LAS VEGAS (AP) — Chase Elliott is out indefinitely after undergoing a successful three-hour surgery to repair a fractured tibia, Hendrick Motorsports general manager Jeff Andrews said Saturday.
Andrews said there was no timeline on when the star NASCAR driver would return. Elliott injured his left leg Friday while snowboarding in Colorado. Josh Berry will drive the No. 9 Chevrolet in place of Elliott in Sunday’s Cup race in Las Vegas.
“We’re going to race a long time together with Chase Elliott and we’re going to win a lot more races together,” Andrews said. “Certainly, there’s a little bit of a setback, and obviously Chase is very disappointed. The most important thing is Chase’s health, and we’ll have a suit ready for him when he’s healthy and ready to get back in a race car.”
Andrews said the process has begun to attain a waiver from NASCAR for Elliott — the 2020 Cup champion — to be eligible for this year’s playoffs. Waivers have been granted to other drivers for various circumstances.
Brad Keselowski, who won the series championship in 2012, said he wouldn’t have a problem if Elliott received a waiver.
“Life happens,” Keselowski said. “The schedule is just so demanding. It’s inevitable that it’s going to happen to somebody sometimes.
Berry, in the meantime, will be in charge of trying to collect points for the team. His first race will be at a place where the 32-year-old has won two Xfinity Series races, including last October, and finished in the top 10 in all four starts.
“I’m going to be learning a new car here in an hour or so, so at least having some success on the track, I think that definitely gives me more confidence in what I’m doing,” Berry said Saturday. “It’s been a wild couple of days. You never know what will happen when you wake up.”
Two-time Cup Series champion Kyle Busch said he spoke with Elliott and shared his own experiences of returning from a broken right leg and left foot at Daytona in 2015. He missed 10 races but then won his first series championship that season.
“Even as good of a support system as I had around me during my injury, there was a time when we were watching the races on Sunday and you kind of break down and miss being out there and being in your car and having a chance of going out there to compete,” Busch said. “That’s what we live for and build on our whole lives to have success. Chase is plenty young (27) and I’m sure plenty healthy enough that it’s not going to be anything too crazy to go through.”
Three-time Daytona champion Denny Hamlin missed four races in 2013 after suffering a compound fracture in his back during a crash with Joey Logano.
“I had to sit out with a back injury in 2013 and watch the car go around with Mark Martin and Brian Vickers and it was like, ‘Wow, this is different seeing someone in it,’” Hamlin said. “But I do think there’s are positives in it. I think you become rejuvenated. I think you become more appreciative of the opportunity that you have.”
Most injuries occur on the track, and team owner Rick Hendrick had until 2021 a policy of not letting drivers compete in other series or in potentially high-danger activities.
Andrews said Hendrick Motorsports will not change its new policy regarding drivers’ activities away from the track, saying “that these guys have to go out and live a life.”
Elliott would have been coming off a strong performance had he not been injured. He was second last week in Fontana, California, in the series’ second event of the season. Elliott was involved in a crash the week before at the Daytona 500.
He is a second-generation driver and the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott. The Georgia native is NASCAR’s five-time fan-voted most popular driver.