Hendrick Motorsports does not know when Chase Elliott will return to NASCAR competition after surgery Friday for a fractured tibia while snowboarding.
“At this point, we would expect this obviously to be several weeks,” Hendrick Motorsports president and general manager Jeff Andrews said. “Beyond that, I don’t have a timeline to offer for you. We’ll obviously work with Chase and his doctors in the future to help determine that, but again, I just can’t reiterate enough that for Mr. Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports, the most important thing is Chase’s health and his well-being, and we’ll work with him on that timeline.
“We’re going to race a long time together with Chase Elliott and we’re going to win a lot more races together. Certainly this is a little bit of a setback, and obviously Chase is very disappointed. … We’ll have a seat ready for him when he’s healthy and ready to get back in a race car.”
Elliott injured his left leg in Colorado and underwent a successful three-hour surgery Friday evening. Sunday will be the first NASCAR Cup Series race Elliott, the 2020 series champion, has missed in his full-time career.
Andrews expected he would be released from the hospital Saturday morning and said that Elliott is an experienced snowboarder, calling what happened an accident. He does not anticipate Hendrick Motorsports changing its policies on extracurricular activities drivers can participate.
“We all know Chase — he cares an awful lot about his race team and Mr. Hendrick, and I think at the top of his mind he’s worried and concerned that he first and foremost let Mr. Hendrick down and his race team down,” said Andrews. “(Texting) with him this morning, he was asking how late his guys had to work and things like that with the swap over. That’s just pretty typical of Chase Elliott. He’s a great kid; got a huge heart.
“He’s worried about how hard it is on us and we’re worried about how hard it is on him. Again, first and foremost, let’s get him better, and we’ll get him back in his seat as soon as he’s ready, and his doctors say so.”
Josh Berry will drive the No. 9 Chevrolet in the Pennzoil 400, his third career Cup Series start and first since 2021. JR Motorsports is a partner of Hendrick Motorsports, which made one of the JRM drivers the go-to substitute driver. Andrews said Berry’s driving style and fit in the car, being close to Elliott’s size, is why he was chosen.
Crew chief Alan Gustafson and the No. 9 team worked late into Friday night, changing the car to prepare for Berry. Gustafson said the priority was to make sure Berry was in a safe situation with concern to the interior of the vehicle.
“I think our goals are still the same. Our objections are still the same,” Gustafson said of working with Berry. “Certainly things have changed, but we want to compete and compete at a high level. Right now, my focus is on making the transition as easy on Josh as possible and trying to help him get acclimated to the car and feel comfortable and get to a position that he can use his talent and ability to be successful. I think moving forward past that, it’s still the same goal to be as good as we possibly can when Chase gets back and win as many races as possible.
“We’re certainly still in the owner’s points, and depending on how the waivers and all the rest of it goes, certainly Chase can come back, and we can compete at a high level and be where we want to be with the driver’s side too. There are certainly a lot of challenges that come with this, but I think we can all learn and grow and find ways to improve and be ready to go when the payoffs come around.”
Hendrick Motorsports has applied for a playoff waiver for Elliott and awaits NASCAR’s decision.