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Chase Elliott gets fulltime cup ride in 2016
A-The Elliotts pic2 Chase
2015 is already shaping up to be a great year for the Elliotts, with Chase taking Jeff Gordons spot on the Hendricks team and Bill being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. - photo by For the Dawson Community News

There was already speculation that Dawsonville's Chase Elliott would take over the No. 24 when four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon announced last week he planned to retire at the end of the 2015 season.

So it was really no big surprise for fans when Elliott joined the Hendrick Motorsports team of drivers on the stage Thursday at Charlotte for the official announcement.

It was, however, a surprise for the reigning Xfinity Series champion, who said he got a phone call from owner Rick Hendrick not long after Gordon's retirement plans were released.

"That was a phone call I was not expecting that day," he said the last day of Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour. "I know how rare this opportunity is and will work as hard as I can to make everyone proud."

Hendrick calls Elliott a "great fit" for the organization.

"Chase brings the kind of intangibles that make him the total package as a driver," said Hendrick. "Not only is he a special talent inside the race car, but there's a natural combination of competitiveness, work ethic and smarts that you rarely see."

Elliott will make his Sprint Cup debut later this year as part of a five-race schedule.

Driving the No. 25 NAPA Auto Parts Chevy, he will be entered in 2015 Cup events March 29 at Martinsville Speedway, April 25 at Richmond International Raceway, May 24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, July 26 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Sept. 6 at Darlington Raceway.

"The biggest thing is not losing track of this season, realizing 2016 is a long ways off. Knowing that you've got to make sure your priorities stay straight," Elliott said. "Just trying to make the most of this season and learn. Just kind of realizing that the job that I've done, you've got to step that up and know that it's got to be better to compete at that next level."

Elliott, who broke records, set records and literally put Dawsonville back in the racing spotlight in 2014, fast-tracked his way to NASCAR stardom with back-to-back wins at Texas and Darlington, followed by a third win at Chicagoland in his first year competing in the now Xfinity Series.

At the age of 18, Elliott made history by being named rookie of the year and most popular driver in his inaugural championship year.

"So many people have been behind me, and the first thing I want to do is thank them," he said. "My parents especially have believed in me every step of the way, and I know this wouldn't be possible without all the sacrifices they've made to focus on my racing career."

The fulltime cup ride announcement came a day before Bill Elliott was to be inducted into NASCAR's Hall of Fame.

"This is such a big week for our family," Chase Elliott said.