NASCAR fans denied ‘dream scenario’ Chase Elliott replacement

Josh Berry, Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Josh Berry, Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

The No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet now has a confirmed driver lineup until Chase Elliott returns to NASCAR Cup Series action.

NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Josh Berry, who competes for JR Motorsports, was called upon to replace Chase Elliott at Hendrick Motorsports in this past Sunday afternoon’s Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after Elliott was involved in a snowboarding accident in Colorado two days before the race.

After undergoing a three-hour surgery, it was revealed that Elliott would be out for “several weeks”. Hendrick Motorsports have since stated that they expect him to be out for six races.

If you include the race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in that count, he would be set up to return for the race at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, April 16.

Not including that race, he would be set up to return for the race at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, April 23, though an exact timetable will ultimately depend on how his recovery process goes.

Hendrick Motorsports didn’t initially announce who would replace Elliott moving forward, but they ultimately decided on Berry for the oval races and three-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship champion Jordan Taylor for the road course race at Circuit of the Americas.

Of course, during the two or three-day span during which the No. 9 Chevrolet was open for the foreseeable future, speculation among NASCAR fans ran rampant.

Two suggestions stood out, both former Hendrick Motorsports drivers: Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Unfortunately for NASCAR fans, these “dream scenario” Chase Elliott replacements have been ruled out.

Johnson, who spent the entirety of his 19-year full-time Cup Series career with Hendrick Motorsports, returned to the series this year after spending the last two years in IndyCar.

The seven-time champion is now a part-time driver and part owner of Legacy Motor Club (formerly Richard Petty Motorsports/Petty GMS Motorsports), so driving for another team in select races when his schedule with his own team is already limited wouldn’t have made a ton of sense.

As for Dale Jr., a lot of the speculation about potential replacements for Elliott centered around JR Motorsports drivers, given the team’s affiliation with Hendrick Motorsports. Dale Jr. is the team owner, and he has competed in one Xfinity Series race per year since retiring from Cup Series competition after the 2017 season.

Could he potentially make a one-off NASCAR Cup Series return?

Earnhardt has not competed in any Cup Series races since his retirement, but he hasn’t been able to stay away from the driving side of the sport.

He has tested the Next Gen car on multiple occasions at multiple tracks, and despite hinting a full-on retirement in 2020, he has increased his Xfinity Series commitment to two races for this year. The 2023 season is set to be his 28th straight season competing in NASCAR on some level.

Next. All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list. dark

But replacing the five-time reigning Most Popular Driver Award winner simply wasn’t meant to be for the driver who won the Most Popular Driver Award in each of the final 15 years of his career.