While a lot of that has to do with the retirement of Dale Earnhardt Jr and the release of longtime teammate, Kasey Kahne, fans will also now be treated to a ride swap after it was revealed that William Byron and Chase Elliott will be switching rides next season. The move, which comes after only three years of Chase Elliott being in the #24 car is something that seemed very last minute, especially since the original plan was for Byron to take over The #5 car.
“It’s really special for me just because of how much it means to Hendrick Motorsports and the legacy that Jeff Gordon and everybody on that team left behind,” Byron told reporters about the announcement to take over the #24 car, “It’s a really neat connection for me, something that I will take a lot of pride in running the number and hopefully be able to make my own name with it and be able to keep the legacy alive.”
Chase Elliott might be stepping away from the ride that he was gifted by Jeff Gordon two years ago, but he is also now stepping into a very special ride of his own. One that his father, Hall of famer, Bill Elliott would be very proud of. With that being said, Hendrick Motorsports also announced that they would retire the #5 car and put Elliott in his dad’s historic #9 instead!
“It’s a huge deal to my family and everyone back home (in Georgia),” Elliott told NASCAR.com about his move to the #9 car next year,” “ I hope all of our fans will be pumped to see it back on the race track. There’s a legacy attached to that number, and I want to carry it on. I think it’s awesome that Hendrick Motorsports and NAPA wanted to do this. It’s impossible not to be excited.”
Of course the switch seems like a match made in heaven, especially since it will put Chase Elliott in the historic #9 car and William Byron in the #24 car previously driven by the likes of Jeff Gordon, but it looks like that answer only scratches the surface of whats going on here. In fact, this looks more like Hendrick’s way of giving up on Elliott after three sub par seasons and putting him in a car that hasn’t been doing well for awhile now.
Chase Elliott might have a playoff appearance in his first season at The Cup level, but he also doesn’t have a win to his name and hasn’t been very competitive year either. In fact, he’s not even locked into the playoffs this season and will have to rely on the last two races of the season to secure his spot in the postseason. His struggles also come after drivers like Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ryan Blaney, Chris Buscher and Kyle Larson have all nabbed their first victory.