NASCAR Nationwide Series rookie sensation Chase Elliott will be back behind the wheel of the familiar No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in Nationwide competition in 2015, but something will be different. Ernie Cope, currently the crew chief on JRM's No. 5 team that competes part-time in the series, will be Elliott's full-time crew chief next year.
"It became clear rather quickly that the absolute best option for Chase and the NAPA team next year is already in this building," JR Motorsports General Manager Kelley Earnhardt Miller said. "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."
Moving over to the No. 9 team, Cope will replace Greg Ives, Elliott's current crew chief. As previously announced, I'ves will make the move to the Sprint Cup Series next year to be JR Motorsports' co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief on the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team. Earnhardt's current crew chief, Steve Letarte, will be climbing down from the pit box at season's end to be a part of the NBC Sports broadcast team for NASCAR coverage.
Cope joined JR Motorsports prior to the start of the current season to crew chief the No. 5. So far this year, Cope has led the No. 5 team to three wins -- at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta with Kevin Harvick behind the wheel and at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway with Kasey Kahne as the driver.
In all, Cope has 12-career Nationwide Series wins as a crew chief. Harvick was the driver for 10 of them.
"Kevin and I have enjoyed a lot of success, and we're not done yet," Cope said. "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 complete 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 has three wins, so far, 22 races into his rookie season in the Nationwide Series. He also has nine top-fives and 16 top-10 finishes and leads the championship standings.