STATESVILLE, N.C. — 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Chase Elliott, a five-time Most Popular Driver fan vote winner, has been tabbed by McAnally Hilgemann Racing (MHR) team owner Bill McAnally to race the No. 35 Gates Hydraulics/NAPA Auto Care Chevrolet Silverado RST at the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) opener at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 17. The season opener at the “World Center of Racing” not only marks Elliott‘s 18th career start in NCTS competition, but it also begins the 33rd year of MHR‘s partnership with NAPA and NAPA Auto Care.
“This will be the first time I‘ve driven a truck at Daytona, let alone a superspeedway,” said the 27-year-old Elliott, whose first of three NCTS career wins came in 2013 at age 17 to become the youngest winner in Truck Series history at the time. “There‘s no better team owner than Bill McAnally to do it with as he‘s been involved in racing and been associated with NAPA for a long time.”
Fellow Georgia native Jake Garcia will pilot the No. 35 Chevrolet Silverado RST beginning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on his 18th birthday, March 3. The two Peach State natives share similar career paths, as Garcia has followed Elliott‘s footsteps through Ricky Turner‘s Georgia-based asphalt late model program.
“I think there‘s an incredible amount of potential for our team to make a lot of noise this year, and we have the people to make it happen,” said McAnally. “We‘re thrilled to have Chase step in and drive our No. 35 Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet at Daytona, and everyone involved in our program is excited and glad that he‘s able to do so. I think his presence at Daytona will benefit Jake and our entire group.”
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MHR has also solidified its crew chief lineup and leadership positions.
— MHR‘s crew chief lineup will remain consistent from 2022, with Mark Hillman leading Elliott, Garcia and the No. 35 team on top of the pit box. The 2023 season is Hillman‘s third year as a crew chief at MHR as he led Colby Howard and the No. 91 team in 2022.
— Charles Denike will continue to call the shots for the No. 19 NAPA Auto Care team and Christian Eckes. Denike joined MHR midseason in 2022 and led the No. 19 team and Derek Kraus to three top-10 finishes over the final nine races and earned the pole award at Bristol Motor Speedway last September. Denike has two NCTS wins to his credit, including a victory in 2020 with Elliott at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
— MHR has welcomed Chad Norris to the organization as General Manager, effective immediately. Norris joined the organization from GMS Racing and has multiple years of leadership and crew chief experience. Norris will oversee MHR‘s NCTS operation in Statesville, N.C. and has victories in both NASCAR Xfinity Series and NCTS competition.
“Mark and Charles had good seasons last year and are motivated to elevate the performance of both teams,” McAnally said. “Having Chad come on board is a good boost for us also. He‘s been around the Chevrolet team, has crew chief experience, and worked with Jake last season. I feel like we have a lot of talented people in our team, and we‘re looking forward to putting it all together in our 33rd season with NAPA and NAPA Auto Care.”