Earnhardt won't push teen Chase Elliott along

Published:

Associated Press

CONCORD, N.C. -- Chase Elliott's early success hasn't forced Hendrick Motorsports to speed up its long-term plan for the driver.

Elliott has two Nationwide Series wins this year for JR Motorsports and heads into Sunday's race at Iowa Speedway leading the points standings -- he's up by one point over Elliott Sadler.

Elliott also graduated high school in Georgia on Saturday.

The 18-year-old is in the Hendrick driver development program, and JR Motorsports co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. said that's where he'll stay for now.

"I think you just set a plan from the start, and you stick with it," Earnhardt said. "We have a two-year plan, I suppose, that he runs in the Nationwide Series, and I think you just stick with the plan regardless of the success he is having."

Hendrick Motorsports is currently maxed out with four drivers in its Sprint Cup lineup, so for Elliott to be promoted, either Earnhardt, six-time champion Jimmie Johnson, four-time champion Jeff Gordon, or Kasey Kahne would have to vacate a seat.

But JR Motorsports also sold a sponsorship package to NAPA built around the current development plan for Elliott.

"You have the commitments in line with sponsors, so I think it will suit him well to relax and not have to worry about that and just follow the plan that he has had in front of him from the start," Earnhardt said. "He is really young too, so he has a lot of time on his hands and time to get to Cup level to realize that potential, one day."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. races Charles Barkley for fun

CONCORD, N.C. -- NASCAR's most popular driver has certified that Charles Barkley is "not turrible" behind the wheel.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. squared off against the Hall of Fame basketball player in a head-to-head race that will be aired on NASCAR on TNT's Summer Series before the June 8 race at Pocono. Earnhardt was pleased with the meeting but wouldn't reveal details of Friday's race.

The idea for the race began on social media when Earnhardt landed in one of TNT's "Gone Fishing" tweets after the Charlotte Bobcats were eliminated from the NBA playoffs. Barkley mentioned he wanted to meet the driver, and Earnhardt replied on Twitter, "Heck, I wanna meet Charles!"

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