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Hendrick GM thinks Chase Elliott, Alan Gustafson will ‘surprise people’

Chase Elliott 3M 2016

With his rookie season in the Sprint Cup Series, Chase Elliott won’t be jumping into the deep end of the pool.

The 20-year-old son of Bill Elliott waded into it in 2015 by starting five races, but he was also helped along by the drive he’s replacing - the now retired Jeff Gordon.

Doug Duchardt, general manager of Hendrick Motorsports, shared with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” how Gordon and the team did what they could to prepare Elliott for his first season in the No. 24.

“Jeff was very gracious in his last year in making sure Chase was invited and pushed to be part of whatever he wanted to be a part of,” Duchardt said. “If he wanted to sit in on meetings between Jeff and (crew chief) Alan (Gustafson), he could do that. If he wanted to come to competition meetings, he could do that. I feel like he put Chase in a very good spot to be successful this year.”

Duchardt said it wouldn’t hit him that Gordon is retired until the team rolls out at Daytona next month. But the transition has already taken place. Just weeks after the season finale, Elliott, the 2014 Xfinity Series champion, took part in a test at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was his first time under the direction of Gustafson.

“I feel really good about Alan and Chase,” Duchardt said. “I think they’re going to surprise people this year.”

Gustafson was Gordon’s crew chief from 2011-2015. The pair won 11 races together.

“All we’re asking Chase Elliott to do is be Chase Elliott,” Duchardt said. “I think he and Alan had a great test at Homestead. They hit the ground running and felt great about how that went.”

In his two Xfinity seasons, Elliott won four races with crew chiefs Greg Ives and Ernie Cope. Kenny Francis was his crew chief for his five Sprint Cup races last year.

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