CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS CAMARO ZL1, met with the media prior to the NASCAR Cup Series practice session at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Press Conference Transcript:
GIVE US YOUR THOUGHTS AS YOU WALKED IN TODAY AND SEE THAT THE NASCAR CUP SERIES HAS RETURNED TO NORTH WILKSBORO SPEEDWAY.
“It looked like it did Wednesday when I left (laughs). But no really, it’s a great situation and hats-off to the people that did all the work in here – the rooms that we’re sitting in right now, the grandstand addition. There was a lot of work put in a short period of time and I know we all kind of take that for granted. Had some friends of mine that do the souvenir sales, so there were electricians, plumbers and people here on like Monday trying to get finished up. So just hats-off to all those folks that put in a lot of time and I’m sure a lot of overtime to get it done, and for us to be able to come here to put this show on. That’s a big deal.
And yeah, looking forward to the weekend. Obviously a lot of excitement around it. I think it’s going to be a great crowd and looking forward to see how it all goes.”
THE INDUSTRY, IN GENERAL, IS PRETTY DIVIDED AT TIMES OVER VARIOUS TOPICS. PEOPLE JUST FEEL STRONGLY ABOUT THINGS ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. IT FEELS LIKE THERE’S A LOT OF DIRECTION IN THE SAME PATH BEHIND THIS ONE. DO YOU GET THAT SENSE FROM TALKING TO PEOPLE IN THE GARAGE?
“Sure seems that way. It definitely seems like there’s a lot of excitement across the board I think for a lot of reasons. One - this was a place that we probably thought that we weren’t ever going to see again. I know when I raced here in 2010 or ’11 – or whenever that was – that was their first attempt to revive it. And at that point in time when I left, once it started to grow weeds again, I thought that would be it. Most of the time when we have the opportunity to try to revive a race track and it fails like that, I figured that was the end. So I think everyone was surprised that this happened. It was talked about a lot, but I think just the surprise that this is here is a good thing.
So yeah, seems to be a lot of positivity about it from everybody. It’s not the norm, either, and I think that’s exciting. Less is more.. I say that a lot I feel like, especially when it comes to race tracks and the places we visit. I’m a big believer in less is more. This is special.. it’s different. I hope everybody just exercises a little patience, as it pertains to getting in and out of here, and not being able to go outside. We can’t get across the race track, right? That’s fine.. it’s all good. We just have to know that and have the right headspace for it. It’s not the normal facility that we go to every weekend that we’ve become accustomed to and I’m cool with that, and I hope everybody in here, the fans and everybody that comes this weekend, is as well.”
SOME OF THE MOST ICONIC NAMES ON PIT ROAD TOLD ME THAT THEY’RE NERVOUS ABOUT THE PIT STOP COMPETITION BECAUSE THE CAMERAS ARE ALL ON THEM. EVALUATE YOUR PIT CREW AND HOW DO YOU THINK THEY LOOK FOR TONIGHT?
“Yeah, our pit crew is a great group and been a great group. It’s been kind of the same group, minus just a couple of small changes really since my rookie year, so that’s been nice. We’ve gotten to know each other really well over the years. I have a lot of confidence in them. I think they can go and have a really good night tonight, just like I think they’ve had a really good season so far this year. As long as I stop in the box where I need to stop and get going, I think they’ll be in good shape.”
WHAT ABOUT PULLING INTO THE BOX? YOU MAKE IT LOOK EASY, BUT IS THAT A CHALLENGE FOR YOU WEEK IN AND WEEK OUT?
“Yeah, it will definitely be easy to make a mistake to overdue it. But I think in this situation, you just have to – I don’t want to ruin it for them, right? I want to do my part, but try to get into a position where they want me to be and just give them the best opportunity that I can to bust off a good stop. Outside of that, we’ll have some fun with it and move on to the weekend.”
WHEN YOU DROVE HERE IN THE ASA RACE WEDNESDAY NIGHT, WHAT DID YOU NOTICE DIFFERENT IN THE TRACK, IF ANYTHING, FROM WHEN YOU WON HERE IN 2010?
“Yeah, I don’t remember much of the track at all from 2010. Been a lot of race tracks between then and now. But I remember it being pretty wore out back then and it was much the same. A lot of the sealer and stuff wasn’t on the race track. Yes, it’s different, but it’s the same for everybody here. Very similar characteristics though, in general, I would say.”
HAVING THIS MUCH TIRE FALLOFF AND THE FACT THAT WE PROBABLY WON’T BE SHIFTING, COULD THAT CREATE A LITTLE BIT OF THAT SPEED DISPARITY FOR A SHORT-TRACK EVENT?
“Maybe.. we’ll just have to kind of wait and see. I hope that’s the case, for the racing’s sake. With the track being short, the leader might get to lap traffic a little quicker. So that might be a good thing, especially when the bottom groove was certainly the place to be on Wednesday night. So if that’s the case again and you get to lap traffic and you have to start moving around, I could see that putting us in a good position to put on a good show. Which end your on of that from a driver’s standpoint might change, but maybe. I don’t know.. we’ll see.”
HOW EXCITING IS IT BEING HERE.. SEEING THIS KIND OF NORTH CAROLINA SPEEDWEEKS WITH ALL OF THE RACING ON THE CUP SERIES AND SHORT-TRACK SIDE.
“Yeah, I talked about it some Wednesday. But I think it was just nice to see the turnout – from the competitors to the fans. We often talk about how much we like places like this and we like short-track racing and we want to support those things. But I just felt like it was a really neat thing to see that actually put to action. There were a lot of racecars here over the course of the week and there were a lot of fans here Wednesday night, too. I know the weather wasn’t great on Tuesday, but there were a lot of folks here through the course of the evening on Wednesday, so that was nice. And I’m sure it will be packed here Sunday night. It’s just been nice to see the support. Obviously we’re really close to a lot of people in motorsports, so to see those folks turnout was a big deal I felt like.”
HOW HARD OF A RACE IS THE COCA-COLA 600 TO WIN AND DOES IT STILL FEEL LIKE NASCAR’S LONGEST RACE?
“I have not won it, unfortunately. But I wish I have (laughs). We got really close there once.
But yeah, it’s certainly a big race on the schedule and the race that everybody wants to win, and I’m no different in that regard. I’d love to check that box and say I’ve won the 600. That’s a big deal, so yeah, of course I want to win it. Hopefully we can achieve that someday.”
SHOULD THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO BACK TO ROCKINGHAM BE EXPLORED?
“I’d be for it. I thought Rockingham was a great race track. I had a chance to race there a few times. I ran a Truck there I think once and a couple K&N races. I ran a late model race there once, as well. I thought Rockingham was a great race track. I loved racing there. Especially at the time, I was just getting going and it was the biggest place I had been to, so I thought that was pretty cool then. But it was a great track; a really wide track. Guys ran all over that race track, at least when we were running there. I don’t know what the surface looks like now, but yeah I think that would be another great fit. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself – why did these places shutdown in the first place? Well, it was because people quit supporting them, but now it’s cool to bring it back. So it’s like which one do you want to do.. do you want it or not? And I think we all have to ask ourselves that and the people that support racing need to ask themselves that, too. If we don’t support this stuff, then it’s going to go away. It’s just how it works. I’d love to see it revived, as well. I know there has been a lot of state funding that North Carolina has allocated to the race tracks and things, and I certainly think Rockingham could be a good place to get in the works, too. But that’s way above me.”
RIGHT WHEN YOU GET INTO TOWN, THERE’S A RESTAURANT THAT HAS A BANNER THAT SAYS ‘BILL ELLIOTT NO. 9 – YOU’RE NO. 1’. IS YOUR DAD COMING UP HERE THIS WEEKEND AND WHAT HAS HE BEEN SAYING ABOUT COMING BACK TO NORTH WILKSBORO?
“No, I don’t think he’s coming up this weekend. I don’t think I’ve seen the sign though. Is it from the ‘90s or ‘80s?”
IT LOOKS OLD, BUT I THINK IT’S BEEN PUT UP RECENTLY.
“Yeah, I don’t know.. I haven’t seen it. But no, we haven’t talked about it a ton. He raced up here a lot, so it’s not really a big deal for him, right. But yeah, I don’t think he’s going to make it this weekend. But you never know with him.. he might show up, he might not.”
WE’RE GOING BACK TO GATEWAY IN TWO WEEKS. WHAT WAS YOUR TAKEAWAY FROM GOING UP THERE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN A CUP CAR AND WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM ROUND TWO?
“Yeah, just thinking about it from our run, we didn’t have a great run there last year. I thought the track was fine. It’s definitely unique having two different ends like that. We have that at a few different tracks, but that makes a race track kind of unique, fun and different when you have two different ends that are so different from one another. But yeah, I’m looking forward to getting back. Try to get a little better and hopefully get going in the right direction.”