Chase Elliott will return to NASCAR Cup Series in Martinsville race

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Chase Elliott, who has missed the last six Cup Series races after breaking his left leg in a snowboarding accident March 3 in Colorado, will return to the driver’s seat this weekend at Martinsville Speedway .

The Hendrick Motorsports driver has been medically cleared by NASCAR to compete this weekend, and received a waiver from NASCAR to continue qualifying for the playoffs despite not competing in every race. Currently 134 points shy of the playoff cutoff with 18 races remaining in the regular season, Elliott will likely need to win one race to qualify for the playoffs.

Elliott, the 2020 Cup champion, underwent three-hour surgery on the night of the crash to repair his broken left tibia. He has spent most of his time rehabbing in Colorado until returning home to Georgia in late March. He spent Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning in a Chevrolet racing simulator before determining if he could race at Martinsville.

The 400-lap race at Martinsville, the circuit’s shortest track as a 0.526-mile flat oval, will certainly test the strength of his left leg, which he normally uses to control the brake.

“We’re looking forward to getting Chase back in his race car to pick up where he left off,” team owner Rick Hendrick said in a press release. “Since the injury, he has worked very hard and has focused all his time and energy on getting back into the No.9 team.

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“Over the last six weeks, he’s been fully committed to everything we’re doing, and we know he’s itching to get on track and compete for wins.”

Elliott, 27, who has been voted the sport’s most popular driver for the past five years, has 18 career Cup wins, including a season-high five last season. An early crash relegated him to 38th in the 2023 Daytona 500. He then finished second in the California race before missing the next six with a broken leg.

JR Motorsports driver Josh Berry has filled in for Elliott in five of the six races he has missed, while road racing star Jordan Taylor earned the nomination for the Circuit of the Americas. The No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team is 20th in the standings, 19 points short of the cutoff for the “owner” playoffs, which operate under the same system as the driver playoffs and determine end-of-season bonus money .

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrassand register at FOX Sports NASCAR Newscast with Bob Pockrass.

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