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.
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.