Rick Hendrick: Expect to see Chase Elliott run some Sprint Cup races in 2015

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As 18-year-old Chase Elliott continues to lead the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship, talk has naturally migrated to the subject of when the son of former Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott will ascend to NASCAR’s top level.

An official decision on Elliott’s future plans has not yet been made, but Hendrick Motorsports team owner Rick Hendrick told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio this afternoon that he expects to see the rising star in a Cup car sometime during the second half of next season.

“We haven’t arrived at a decision for sure, but I think you’ll probably see him run a few races next year,” Hendrick said to SiriusXM’s Jim Noble. “Because – before he ever won a Nationwide race, I watched him test Jimmie [Johnson’s] car and Jeff [Gordon’s] car at Nashville. Jimmie and Jeff both commented to me, ‘This kid is super smooth and super fast and he takes care of his equipment. He doesn’t get in a jam.’

“And I said before he ran a race, I would put him in the [Coca-Cola 600] at Charlotte and think he’d finish in the Top 15 or Top 10 because he’s just so smart.

“He understands the car and he just takes care of it. I think he’s gonna do a super job whenever the time comes and I think we’ll surely, probably – the second half of next year, we’ll probably see him in some races.”

After scoring his first ARCA and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins last year, Elliott moved up full-time this year to the NNS.

He has earned three victories so far for JR Motorsports, two of them coming in back-to-back fashion at Texas Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway. Elliott also won last month at Chicagoland Speedway.

Those starring performances have led to some fans anticipating when he’ll make the move to Cup. But right now, he still has the business of the NNS championship to attend to.

Going into Saturday’s Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International, he leads the NNS standings by two points over JRM teammate Regan Smith. In the most recent NNS road course event at Road America, Elliott finished fourth behind winner Brendan Gaughan.

Usain Bolt, Bill Clinton among headline guests for USGP at COTA

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The Circuit of The Americas paddock ahead of the United States Grand Prix may have been busy with teams and drivers preparing for lights out, but much of the attention lay with a number of headline guests including former presidents and Olympic champions.

As part of its plans to up the excitement levels ahead of Sunday’s grand prix and mirror other sporting events, F1’s new owner, Liberty Media, announced plans a couple of weeks ago to link up with iconic boxing announcer Michael Buffer and eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt for the pre-race festivities.

Ahead of today’s race in Austin, Buffer will introduce the drivers in a number of groups before offering the call for drivers to start their engines, similar to the pre-race procedure for the Indianapolis 500.

Honorary race starter Bolt, who competed in his last athletic world championship event in London earlier this year, will appear on the start line to complete his signature victory pose before waving the green flags to launch the formation lap.

Bolt was also treated to a hot lap around COTA by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton before the start of the formal pre-race build up program in Austin.

Liberty issued a list of celebrities and other public figures who are confirmed to be attending today’s race, including Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden and actor Owen Wilson among others.

One name that wasn’t on the list? 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, who quickly became a focus for the paddock upon arrival three hours before lights out.

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET today.