NNS: Ernie Cope’s in as Chase Elliott’s new crew chief in 2015

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With Greg Ives becoming Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s new crew chief next season at Hendrick Motorsports, that left the 2015 CC position open for Nationwide Series star Chase Elliott and the No. 9 JR Motorsports team.

But as of today, that position has been filled.

Ernie Cope (pictured, right, with Elliott), the current CC of JRM’s part-time No. 5 entry, has been announced as the new CC for Elliott and the No. 9 camp.

Both Ives and Cope will finish out the 2014 season in their current roles.

“It became clear rather quickly that the absolute best option for Chase and the NAPA team next year is already in this building,” said JRM general manager Kelley Earnhardt Miller in a team release.

“Ernie builds fast cars, has a good rapport with Chase, and is familiar with the inner-workings of our company. Hopefully, that will create a seamless transition at the end of the year, and the No. 9 team will continue its championship form right into 2015.”

With more than a decade of experience as a CC, Cope joined JRM before the 2014 season to lead the No. 5 team, where driver duties are split primarily between team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Kasey Kahne.

Under Cope’s guidance, the No. 5 has won three Nationwide events so far this year – Richmond and Kentucky with Harvick, and then Daytona with Kahne.

Cope indicated that the opportunity to run a full-time schedule and compete for the Nationwide Series championship appealed to him in his decision to take the No. 9 job.

“Kevin and I have enjoyed a lot of success, and we’re not done yet,” he said in the same release. “There is a lot of racing left this year, but in putting the pieces together for 2015, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to compete the full race schedule.

“I’ve been able to do that only once, and that was in 2011 with Elliott Sadler when we finished second in the championship. I’d like another shot at it, and Chase Elliott is an extremely talented race car driver.”

Elliott currently leads the Nationwide Series standings by 10 points over JRM teammate Regan Smith heading into Friday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Recently, Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick said that he expects to see Elliott run some Sprint Cup races during the second half of next season.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.