NASCAR rule presents rare opportunity for Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott, NASCAR Hendrick Motorsports, (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, NASCAR Hendrick Motorsports, (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Because Jake Garcia will still only be 17 years old, Chase Elliott is set to fill in for him in the 2023 NASCAR Truck Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Earlier this offseason, McAnally-Hilgemann Racing announced that they would again be running two trucks on a full-time basis during the 2023 NASCAR Truck Series season and that Jake Garcia would be the full-time driver of the second one, the No. 35 Chevrolet.

The team fielded the No. 35 Chevrolet as a third entry in 2022, but only in select races. Garcia, who failed to qualify for what would have been his Truck Series debut at Martinsville Speedway, ended up making five starts behind the wheel of the truck throughout the season and recorded a top finish of 16th place at Phoenix Raceway.

However, a NASCAR rule prohibits the 17-year-old Monroe, Georgia native from competing in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, despite the fact that McAnally-Hilgemann Racing confirmed him as one of their two full-time drivers, along with Christian Eckes.

In the Truck Series, drivers are allowed to compete once they turn 16 years old, but only on tracks 1.25 miles or less in length and on road courses.

Because the Daytona Beach, Florida oval is a 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) oval and Garcia’s birthday isn’t until Friday, March 3, he can’t compete in that event.

As a result, McAnally-Hilgemann Racing have named 2020 Cup Series champion Chase Elliott the driver of the No. 35 Chevrolet for the season-opening NextEra Energy 250.

Chase Elliott has never competed in a NASCAR Truck Series race at Daytona International Speedway.

The 27-year-old Dawsonville, Georgia native’s most recent non-Cup Series start at the track came in the 2019 Xfinity Series season opener, when he finished in 10th place driving for JR Motorsports. He won the 2016 Xfinity Series season opener at the track.

Elliott never competed full-time in the Truck Series before becoming a full-time Cup Series driver in 2016, and he has only made eight starts since then.

He won two of those eight starts, finding victory lane with GMS Racing at Martinsville Speedway in 2017 and at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2020 when he won the Kyle Busch bounty.

His most recent Truck Series appearance came in last year’s dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway, when he placed seventh for Spire Motorsports.

Chase Elliott is only set to make one start for McAnally-Hilgemann Racing.

The second race on the 23-race 2023 Truck Series schedule isn’t scheduled to take place for another two weeks after the season opener. That race, the Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200, is scheduled to take place at the 1.5-mile (2.414-kilometer) Las Vegas Motor Speedway oval on Friday, March 3, which marks Garcia’s 18th birthday.

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The NextEra Energy 250 is set to be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 from Daytona International Speedway beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, February 17.