/ By NASCAR Wire Services.
Chase Elliott will return to the seat of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, he and the team announced Wednesday.
Elliott, the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion and five-time reigning Most Popular Driver, missed the last six Cup events after suffering a broken left leg in a Colorado snowboarding accident on March 3. His return comes in time for the NOCO 400 on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
“We’re looking forward to having Chase back in his race car to pick up where he left off,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports in a team press release. “Since the injury, he’s worked extremely hard and focused all his time and energy on returning to the No. 9 team. Throughout the last six weeks, he’s stayed fully engaged with everything we’re doing, and we know he’s chomping at the bit to get on the racetrack and compete for wins.”
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Elliott has competed in just two races this year — the season-opening Daytona 500, where he finished 38th (DNF, crash) and the following week’s event at Fontana, where he was the runner-up to Kyle Busch.
NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Josh Berry filled in for Elliott at the five oval races, scoring a career-best second-place finish on April 2 at Richmond Raceway, finishing his substitute stint with one top five and two top 10s.
Three-time IMSA champion Jordan Taylor piloted the No. 9 Chevrolet at Circuit of The Americas on March 26 for his NASCAR Cup Series debut, finishing 24th after a qualifying effort placed him fourth on the starting grid.
Elliott returns for his 260th career start at the sport’s premier level. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native had never missed a start since entering the series full-time in 2016, his absence snapping a string of 254 consecutive starts.
Crew chief Alan Gustafson also returns to the pit box after serving his four-race suspension. All four crew chiefs at Hendrick Motorsports were sidelined, and the teams were fined $100,000 each for unapproved parts modifications entering the March 12 weekend at Phoenix Raceway. Tom Gray served as the team’s interim crew chief with Gustafson sidelined.
Elliott sits 34th in the driver points standings after missing six races. A NASCAR spokesperson confirmed that Elliott was granted a medical waiver for playoff eligibility. The sanctioning body requires all series regulars to attempt to qualify for each event to be eligible to qualify for the playoffs.
With the waiver, Elliott can provisionally lock himself into the playoffs with a regular-season victory.