Team Chevy’s Chase Elliott topped the leaderboard in qualifying and will lead the field to the green under the lights at Martinsville Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400. The 2022 season welcomes the return of qualifying to all NCS events with a unique format to the series. For races on oval tracks, the field is split into two groups, where each car participates in a single-car, single-lap qualifying run. The top-five fastest drivers from each group advanced to the second round to vie for the pole position with one final lap each. Elliott put down a lap of 19.694 seconds, at 96.151 mph, in his No. 9 LLumar Camaro ZL1 to capture his 10th pole in his NASCAR Cup Series career. The 26-year-old Dawsonville, Georgia, native is no stranger to showing speed at the Virginia-based short track, with his eyes set on winning his second prestigious grandfather clock trophy.
Elliott’s pole gives Chevrolet its 54th pole win at Martinsville Speedway – the most of all manufacturers – and its 725th all-time in NASCAR Cup Series competition. The feat also marks the second pole win of the 2022 season for the Next Gen Camaro ZL1, which captured its first pole in its points-paying competition debut at Daytona International Speedway last month.
The bowtie brand saw three Camaro ZL1’s lock-in a top-10 starting spot for the 400-lap event at the .526-mile paperclip. Coming off of a trip to victory lane in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race last night, William Byron wheeled his No. 24 RaptorTough.com Camaro ZL1 to a fifth-place qualifying spot, his fourth top-10 starting spot of 2022. Elliott and Byron’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kyle Larson, qualified eighth to round out the Team Chevy top-10 lineup.
FS1 will telecast the NASCAR Cup Series Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 at Martinsville Speedway live at 7:30 p.m. ET tomorrow, Saturday, April 9. Live coverage can also be found on MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 LLUMAR CAMARO ZL1, POLE WINNER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
TALK ABOUT HOW THE PRACTICE SESSION WENT AND THEN THE FASTEST LAP OF THE QUALIFYING SESSION, WHERE YOU WON THE POLE.
“Obviously, practice went by quick. But just trying to dive through all of the little nuances of this car; how it’s different and how we want to attack that for tomorrow. I think the overall feel here is pretty similar to what it’s been in the past. It seems like the shorter tracks, the cars have a pretty similar sensation to what the last generation car had. It has just a little different way of getting there with setups and some of the fine details.
Overall, I think it’s fine. There are certainly going to be challenges tomorrow for us and I’m sure for everybody. Hopefully we can try to make the right decisions to hopefully have them impact us the least. We’ll see.”
A LOT OF GUYS COME IN HERE AND TALK ABOUT HOW SETTING UP THE CAR BEFORE YOU GET HERE IS KIND OF LIKE A STAB IN THE DARK. DO YOU GUYS FEEL LIKE THAT?
“Yeah, it kind of is in a lot of ways. You don’t have a ton of time to tune on it. It goes really quick. In 20 minutes, you really have time for maybe one change. I think if you’re doing more than one change, you’re probably thrashing a little too hard in practice. For us, when we ran today, we didn’t even make a change because I felt like it took me awhile to just find a rhythm. Once I found a rhythm, practice was almost over. So, at that point, there’s no point in me coming in and asking them to do something, and then them having to bust it to get back out there for two laps.
Yeah, it is a bit of a guess; but I think it’s fun to be honest. I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve said this a lot, but short tracks across the country, guys have five laps of hot laps. We’re supposed to be at the top level of our sport here, so why do we need to practice for three hours a weekend either. I think it’s cool, I like it.”
LAST YEAR, YOU WERE PART OF THE 1-2-3-4 HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS FINISH AT DOVER. CAN YOU REFLECT A LITTLE BIT ON THAT?
“Yeah, I was shocked that it had never happened before. I remember that just being the first thing that kind of came to my mind. I’m just like – man, of all the years and success of HMS and all the great things that have been done with the organization, I was just blown away that they had never ran 1-2-3-4 before. I thought it was great. I was super proud of everybody for achieving that top to bottom. From the crew members, to the drivers, to everybody that works at the shop that doesn’t go on the road – it was a big deal as an organization to sweep a weekend like that. I’m proud to have been a very small part of it. It was fun.”
DOES IT FEEL, IN ANY WAY, LIKE A PURSUIT OF PARITY?
“No, I think it’s just what the rule is and I don’t make them. I’m all good with it. I like it.”
THERE HAS BEEN SOME TALK OF JUST THE DURABILITY OF THESE CARS ALLOWING THE DRIVERS TO BE A LITTLE BIT MORE AGGRESSIVE. AT A TRACK LIKE MARTINSVILLE, IT SEEMS LIKE SOMETHING THAT WE WILL CONTINUE TO SEE. DOES THAT GIVE YOU MORE CONFIDENCE TO MAYBE MAKE MORE AGGRESSIVE MOVES?
“Maybe in the right circumstance. I could see it getting a little more aggressive. The bumpers are certainly not as fragile as they used to be. The quarter-panels don’t seem to cause tire rubs as easily as they used to. Now some of the components – toe links and things of that nature – are pretty fragile. So, I do think you can break some of the suspension. But as it pertains to bumping a guy out of the way or things like that, you are at less risk of hurting your car in the process. I feel like when it comes down to it, sure yeah, guys are going to get aggressive. But we all got aggressive before, too. I don’t know that it will look a lot different.”
DO YOU FIND YOURSELF SPENDING MORE TIME IN THE SIMULATOR WITH THIS CAR THAN YOU DID THE OTHER ONE?
“Less, to be honest. The sim stuff – I think it’s a great tool for some areas of what we do. For me, we’re so new with this car. I don’t want to develop any bad habits. I want to develop raw, real feelings of the car and I think the only way to really extract that is to be in the race car, at the race track that we’re going to be going to. Right now, I’m still trying to kind of learn it. And I think maybe once you learn a baseline of what it should feel like, then going to the sim and being able to dive in and help that side of things out I think is probably more realistic. But when I don’t 100 percent know what’s right and what’s wrong, I think you’re pretty vulnerable to developing bad habits driving something that’s not the real thing.”
YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT DEVELOPING YOUR RHYTHM TODAY. A LOT OF THE DRIVERS WHO HAVE COME IN HERE HAVE SAID THEIR SHIFTING A LOT. ARE YOU SHIFTING AND IS THAT PART OF DEVELOPING YOUR RHYTHM?
“Yeah, for sure. Shifting is very real. Down in every corner entry and up in every corner exit. So, it’s a lot of shifting. I think from a driver’s standpoint, you get used to that. You kind of get in a flow of doing it. Hopefully the parts and pieces are prepared for that. 400 laps of shifting that much – I’m not sure we’ve put that kind of strain on them yet. I know we were shifting at Phoenix (Raceway) some; obviously at the road courses too. But that has potential to be pretty rough on things. Hopefully everything will stay together and we don’t have any issues from that front.”
WITH THE SHIFTING AND THE DIFFERENT TIRES, DOES IT STILL FEEL LIKE MARTINSVILLE, IN TERMS OF HOW YOU TRY TO MAKE SPEED AND HOW YOU ATTACK THE TRACK? WHAT WAYS IS IT DIFFERENT?
“To be honest with you, I feel like it’s very much Martinsville to me. It doesn’t feel a ton different at all, as far as the track goes, the tires and how the cars react. I just think, setup wise, we’ve had to develop a little bit of a different path of getting to the same location, if that makes any sense. But feeling-wise, it’s super similar to what it’s always been, in my opinion.”