McAnally-Hilgemann Racing solidified its driver-crew chief lineup for the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season while also unveiling a special name that will be joining the organization to commence a new season of competition.
For the Truck Series’ season-opener at Daytona International Speedway that is scheduled to occur on February 17, Chase Elliott will be piloting the No. 35 McAnally-Hilgemann Racing Chevrolet Silverado RST sponsored by Gates Hydraulics and NAPA Auto Care. The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion will be driving the entry in place of Jake Garcia, who will not be competing in the event due to age restrictions. Garcia, who was announced as the driver of the No. 35 Chevrolet for this upcoming Truck season on December 6, will make his first start of the season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 3, which marks his 18th birthday.
The 2023 Truck opener will mark Elliott’s first series start at Daytona and 18th overall, with his latest occurring at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Course last April, where he finished seventh while driving for Spire Motorsports. Making his Truck debut at Martinsville Speedway in April 2013, Elliott has achieved three career victories in the Truck circuit. His first occurred at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in September 2013 while driving for Hendrick Motorsports and following a last-lap run-in with Ty Dillon. He went on to win at Martinsville Speedway in April 2017 and at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May 2020, both while driving for GMS Racing.
“This will be the first time I’ve driven a truck at Daytona, let alone a superspeedway,” Elliott, who finished fourth in the 2022 Cup Series final standings, said. “There’s no better team owner than Bill McAnally to do it with, as he’s been involved in racing and been associated with NAPA for a long time.”
Following the season opener at Daytona, Garcia, who made his first five career starts in the Truck circuit with McAnally-Hilgemann Racing this past season and notched a career-best 16th place at Phoenix Raceway in November, will take over the No. 35 entry and compete for the rookie title. Mark Hillman, who spent the previous season at McAnally-Hilgemann Racing as a crew chief for Colby Howard and the No. 91 entry, will remain with the organization to navigate both Elliott and Garcia throughout the season.
“I think there’s an incredible amount of potential for our team to make a lot of noise this year, and we have the people to make it happen,” Bill McAnally, owner of McAnally-Hilgemann Racing, said. “We’re thrilled to have Chase step in and drive our No. 35 Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet at Daytona and everyone involved in our program is excited and glad that he’s able to do so. I think his presence at Daytona will benefit Jake (Garcia) and our entire group.”
Meanwhile, Charles Denike, who joined McAnally-Hilgemann Racing midway into the 2022 Truck season and served as a crew chief for the team’s No. 19 entry piloted by Derek Kraus, will be remaining with the organization to lead the No. 19 Chevrolet Silverado RST team for a full season. On this occasion, the No. 19 entry will be piloted by Christian Eckes, who joined the organization on December 6. The 22-year-old Eckes from Middletown, New York, spent the previous Truck season competing for ThorSport Racing, where he notched eight top-five results, 15 top-10 results and qualified for the 2022 Truck Playoffs before finishing eighth in the final standings. He also notched his first career victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in September 2021.
On the competition side, veteran Chad Norris will be serving as the team’s general manager and will oversee the truck operation at the team’s base in Statesville, North Carolina. Norris, who spent the previous season as Garcia’s crew chief in the Truck competition, joins McAnally Hilgemann Racing with an extensive racing resume that includes four victories in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and one in the Truck circuit, which occurred at Kansas Speedway in October 2020 with Brett Moffitt. Norris also previously served as a competition director for GMS Racing before filling in as a Cup Series crew chief for Petty GMS Motorsports and driver Ty Dillon midway through this past season.
“Mark [Hillman] and Charles [Denike] had good seasons last year and are motivated to elevate the performance of both teams,” McAnally added. “Having Chad [Norris] come on board is a good boost for us also. He’s been around the Chevrolet team, has crew chief experience, and worked with Jake last season. I feel like we have a lot of talented people in our team, and we’re looking forward to putting it all together in our 33rd season with NAPA and NAPA Auto Care.”
With their full roster set, McAnally-Hilgemann Racing’s 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season is scheduled to commence at Daytona International Speedway on February 17 at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1.