Chase Elliott to have substitute crew chief at Road America, misses practice due to engine change

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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.

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Plans for Alonso sports car debut in Rolex 24 gathering speed

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Plans for McLaren Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso to appear in next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona are gathering speed as the two-time World Champion angles for a drive at Le Mans in 2018.

Alonso announced on Thursday he had signed a new, multi-year deal to remain with McLaren in F1, but has left the door open to continue his pursuit of the Triple Crown of Motorsport and become just the second driver in history to complete it.

Alonso has won the Monaco Grand Prix twice and made his Indianapolis 500 debut this year, retiring with an engine issue, and has made no secret of his ambition to race at Le Mans one day.

With no date clashes, the possibility exists for Alonso to race at Le Mans in 2018, potentially with Toyota in the LMP1 class following McLaren’s split with Honda.

However, Alonso could make his 24-hour race debut five months earlier, with reports emerging on Thursday that he could be in line to appear in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

First reported by Sportscar365, Alonso could be set to race for McLaren executive director Zak Brown’s team, United Autosports, at Daytona in January, with no clashes existing with his F1 commitments.

Alonso remained coy when asked about the chances of him appearing at Daytona, but admitted additional preparation for a possible Le Mans appearance would be of interest.

“For the Indy 500 it was a nice experience, I felt very competitive but it was a big challenge that I took from zero, from no testing, not any similar race before it,” Alonso said, as quoted by Reuters.

“If I want to prepare Le Mans, maybe there are other possibilities to prepare Le Mans a little bit better than I prepared the Indy 500.”

He added more about his other race program in Thursday’s pre-race Paddock Pass episode, speaking to NBCSN. “To be the best driver in the world you have to win in different series at different times. It’s possible I can compete in different races next year,” he said.

Brown said he would be happy to field Alonso at Daytona, and confirmed their pair had already loosely discussed it.

“If Fernando wants to do Daytona and we have a seat available, we would put his name on it happily,” Brown said.

“We’ve started joking around about it, and we saw where jokes got us last time,” he added, referencing the eventual entry to the Indy 500.

United Autosports will field two Ligier JS P217 cars at Daytona in January, and has already confirmed ex-F1 racer Paul di Resta, McLaren junior Lando Norris, American endurance racer Will Owen and British youngster Philip Hanson in seats.

McLaren reserve and 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button had been linked with a drive for United Autosports at Daytona, but Brown confirmed to Sportscar365 this was no longer an option.

“Jenson won’t be driving for us. I don’t know what he’s going to be doing,” Brown said.

“I thought he was going to be in the Penske car. Not sure what happened there.”