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Chase Elliott adds sixth race to Sprint Cup campaign
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Dawsonville's Chase Elliott is hoping to have the fifth Hendrick Motorsports car competing in the Sprint All-Star race next weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports, which already has four cars eligible for this year's race, announced last week that Elliott will drive the No. 25 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet in the May 15 Sprint Showdown for a chance to earn his way into the All-Star Race.

"I couldn't be more excited about the opportunity to run the Showdown," Elliott said. "It allows me to gain more experience with my NAPA Auto Parts team before we race again at Charlotte a week later."

The Sprint Showdown consists of two 20-lap segments, and if he were to make the All-Star Race, this year's event will be 110 laps.

"Those additional laps will be a tremendous benefit when it's time to run 600 miles," Elliott said.

Two spots in the All-Star Race are reserved for the two segment winners from the Showdown, and Elliott hopes to capitalize on that opportunity.

He is not eligible for the Sprint Fan Vote to make the All-Star Race.

Teammate Jimmie Johnson said Elliott's involvement in the Showdown will be exciting, and the chance to race in both weekends at Charlotte Motor Speedway is "something any rookie would wish for."

"I'm just really proud of where Chase is at right now," Johnson said. "When I look at the three races I ran before my first full season, I never finished on the lead lap, and he finished in the top 15 or right around there at Richmond. So, he's doing a great job."

On the weekend of the Showdown, the XFINITY Series race takes place at Iowa Speedway, so Elliott will fly back-and-forth between Iowa and North Carolina in what will prove to be a busy weekend for the rookie.

"And the fact that he can come and get some laps during the All-Star weekend and then take that into the 600 -- run the longest race we have on the schedule -- there's nothing more a young driver could ask for. So, it's going to be a great learning experience for him," Johnson said.

Elliott said he welcomes the challenge.

"I'm grateful to (Hendrick Motorsports owner) Mr. (Rick) Hendrick and everyone at NAPA for the chance to do it," he said.

Hendrick Motorsports also announced last week that NAPA Auto Parts has sealed a deal to become the majority sponsor of driver Elliott and his No. 24 Sprint Cup team in 2016, when the young driver takes over for five-time champion Jeff Gordon, who is retiring.

Atlanta-based NAPA was the full-season primary sponsor during Elliott's historic 2014 XFINITY Series campaign when he became NASCAR's youngest-ever national series champion while earning rookie of the year and most popular driver honors.

NAPA is currently the sole primary sponsor for Elliott's second full Xfinity series season with JR Motorsports along with the driver's Sprint Cup debut schedule, which includes five points-paying races with Hendrick Motorsports.

"I'm so fortunate to work with a company like NAPA," said Elliott, who will compete for Sprint Cup rookie of the year honors in 2016. "They've been behind me 100 percent, and I never take that support for granted.

"Continuing the relationship means a lot, and I know the entire team is focused on making it as successful as possible. It's going to be a lot of fun."

Elliott and his No. 25 NAPA Auto Parts team have competed in Sprint Cup events at Martinsville Speedway and Richmond International Raceway this season.

Along with the recently added Sprint Showdown on May 15, he will be entered in points-paying races May 24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, July 26 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Sept. 6 at Darlington Raceway.