Rutherford, Gordon got the Chevy Corvette Z06 up to speed, took three laps in front of the field and then pulled off to watch the race's opening laps unfold before climbing on an airplane to fly back to Charlotte where he will start 18th in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway this evening (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM) -- NASCAR's nightcap to racing's famed Memorial Day weekend slate. The NASCAR champion was introduced to the crowd at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway just prior to the driver lineup Sunday morning. Carrying his son Leo and walking alongside his daughter Ella and wife Ingrid, Gordon stopped briefly to shake hands and speak with the legendary Mario Andretti before waving to the crowd which offered the NASCAR great a standing and rousing ovation. Moments later, Indy 500 starter and fellow California native Townsend Bell emerged wearing Jeff's neon-colored 24 on his driver's suit. His car will also carry that number as a tribute to Gordon. It was yet another recognition of Gordon's great contributions to racing and his special place in Indiana racing lore. Under green at #Indy500 , but @townsendbell gave @JeffGordonWeb a prerace tour of the No. 24 @TeamChevy . #IMSAatINDY pic.twitter.com/INrl7E0w0B — TUDOR Championship (@UnitedSportsCar) May 24, 2015 Calling it an honor and speaking often about the "energy" of Indy 500 race day, Gordon described Sunday's experience as "an opportunity of a lifetime." "To come down that front straightaway the first time and hear that crowd cheering for the cars, the drivers, and this amazing event …to be able to hear that from inside the pace car with the windows down is just amazing," Gordon said after getting out of the car. "Not to mention that the pace car has to get after it pretty good out here because that last lap is 100 mph and through the corners, maintaining that is something. So that was definitely cool. A huge thrill and a huge honor. "This whole year has just been incredible from the fan interaction, racetracks, this phone call (from stepfather John Bickford that Chevrolet offered Gordon the opportunity to drive the pace car), this moment. This is a very, very special year. Very cool experience being the pace car driver for #Indy500 . Thanks @TeamChevy & @IMS pic.twitter.com/PnQ5WvuMDx — Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) May 24, 2015 "I mean, there's no doubt in my mind that one thing that maybe I feel like I've accomplished more than I ever expected or hoped to in racing, but the one thing that did kind of did allude me and we pursued -- I say 'we', my dad, my mom and myself -- when we were trying to go to the next level, was getting a chance to race here in the Indianapolis 500. "I've said this many times, I still believe it. Winning the inaugural Brickyard 400, to me, fulfilled that dream. Now I've had a chance to win it four more times. This is a special place for me. I love getting a chance to race here." Gordon's five Brickyard 400 wins is the most for a driver at the speedway, tying him with the legendary Michael Schumacher, who has five Formula One grand prix victories. He'll have a chance to hold the record on his own in this July's running of the Brickyard 400 (July 26, 3:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM). But for those hoping that the 43-year old Gordon may one day make a start in the Indianapolis 500, he dashed those thoughts Sunday morning telling reporters that would not be happening. "I'll be in the FOX booth next year," Gordon said. "I'm so glad that deal worked out because I wouldn't have a better excuse for you." And further, Gordon revealed that although he had previously left open the door to compete in random NASCAR races that now seems less and less likely. "The way I set that up is because I've known too many drivers that I respect and have raced with that, you know, said, 'OK, I'm retiring, stepping away, then they come back,'' Gordon said. "I'm not quite ready, want to run a few more races. "That's why I didn't say this is my final year of ever competing at a single event. But it really, truly is. It really is. As I get further into the year, as things come together, I don't see myself doing any races. If I do a race, maybe a Martinsville or a short track." In the meantime, Gordon was intent to live in the moment Sunday. "To me, if every time I could attend something like the Indianapolis 500 and then go to my own race -- it would definitely be motivating," Gordon said. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Watch five-time Brickyard 400 winner talk about driving Indy 500 pace car RELATED: Gordon to drive Indy 500 pace car Five-time Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon is doing the Indy 500- Coca-Cola 600 double on Sunday. After driving the Chevrolet Z06 Corvette pace car to start the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway , Gordon will fly to Charlotte Motor Speedway to compete in the 56th running of the Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM). Gordon is on the ground in Speedway, Indiana and will meet the media at 10:30 a.m. ET. Watch the news conference live here. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Get caught up before Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX) MORE: NASCAR.com's picks for Charlotte " See all 43 cars for Charlotte What: 56th Annual Coca-Cola 600 Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway , Concord, N.C. When: Sunday, May 23, 2015 TV/Radio: FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR) Distance: 400 laps (600 miles) Green Flag: 6:18.30 p.m. ET Pit Road Speed: 45 mph Caution Car Speed: 55 mph Competition Caution : Lap 25 On The Front Row " Complete lineup for Sunday's race 1. Matt Kenseth , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota (194.252 mph) 2. Joey Logano , Team Penske No. 22 Ford (192.836 mph) Failed to Qualify Jeb Burton , BK Racing No. 26 Toyota; Mike Bliss , Go FAS Racing No. 32 Ford; Travis Kvapil , Hillman SmithMotorsports No. 39 Chevrolet; Jeff Green , TMG No. 30 Chevrolet; Brendan Gaughan , Premium Motorsports No. 62 Chevrolet Fastest In Practice First Practice: Carl Edwards , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota (192.273 mph) " Full practice results Second Practice: Kurt Busch , Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet (192.644 mph) " Full practice results Third Practice: Kurt Busch , Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet (188.653 mph) " Full practice results Four Score? Matt Kenseth will start from the pole for the 15th time in his career when the Coca-Cola 600 gets under way. On three occasions, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has managed to also win the race – at Bristol in 2005 and '15 as well as Kansas in '13. "Back when I started, we worked hard on qualifying but we worked way harder on the race (setup) because even if we started 20th, we knew if we had a really good car we could drive up to the front and after a couple of pit stops we'd be in the top few," Kenseth said. "That's not necessarily the case today. You can start in the middle and you can be stuck in the middle all day sometimes. It's hard to make up ground." SHOP: Kenseth gear No. 450 for Biffle, McMurray Roush Fenway Racing 's Greg Biffle and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates driver Jamie McMurray will be making their 450th career starts in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series in the Coca-Cola 600 . Biffle's first start came April 28, 2002 at Auto Club Speedway . He finished 13th. McMurray's first start came later that same year, on October 6 at Talladega Superspeedway . Driving in a relief role for the injured Sterling Marlin, McMurray finished 26th. Front Row Joe(y) Team Penske driver Joey Logano qualified second for the Coca-Cola 600 , his seventh front-row start in 12 races this year. Since the 2014 season and the move to group qualifying, Logano has earned 15 top-two starts. SHOP: Logano gear Shorten the 600? "If they take that away or shorten it, it doesn't have the same challenge because that extra 100 miles is really hard. It puts extra wear and tear on your parts, your pieces, and your driver. It makes you change your strategy. And … it's something unique to our sport. … I like the challenge of that extra 100 miles once a year. I wouldn't want to do it twice a year." – former championship winning crew chief Ray Evernham Third Cup Start for Elliott Defending XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott will be making his third Sprint Cup Series start this weekend, qualifying the Hendrick Motorsports No. 25 Chevrolet 28th in the 43-car field. Elliott, the son of 1988 Sprint Cup champ and NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bill Elliott , finished 38th in his Sprint Cup debut earlier this year at Martinsville and 16th at Richmond. Driver Rating Best driver rating average at Charlotte based on past 20 races: Jimmie Johnson , Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet (111.6) Kyle Busch , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota (106.7) Kasey Kahne , Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet (100.8) GALLERY: Check out the Memorial Day weekend patriotic paint schemes Chevy Stumble? For the first time this season, no Chevrolet drivers qualified in the top five. Points leader Kevin Harvick , in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet, led the GM charge and will start eighth. Lap Leaders Jim Paschal holds the record for most laps led by the winner in the Coca-Cola 600 , leading 335 of 400 en route to his victory at Charlotte in 1967 (it was then called the World 600). Race winner Jimmie Johnson led 334 of 400 in '04. The driver leading the most laps in the 600 and NOT winning the race is Junior Johnson, who led 289 in the '63 event but finished second to Fred Lorenzen after suffering a flat tire with fewer than five laps remaining. Defending Coca-Cola 600 Champion Jimmie Johnson , Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet Former Charlotte Winners In Field Jimmie Johnson (7); Jeff Gordon (5); Kasey Kahne (4); Kevin Harvick (3); Matt Kenseth , Jamie McMurray (2); Casey Mears , Tony Stewart , Brad Keselowski , Clint Bowyer , Kurt Busch (1). FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Sprint Cup stars take to social media to offer congratulations Juan Pablo Montoya 's second career Indianapolis 500 win elicited plenty of social media reaction from his former competitors and friends in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Tony Stewart and Joey Logano were among those to offer their congratulations. The victory came as he drove for Roger Penske, giving Penske wins in two of racing's marquee events this season: The Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. Penske joins Chip Ganassi as the only other team owner to win both events in the same year. Fifteen years ago, Montoya won his first Indianapolis 500 driving for Ganassi. Since then, Montoya spent time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, winning two races and competing full-time in the series from 2007 to 2013. He made two Sprint Cup starts last season for Penske. Check out the sampling of reaction below. During his time in @NASCAR , @jpmontoya was always really cool to me. I looked up to him as a true wheelman. So good to see him win today. — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) May 24, 2015 Congratulations to @jpmontoya that was a hell of a drive . — Mark Martin (@markmartin) May 24, 2015 Ole @jpmontoya was on it there at the end definitely was wheeling that thing more than any of them #Indianapolis500 — Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (@StenhouseJr) May 24, 2015 Big congrats to @jpmontoya on the #Indy500 win!!!! — Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) May 24, 2015 Hell yeah @jpmontoya . Awesome. Indy 500 & Daytona 500 to RP. That was awesome. Congrats @12WillPower in the runner up too. — Joey Logano (@joeylogano) May 24, 2015 Congrats @jpmontoya , massive effort!!! #Indianapolis500 — Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) May 24, 2015 HELL YEAH! Great job my friend. Proud of my buddy Juan Pablo Montoya today at the #Indy500 — Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) May 24, 2015
Claire B. Lang's "Dialed In – Salute to the Troops" airs Sunday, May 24 NEW YORK – May 20, 2015 – SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90, will broadcast a special program in tribute to the men and women of the United States Military. Dialed In – Salute to the Troops, hosted by Claire B. Lang, will air this Sunday, May 24 (1:00-3:00 pm ET), live from Charlotte Motor Speedway in advance of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race The special will feature several of NASCAR's star drivers sharing their appreciation for the men and women of America's Armed Forces, as well as interviews with servicemen and women from various branches of the military who will be in Charlotte for the race. Last year's special featured interviews with Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kevin Harvick , Danica Patrick , Medal of Honor recipients Sgt. Major Robert Paterson and Sgt. Dakota Meyer, along with many other drivers and military members. Additionally, on Monday, May 25, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio's Mike Bagley and Pete Pistone, hosts of The Morning Drive (weekdays, 7:00-11:00 am ET), will dedicate much of their show to honoring our servicemen and women. They will encourage their listeners to call in to the show or to tweet with the hashtag #TMDTroops to celebrate current and former military members, and to memorialize those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio is available to listeners nationwide on channel 90 on satellite radios, on the SiriusXM app and online at SiriusXM.com . The Dialed In – Salute to the Troops special and other SiriusXM NASCAR Radio programming will also be made available on inactive SiriusXM radios as part of SiriusXM’s free listening preview program, which is running now through June 1. (Some older Sirius satellite radios may not be capable of receiving the free listening preview channels.) For more info visit www.siriusxm.com/nascar . Follow the channel on Twitter @SiriusXMNASCAR .
Co-owner Len Wood admits team could run full slate, but it would be tough CONCORD, N.C. -- Officials with Wood Brothers Racing said Thursday that the legendary team could run a full 36-race schedule today in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, something the team hasn’t done since 2006. But, said co-owner Len Wood at Charlotte Motor Speedway , "you've got to pay for it. "We could go run 'em all (now), but it wouldn't be pretty. "And with that being said, I don't think you could keep a sponsor like that either." The organization is scheduled to compete in 18 of this year's 36 points races with driver Ryan Blaney . A new three-year package with Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center covers 12 of those events while the affiliation with Team Penske , which began this year, provided the opportunity to add six races. Blaney is a development driver for the Penske group. "We know pretty much where we're going and set our schedule based on where we think we can run the best -- which are the speedways and the intermediates," Wood said. "We try to be more efficient about it. Not have to go buy two sets of short track brakes to go run one short-track race, things like that. "If more races were to come up, then we're ready. We'd get more cars from Team Penske , more parts and away we'd go." Penske, whose group fields Fords for 2012 Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano , told the Associated Press last week that he was not interested in expanding Team Penske to three full-time teams. "If we can get sponsorship for (Blaney), that gives him a chance to take a look at extending that through a full season next year. That would be our goal," Penske told the AP. Blaney replaced 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne in the red and white No. 21 Ford when Bayne was named to drive full-time for Roush Fenway Racing this season in the No. 6 Ford. Blaney finished fourth at Talladega earlier this year, one of his four Sprint Cup starts so far this season. Wood Brothers Racing , which has been competing in NASCAR practically since the sanctioning body’s inception in 1949, has 98 wins in more than 1,400 starts. The team was founded by NASCAR Hall of Fame member Glen Wood and originally based in Stuart, Virginia. The affiliation with Team Penske has already provided improved results on the track. "The situation we have with Ryan and Team Penske , when we come to the race track, we feel like we've got a shot every week," Len Wood said. "Not just at the speedways … when we leave the shop we feel like we can win." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Terry Labonte voted into NASCAR's Hall of Fame on Wednesday RELATED: See all seven Hall of Fame classes " Bruton Smith gets nod from Brian France MORE: Labonte's daughter, Kristy, talks about 'Growing Up NASCAR' CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A year ago, Terry Labonte postponed a trip overseas to attend the announcement for the 2015 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. But the two-time premier series champion wasn't one of the five selected for induction. Wednesday, Labonte, 58, was in a hotel room in Dallas, Texas, when the 2016 class was unveiled. And this time, Labonte's name was one of the five called. Labonte, Speedway Motorsports founder O. Bruton Smith, Modified champion Jerry Cook, 17-time race winner Curtis Turner and 1970 premier series champion Bobby Isaac will officially be inducted into the Hall Jan. 22, 2016. Reached by phone after the announcement, Labonte said he and his son Justin, "and a couple of other guys are out here in Dallas on a project we've been working on. ... We had just got back to the room, sitting down watching TV." Shortly thereafter, the Corpus Christi native said said his cell phone "started blowing up." Congratulations began pouring in. "I said, 'oh wow, I just got selected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame,'" Labonte said. "(Justin) said 'Oh cool. Is it on TV?' "I said 'I don't know,' so he started flipping the channels looking for it." It's no surprise to those who know Labonte that his reaction seemed somewhat understated. It's the same unassuming attitude that marked a NASCAR career that lasted nearly four decades. Labonte made his first premier series start in 1978 for car owner Billy Hagan, and up until he hung up his helmet for good last season, his approach never wavered. No fuss, no frills. Just show up and get the job done. His championship titles came 12 years apart, one won with Hagan in 1984 and the second with successful team owner Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports in ‘96. He won 22 points races, and on a variety of track layouts – short track, intermediate, road course and the bigger venues of Pocono (2.5-miles) and Talladega (2.66 miles). MORE: Hall of Fame Class of 2016 revealed " Our writers' predictions and ballot His 890 career starts is third highest among drivers in the series while his 655 consecutive starts was the most by any driver until it was surpassed in 2005. It was a run of such magnitude that earned him the nickname "The Iron Man." Labonte's consecutive starts streak had ended five seasons earlier, in 2000, when a particularly hard crash at Pocono Raceway left him with an inner ear injury. Forced to take himself out of the car the following week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway , a distraught Labonte went on to miss the road course race at Watkins Glen a week later before finally returning to competition at Michigan. "When you start out racing, it's not one of your goals you set," Labonte said of his selection to the Hall. "You set out to do as good as you can every weekend and try to win races and win championships. "To be selected to something like this is really, really an unbelievable bonus, something you never really expected or looked forward to, I don't think. So it's really quite an honor." Video from two of Labonte's victories are among the most often replayed when the series travels to Bristol Motor Speedway , where he earned two of his 22 victories. In the 1995 night race at BMS, contact from Dale Earnhardt as the two raced toward the checkered flag sent Labonte's No. 5 Chevrolet nose first into the wall – but only after it had crossed the finish line for the win. The 1999 night race also featured Labonte and Earnhardt dueling for the win, with Labonte taking the lead at the white flag. As the two cars entered Turn 2, a nudge from Earnhardt once again sent Labonte's Chevrolet spinning. This time, however, there was no recovery. "Didn't mean to turn him around; I meant to rattle his cage though," Earnhardt said in Victory Lane. "I don't think I ever had a cross word with Terry, not that I can remember, for anything," 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bill Elliott said Wednesday. "We always raced and respected each other and went on down the road. "I can't think of a single time ever. I don't know of anybody that could say that. Except when he backed into Earnhardt at Bristol that time." Labonte was the second driver to win at least one race in all three of NASCAR's national series – Sprint Cup , XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series. "Obviously this is a really proud day for the Labonte family," Bobby Labonte , Terry's younger brother and the 2000 Sprint Cup champion said in a statement issued by his Breaking Limits public relations firm. "I think back to when we were kids racing quarter midgets, and I always wanted to do what Terry was doing and be like him. He kind of blazed the trail as he advanced through different series, and I was fortunate to follow in his footsteps. "I never would've thought way back then that we'd both grow up to be Sprint Cup champions and now one of us in in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It's a pretty special day." The younger Labonte won the season-ending race at Atlanta in '96 as his brother, who finished fifth, wrapped up his second championship. While Terry Labonte 's championships came 12 years apart, his final victory came 23 years after his first. Both came in the Southern 500 at Darlington (South Carolina) Raceway. "You think bout how you started and who the people were ... that helped you get started in the early part of your career," he said. "Winning your first race and the championship and then later I was able to drive for Rick Hendrick, the great team at Hendrick Motorsports and all the people that helped me win the second championship. "It's just really a lot of people that really were kind of part of this over the years that kind of help to get you where you're at. "It's hard for me to imagine, really, to be in the same class as some of those people that are in there because some of them I really looked up to over the years when I was growing up that did so much for our sport." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Jimmie Johnson spins in turn 4 twice resulting in a tough night for the No. 48 team at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Truck Series title contender to make first Cup start next weekend RELATED: Ragan to MWR " Moffitt to pilot No. 34 at Kansas Joe Gibbs Racing officials announced that 18-year-old Erik Jones will step into the team's No. 18 Toyota for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, beginning with the upcoming SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway (Saturday, May 9, 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). "I'm pretty excited and grateful for the opportunity to drive the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry in the Sprint Cup Series and make my debut for Joe Gibbs Racing ," Jones said in a release provided by the team. Jones was also a guest on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. "This is a really good opportunity for me. We are going to try to manage our expectations and if we can go out and get a top-15 run and gain some experience, that would be a great day for us. I'm also excited about representing M&M's, a great longtime partner at JGR and such a well-known brand. I am looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the M&M's Toyota at Kansas ." For the Kansas race, Jones will run a special paint scheme highlighting M&M's support of Red Nose Day. Kyle Busch , the team's primary driver, has been sidelined since suffering a broken right leg and left foot in the season-opening XFINITY Series race in February at Daytona International Speedway . Jones is currently competing full-time in the Camping World Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports, and has started the first eight XFINITY Series events for JGR in two separate entries (and is slated to run a ninth this weekend at Talladega). Originally scheduled to run 10 NXS races for the organization in the No. 20 Toyota, Jones was pressed into duty in the No. 54 entry for select events due to Busch's injuries. Two-time defending Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton drove for the No. 18 team in the season-opening Daytona 500 . Sprint Cup driver David Ragan has driven for the team in the past eight races, posting a top finish of fifth at Martinsville Speedway . Ragan will be in the car at Talladega this weekend for the GEICO 500 (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX). On Tuesday, it was announced that Ragan would move to the No. 55 Toyota of Michael Waltrip Racing for the remainder of the year, beginning with the Kansas race. That team also had its primary driver, Brian Vickers , sidelined earlier this year due to medical issues. Jones, a native of Byron, Michigan, has no official starts in the Sprint Cup Series, although he was pressed into service earlier this month at Bristol Motor Speedway . He relieved JGR driver Denny Hamlin early in the Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up to Cancer after Hamlin began suffering neck and back spasms and finished 26th. In eight NXS starts this season, Jones has one win (Texas), five top-five and five top-10 finishes. He won three straight poles at Auto Club Speedway , Texas and Bristol. He has two top-five finishes in three starts this year in the NCWTS, and is third in that series' points standings. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
The part-time Sprint Cup rookie finished fifth in Friday's Sprint Showdown CONCORD, N.C. -- Chase Elliott was staring down the prospect of a tangled Saturday travel schedule, leaving to fulfill the obligations of his full-time gig in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Iowa Speedway then returning to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the 30th annual NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. His fifth-place finish in Friday night's Sprint Showdown preliminary left him out of Saturday night's main event and made the travel prospects a moot point, but the 19-year-old would've happily preferred the alternative -- his first appearance in the All-Star Race and more track time ahead of what he hopes will be his first Coca-Cola 600 next weekend -- no matter how bothersome the logistics. "I would've loved to have come back and run tomorrow night," Elliott said. "I think the more laps we can get before next week would've been helpful, but obviously not an option. But we'll try to go to Iowa and have a good run there. Hopefully we can go out there and compete with some good cars and try to get a win." Elliott still learned plenty in his first drive in a NASCAR Sprint Cup machine at Charlotte, moving up steadily from an 11th-place starting spot to snag a top-five finish by edging Austin Dillon at the checkered flag in the 40-lap All-Star tune-up. He'll miss out on the chance at 110 more laps in the Saturday night feature, but hopes to carry the lessons over into Coca-Cola 600 qualifying, where he'll have to make the 43-car field on the basis of speed. "Hopefully, just how to race here," Elliott said when asked what he had gleaned from his Showdown start. "This race race is so short, it's hard to move forward. You really need to qualify well, and I didn't do a good job there today. I think just a little bit of comfort there in qualifying will be important for next week and just learning a little bit of how to race here. "I know the lane is going move around a lot next week. I'm sure it'll move up to the wall and you'll see some guys really run up there for a long race like that, so hopefully we can have a good qualifying effort next week, get in the show and have a good run." Crew chief Kenny Francis has been atop the pit box for all of the Sprint Cup starts that have made up Elliott's warm-up for a full-time run in NASCAR's premier series next year, when he'll take the place of four-time champ Jeff Gordon in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet. Though Friday night's Showdown consisted of two short 20-lap runs for two remaining All-Star berths, Francis preached patience over the team radio during the pace laps, another lesson that the teenager took to heart. "If you're not, you overrun the car and you overrun the tires and you end up just losing time," Francis said. "So it's a fine line of how to be patient, but you don't want to be overaggressive and end up losing ground. It's a tough deal, but he's good at it." Patience or not, Elliott still stormed from 11th place to a top-five finish in the final 20-lap segment, despite being boxed in during his pit stop in the halftime intermission. "To drive to fifth from wherever we started in 20 laps, I thought was pretty decent," Elliott said, "So, I was happy with that and how our car drove, the adjustments that Kenny made from how the thing drove in practice to how we raced, I thought was good and I learned a lot." Had Elliott snagged one of the final spots in the All-Star Race, he was prepared to fly up to Iowa Speedway for Saturday's practice and qualifying ahead before returning to Charlotte and then flying back to Iowa for Sunday's 3M 250 (2 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN Radio, SiriusXM), the 10th of 33 XFINITY races this season. As it stands, he won't have extended double-duty this weekend, but aims for an even longer doubleheader next weekend in XFINITY (300 miles) and Sprint Cup (600 miles, NASCAR's longest race). The Sprint Showdown was a late addition to Elliott's Sprint Cup schedule, with the decision to field the Hendrick Motorsports No. 25 Chevrolet made just 10 days earlier. With Elliott's first taste -- albeit an abbreviated one -- of an All-Star weekend in the books, Francis said the team's goals were met. "The biggest thing is just get him some comfort for next week, so he's not coming here cold turkey," Francis said. "He's actually got some expectation of what he's going to come up against. I think he'll be way further ahead next week, so that was the main goal for tonight." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule