Thursday, Mar 23

CHEVROLET NCS AT DAYTONA 500 MEDIA DAY - Chase Elliott Transcript

CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS CAMARO ZL1, Daytona 500 Media Availability Transcript:

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: I feel like it's been solid over the years. I feel like there's been a lot of mutual respect. Our disagreement there at Bristol is probably always going to stand out. But it goes much deeper than that. 

Kevin has been a great ally of mine early in my career, I've referenced that, the questions here lately. I'm very appreciative of that, him being able to lend a hand there early in my career. I appreciate his time and willingness to help me learn and help get me and steer me in a good direction going into some of those tracks for the first time in my rookie year of Xfinity. 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, no, first off I think it's great. I think Alex deserves it. Alex is a really good dude. He's worked really hard to be where he's at. He does a good job. He brings a lot to the table behind the scenes that you guys will never see. I know me personally being a teammate of his, I appreciate his efforts, his willingness to help or talk about whatever it may be. 

Yeah, I'm super glad to have him. Look forward to these coming years together. 

 

Q. How did you feel last week at the Clash, any contact you took from behind? 

CHASE ELLIOTT: I didn't think it was a ton different, to be candid. So we'll have to see. 

 

Q. Now here at a track where by nature you push each other, any concerns?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, the speedways, they were pretty violent last year, too. Yeah, last week was probably more. I felt like those hits that were going on last week were more aggressive than a standard push here. I would say from a pushing aspect, last week was worse than what you'll have here. 

 

Q. Was last week embarrassing for NASCAR drivers?

CHASE ELLIOTT: You really want to get me in trouble, don't you (laughter)? 

 

Q. I don't. Just want you to tell us more. 

CHASE ELLIOTT: I don't think it was the greatest show. I'll say that. I don't think it was the greatest show. I thought last year's show was better. I thought the racing was better last year. 

It seemed like going out there this year, everybody kind of knew how robust the bumpers are on these things, and we didn't know that going into the race last year, so people were just really aggressive with moving people out of the way. If I didn't get a good run out of corner exit, I'm going to drive in there, drive into you. That was just how the race went. 

It was like a Legend car race, the problem is these cars are really big and really heavy, it makes it difficult. 

The unknown of whether or not you were going to hurt your car last year is what kept it tame. This year that was out the window. It turned into not as good of a showing, in my opinion. 

 

Q. With that comfort now, do you feel that's something you have to think about going forward?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, maybe. I think it depends on the track that you're at. There's certainly places that will apply to more than others. Maybe Martinsville. Nothing like the Clash at the Coliseum, just how short that track is, how tight the turns are. Nothing will be that extreme, I don't think. 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: I think just trying to continue to push in the areas that we feel like we need to be better in, right? Then also trying to improve the areas that we did excel in last year. 

You're always pushing trying to be better. Things are going to change through the off-season. You always have to assume when you're going into a new year that all your competitors are going to be better, the other manufacturers are going to improve. Body resubmissions over the winter from all three manufacturers, I believe, if I'm not mistaken. That's going to bring everyone even closer together yet. 

Just put some more emphasis on the area that has the biggest variable. To me the biggest variable is what happens on pit road throughout an event. It makes your weekend be even more important when you go to qualify because if your pit stops matter more, then so does your pit stall. If your pit stall matters, then your qualifying effort matters more. 

All those things start to add up, you start putting emphasis more and more on the smaller details, the things such as qualifying, such as pit stops, such as restarts and things like that. 

 

Q. Will we see 19 winners again? Seems to be a consensus we won't. How do you feel about that?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I doubt it. I doubt it. 

 

Q. Why?

CHASE ELLIOTT: That's just my opinion. I doubt it. I mean, you might. You might. I don't see it. 

 

Q. Do you feel like the legitimate championship field is a lot wider?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I would say so. I mean, I think potentially a little bit. But I also think that the really good teams and the really good drivers are always going to rise to the occasion regardless of the configuration or the car or this or that. 

Yeah, I mean, I would say it's probably a little wider than it once was. But any time you come into a new season, at least me personally, I have a really hard time guessing. Like, if I looked at y'all and I was, We're going to be awesome this year, or, We're going to struggle really bad, I honestly don't know. Things change over the winter. You have body resubmissions, little rule tweaks here and there. Things just change. 

Until you get on the track and until you get that firsthand grade as to where you stack up, I think it's really hard to tell kind of where you're going to be from just a couple months being away from the track. 

 

Q. When you talk about changes, when you look at the changes they've made in the rear clip, how do you feel about those changes?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I think they're going in the right direction. They're thinking about the things that they need to be thinking about. 

We just have to see. Until some of those impacts that were causing issues last year, they happen again, with success, I don't know. I think everyone's probably in the same boat. 

But I do feel good about just the conversations that were had over the winter. The changes, I'm no scientist, right, but logically thinking about things, it seems like they're going the right direction. 

I hope that's the case. So we'll find out. 

 

Q. The way they opened up the front of the cars, the rubber not catching on fire

CHASE ELLIOTT: Not catching on fire. We definitely don't want to be catching on fire (smiling). We don't want to be catching on fire and we don't want guys to be out with concussions over impacts that would have not been out with concussions with the same hit in years past, right? 

No reason for either one of those things. Two things we had not been experiencing for many, many years in the sport, we shouldn't be experiencing them now. Let's hope all those things are fixed. 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, honestly until we get in that scenario and see, I don't want to give you a false answer. I really just don't know until I kind of experience it a little bit. 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, we've had a couple good opportunities at it. We've had some really fast cars down here, too. I've done a good job of messing some of those up, as well (smiling). 

Yeah, just hope we can be around there at the end of the race. We were around at the end of the race last year, but at the tail end of that pack that was still rolling. 

One thing that I am proud of about last year is I thought we had one of our better plate races at Talladega last fall just from a decision-making standpoint, our car had pace, we were able to do a lot of the things we've been striving to do at plate races in the past. 

I know we're not at Talladega obviously, and things can be different. I hope that some of those things are able to translate and we can put ourselves in a similar position as what we were able to do at that race. If we can do that, then I think our chances of having a good day are higher.

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: A little bit. Little bit. But they're different. 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: A little. A little. But those two are just such different animals. 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, believe it or not, it is. 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: Kind of hard to know what to expect. I'm not sure what to think about that. 

Yeah, Jake and Stevie came to me about running the race. I've gotten to know them a little bit over the last couple years. Really that was it. They asked. I appreciated them asking, thinking about me, being willing and wanting me to help with him. 

He turns 18 next week. I hate it for him because he's in a position where that's unfortunate, right? You're just a few days away from your 18th birthday and you can't run the first race of the year. 

Yeah, it was really just because they asked. They're a good family. Enjoy being around them. 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I don't know that it matters a whole lot. 

 

Q. What is going to constitute a good year for you this year? 

CHASE ELLIOTT: Winning the championship. 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, to me, Corey stands out because I don't feel like he's gotten a really good opportunity yet because he was one of those guys that was very, very good and successful. He was fun to race around. Always felt he was extremely talented. 

I'm sure there's someone else I'm missing, out of left field a little bit. Corey does come to mind in my opinion because I think if he had a really good opportunity, I think he would do somebody a really good job. 

He's got a good opportunity now, not a great one, but he's got a good one. I'm not knocking them there at all. Please don't take me the wrong way on that. I think they're in a position where they can grow. 

Him being and having a hand in that would make it even sweeter to go and to build a program and have a lot of success because he helped them do it. 

 

Q. He had a chance at Atlanta last year. 

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah. 

 

Q. People might be surprised when you say that. What were some things that you saw that maybe the fans haven't had as much of an opportunity to see, he hasn't had as many of those opportunities? What was that Corey LaJoie like? 

CHASE ELLIOTT: The guys you referenced were really the ones who I raced against in the K&N deal there for a year or two. I didn't race against really any of that crowd much, aside from those couple years in K&N. 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: He ran really well. 

The first year I think that I did it, he hadn't been doing it very long either. They were struggling really bad that first year, too. I always had a lot of respect and admiration because they did all their work on their own, and he was very hands-on with a lot of that, so I respect that. 

But they went to work over the winter and they came back swinging the next year. He was really good from there on out. I just always thought that was cool, that he and I were both running terrible, they were able to go to work and put themselves in position to be one of the best cars the next season. 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, no, it definitely does. We have a great group of guys. They have been around long enough to know how to have success in really tough situations. That's the piece of the puzzle that I think really is important. 

We know each other really well, too. All those things matter and they help. We've grown a lot together. We've experienced a lot together. I think they have a really good opportunity to have a great year again. I think that they will. 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: That's a long time. Long time being around. But for me personally, I haven't been around for the majority of those, right? I grew up around the sport. This sport really has been about all I've known for the majority of my life. 

I have a lot of respect and admiration for NASCAR, what it has meant to my family and the opportunities it's brought that I have seen firsthand. That's what comes to mind for me personally. 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: I've been there, yep. 

 

Q. What did you think about that place? Much in there to check out?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I would imagine it changed a lot since 1948 to when I saw it. 

 

Q. You talk about the little things. The cars being equal, wouldn't the driver be a major component of the little things?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah. 

 

Q. How do you view the driver component of this now?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, the driver's always going to be an important aspect of the race, right? The driver is a huge variable. I think it's always mattered personally.  You still have to have a horse to ride. 

 

Q. Have you run the road course there?

CHASE ELLIOTT: No, I've not. 

 

Q. 75 years in NASCAR, what does that mean to you being a family that has so much gravitas in this sport?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, for me, I haven't experienced the majority of those years firsthand. This is my eighth year here in Cup. There's been about 10 of 'em that I guess I have been a part of personally. The majority of the rest of my life I was around it just from going to the racetrack with dad as a kid and things. 

There's obviously a large chunk of those 75 years I didn't experience or didn't see or didn't witness firsthand. It's hard for me to speak on that. 

I think the piece of the puzzle I can speak on is just what the sport and the opportunities the sport has allowed for my family, and the things that I know we're extremely grateful for. That's because the sport is what it is, right? My dad had a good career. I was able to grow up and watch some of the tail end of that. The sport's been good to me thus far. 

I'm appreciative of the opportunities and things it has supplied for my family and the things we've been able to do because of it. 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: He hopes he makes it to a hundred? 

 

Q. I don't think behind the wheel. 

CHASE ELLIOTT: Heck, I don't know. He owns a team now, right? 

 

Q. That's right. 

CHASE ELLIOTT: He can do whatever he wants, whether he wants to drive or hang around. I'd say that's up to him. 

 

Q. If you get shuffled to the back of the pack, how long do you need to get back up front?

CHASE ELLIOTT: If you're Ryan, less than the rest of us. He's really good at it. That dude could have probably won about every plate race for the last three years if things had gone just a little differently. 

More time than him. I don't know how much time, but more than him. 

 

Q. Tougher with the Next Gen? 

CHASE ELLIOTT: Sure seems to be. Sure seemed to be last year in some of those events. Track position was really, really vital. 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: Time-wise? Like TV slot time-wise? 

 

Q. A TV window works. 

CHASE ELLIOTT: I think two and a half hours, somewhere in there, will probably be a really good length. I think the Xfinity races are a really solid link for attention span of, like, outsiders that I watch races with. I feel like that's a good length of time. 

Yeah, I would say two, no more than two and a half. But two, two and a half, somewhere in there.

 

Q. You're not losing your buddies when you're watching Xfinity races?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Or F1 races. I think they're about hour and a half, two hours, somewhere in there. I think that's a good time frame. What do you think? 

 

Q. As long as there's a post-race show, too. 

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, that's true. I agree with that. So you're including that in the time? 

 

Q. Two and a half hours, two-hour race. 

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I like that. I like that. I would say two and a half total. So you have 20 minutes or so before the race to kind of lead things up, maybe talk a little bit, then get going the race, then a good post-race show. I agree. 

 

Q. If they get rid of California, will you miss having the two-mile racy track?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, no, I enjoy going out there. It's a cool place. Kind of odd because you don't see it a lot. You only see it once in a year, you see it early in the year, you kind of forget about it till you go back the next year. 

That whole deal has been really weird. Does someone want to explain it to me? We've been hearing for like, what, three years now, they were going to tear it down, then they decided we're going to go one more year. Here we are. It's kind of odd. I feel like most of the time they have a pretty good plan on what they're going to do with some of that stuff. Kind of weird. 

 

Q. Do you need another sports track before we fit the short track package with this car?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I think it takes longer. I shouldn't say that. 

I think short-track racing is good. It's a good environment to watch races for the fans. I think that's fine. I'm good with that. 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: That would be good. 

 

Q. Are you optimistic there's going to be a fix along those lines?

CHASE ELLIOTT: When we fix it, I'll be happy (smiling). 

 

Q. Wait and see?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah. 

 

Q. Do you feel more comfortable with the Coliseum event? I kept waiting for you to be a factor. 

CHASE ELLIOTT: Was never a factor, was I? Crazy (laughter). 

Yeah, we weren't very good at all, then we got in that wreck there early on. Feel like we were better in the race. I mean, Martin was really good. He and Denny I thought were the class of the field by far. Even on Saturday I felt they were the standouts. We weren't very good at all. Qualified bad. We were better in the race. Then got in that wreck with Ryan. I forget, Daniel maybe. 

It hurt our car pretty good after that. We were just trying to get to the end. 

 

Q. You and Dale watching your dads, studying your dads, coming down here. Every year your life pretty much. You have to pick up stuff in your head whether you realize it or not. You look at the guys who haven't won this race, five of you are champions among the active drivers. Still kind of surprised that that one is still out there for you to grab? 

CHASE ELLIOTT: There's a lot of great drivers that have had great careers in the sport that have not won this race, right? You look at Tony Stewart never having won this race, right? Tony never won it. Look at Kyle Busch, a guy that has not won it either. The list goes on from there, too. 

It's a difficult race to win. You have to have a lot of things go your way. You can do everything perfect and still not win this race. It's a tough one. 

For me, yes, this will be my eighth Daytona 500, would love to check the box, no doubt. I think if we keep putting ourselves in good positions, I think we'll have our chances. 

 

Q. What would the party be like at home?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I don't know. I hadn't really thought about that. My partying days aren't what they once were, so it might be pretty tame. 

 

Q. Can't pull the 'old' thing on us yet. 

CHASE ELLIOTT: I know. It's a bad deal (smiling). 

 

Q. You seem to have a lightness to you. Are you super optimistic for the season? 

CHASE ELLIOTT: I'm always in a good mood. C'mon now (laughter). 

No, I don't know. Yeah, I'm just looking forward to getting going. This week is exciting. I was coming in last night, there's a lot of campers a lot of people here. We're pretty dang lucky to be doing what we're doing as a job, you know? 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: I hadn't even thought about that. I'm not sure I deserve to be on that list or not. 

Yeah, that would be a great honor, for sure. But in my head I'm just like, Man, there's been a lot of extremely, extremely talented guys that have been around for a long time. 

Yeah, that would be a great honor. I haven't put a lot of thought into it, though. 

 

Q. Your dad is on it

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, and he should be, in my opinion.

 

Q. You were talking about the campers, all the people coming. If you had to pitch the Daytona 500 to somebody that's never watched the sport, been to a race, what would you say to them?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, it's certainly different from a lot of the races that we have throughout the year. It's just one of those events and one of those spectacles that are here in the United States that you need to see. Simple as that. 

Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500, going to the Super Bowl, going to a World Series game, to me, all those things are kind of looped into one. Whether you're a race fan, football fan, baseball fan, going to those types of spectacles, those types of events, I think anybody, no matter what you're into, would have a good time with. 

I have no doubt that someone who's the biggest baseball fan, doesn't like motorsports at all, could come here and have a good time. 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: No, look, Kevin has had a massive impact on this sport, has been around for a long time. You look at early 2000s to now. He's had a great career, a lot of success. A guy that has had success for a very long period of time. That to me is one of the best impressive pieces of what he's done, is to be winning in year one, and I have no doubt he's going to be winning in his final year, too. That's a tall order. 

 

Q. Have you been able to talk to Travis so far? 

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah. I haven't seen him yet, but I'm looking forward to seeing him. He's become a good friend. I've been around him more being involved in some of the Nitro Rallycross stuff of his. I think it's really cool that he's giving this a shot. A tall order for him. This is a tough event. The fact that he's not ever run one of these cars, just going out and qualifying later tonight, that's a tough thing. 

I'm pulling for him, though. It's tough because Jimmie is one of those guys that he's got to race his way in, too. I know... Two of my motorsport heroes. It's going to be really tough to pick and choose if I have to between the two of them. But I'm looking forward to watching. 

I guess they can both get in, right? 

 

Q. (No microphone.). 

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, so we're going to pull for both of them. How about that? 

 

Q. The last laps of the Daytona 500, does your mindset change? Alex said the big one can happen at any point. 

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah. 

 

Q. How do you prepare for something like that?

CHASE ELLIOTT: He is right, it can happen any time. Not just at the end of the race. To me at the end of the race, I'm hoping I'm up front. I'm hoping we're still part of the event. 

If you get to the end, that's a feat in itself. Just hoping we're still involved. 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: I don't really have an opinion one way or the other. I'm good with whatever they do on that. It's not my decision anyway. What does it matter if I have an opinion? That's the way I feel. 

 

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, no, I think it's great that NASCAR has continued to expand, and that popularity has grown outside the United States. I think motorsports is extremely popular in Europe. I'm a huge fan of traveling and seeing different parts of the world. I think it's great that they're expanding. I hope it will continue to grow and make motorsports stronger regardless of what background it is.  

 

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