Chase Elliott will have a new voice in his ear for Saturday’s Gardner Denver 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at central Wisconsin’s Road America.
Regular crew chief Greg Ives didn’t make the trip and remained home in North Carolina with wife Jessica, who is expecting the couple’s third child.
Elliott and JR Motorsports didn’t have to look far for a replacement for Ives.
Ernie Cope, who usually serves as the crew chief for the JR Motorsports No. 5 NNS team, which fields different drivers, will fill in for Ives because the No. 5 is not competing at Road America.
The new pairing will have their work cut out for themselves: Elliott couldn’t practice Friday due to an engine change, plus NASCAR officials condensed the two scheduled practices into just one two-hour session due to rain.
This will be Elliott’s second race at the twisting 4.048-mile Road America layout. He competed in last year’s ARCA race there, finishing fourth.
“Road America is a very unique place,” Elliott told NASCAR.com. “You don’t find many road courses that big with so many characteristics. It’s easy to make mistakes at a big place like that. One lap has so many different variables to it and you certainly have to prove your worth on Saturday.”
Elliott already has one road course win, in last year’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in Canada.
“I’ve always enjoyed road racing,” Elliott said. “It has always been really fun for me. My dad has always enjoyed it. He’s been a big fan of it and that’s probably where I got my liking from.
“It’s really cool because it’s something we don’t get to do a whole lot of. Fortunately for us (in the Nationwide Series), we get to race at three road courses (Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen International are the others) this season.”
Elliott is currently third in the NNS standings, 20 points behind JRM teammate and points leader Regan Smith.
Follow me @JerryBonkowski