|CHASE ELLIOTT WINS FIRST CAREER NASCAR CUP SERIES TITLEClinches with Victory in Season-Finale’ at Phoenix AVONDALE, Ariz. (November 8, 2020) – Chase Elliott outpaced three of the final Championship Four contenders to be the one to capture both the Season Finale 500 at Phoenix Raceway, and the coveted 2020 NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) championship. Behind the wheel of the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Camaro ZL1 1LE fielded by Hendrick Motorsports, Elliott scored his fifth NCS win of the season, the 11th of his career, and first title in NASCAR’s premier racing series.|
“Oh, it’s unbelievable”, said Elliott at race-end. “All you can dream for is an opportunity, and I’ve been very fortunate to have that over the years. You know, and that’s all thanks to some great people. My parents obviously have played a huge role. So many people to thank. Mr. Hendrick, for taking a chance on me and believing in me when a lot of people didn’t. I think it really says a lot about him. And then to have a championship sponsor like NAPA, all of our partners, and Chevrolet, huge thanks to Team Hendrick and everybody at our shop that peaked at the right time. That’s all we can ask for.”
With this accomplishment, Elliott adds to his family’s legacy by joining his NASCAR Hall of Fame father, Bill Elliott, to become just the third father-son combo to win a championship in the highest form of stock car racing. They join the Petty family, Lee and Richard, and the Jarrett family, Ned and Dale.
Elliott’s feat also extends the Hendrick Motorsports series-leading championships to 13 of the last 26 (1995-2020). The organization now has 16 NASCAR national series owner championships, the all-time record in NASCAR. It also has 263 victories overall and leads all other teams with 11 victories at Phoenix Raceway.
The win delivered Chevrolet’s 32nd NCS Drivers Championship, more than any other manufacturer. It marked the ninth victory for the Camaro ZL1 1LE in the 2020 season, and 20th since becoming the flagship vehicle in 2018. It is the 24th win for Team Chevy at Phoenix Raceway and 795th in NASCAR’s premier division.
“Congratulations to Chase Elliott, Alan Gustafson, and the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Camaro ZL1 1LE team on winning the NASCAR Cup Series Championship,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President of Performance and Motorsports. “Chase did an amazing job of driving through the field to get to the lead. He has consistently put himself in a position to race up front and his never give up approach made a difference once again. We are proud that Chase is the 32nd Chevrolet Driver’s Champion in the Cup Series.”
Elliott joins Jimmie Johnson (7 titles), Jeff Gordon (4 titles), and Terry Labonte (1 title) as the fourth Hendrick Motorsports driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series Championship.
“Also, congratulations to Rick Hendrick and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports on earning their 13th NASCAR Cup Series title,” added Campbell. “We are proud to race with Rick and Hendrick Motorsports for over 37 years.” The NASCAR Cup Series returns to competition with the Daytona 500 season-opener at Daytona International speedway on February 14, 2021. # # #
CHASE ELLIOTT, ALAN GUSTAFSON, AND RICK HENDRICK POST RACE WIN PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPTS:
CHASE ELLIOTT, Driver of the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Camaro ZL1 1LE:THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion, and that is Chase Elliott. A quick stat: Last time most popular driver won the championship was 1988, and that was your father, Bill Elliott. So that’s kind of a cool stat to tie this all together. We will kick it off with some questions. Q. Chase, I’m curious, throughout your racing career when you’ve looked at the champions in other series or even looked up to them, I’m curious, what did you see in things that stood out to you about what a champion was? I know you’ve already won an Xfinity championship, but what do you hope people see out of you now being a Cup champion? CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, that’s a great question. I look at the guys who have achieved this honor as guys who perform in the toughest of situations. I felt like that’s been an area that we haven’t done a great job of over my first five years, really up until last week. We had a tough situation, a perform‑or‑go‑home type night there at Martinsville and was able to step up and really get the job done. I thought that was the piece of the puzzle that we haven’t had. I really felt like we had everything else that we needed, and I really believed that. Last week was a big week. I think it was a great practice session and a situation that really helped guide us through today in preparation and execution. Q. What do you feel like changed the last two weeks? Why did you suddenly become this guy that can handle it in the pressure situations? CHASE ELLIOTT: Heck, I don’t know. You know, I feel like we just put a lot of emphasis on the things that matter and really just didn’t care about anything else. There’s just so much distraction in the world. Everybody is tied to their phones and you can get ahold of anybody at any time. There’s just so many things from the outside that can reach someone. That’s one thing that I felt like our whole team just did a better job of was just boiling it down to the things that matter. Ultimately it’s how good of a job did we do building that car, how prepared am I coming into a race weekend and how, do we execute it. I feel like those three things we put more emphasis on than we ever have. I feel like I was mentally locked in better than I’ve ever been. And yeah, I think the results showed. Q. What’s it feel like for you personally to come through with, as I described to both Mr. H and Alan, talking about the same thing, to hit two walk‑off homers in a row? You hit a walk‑off homer to win the Division Championship and you just hit a walk‑off homer to win the World Series. What’s it feel like to have that kind of emotional high and come through as you were talking about before under these kind of circumstances? CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, just crazy. I mean, heck, how could you? I’m not sure I could have sat down and drawn it up any better, you know? So for me, it’s unbelievable. It’s something that I’m not sure ‑‑ well, I know I haven’t let it sink in yet. I’m waiting on it to hit me and I’m going to break down here and look like a fool in a minute. I know it’s coming, so I really hope I get done with all this media before it happens. Just so grateful for the opportunities and the things I’ve had over the years, great people. My mom and dad and their support obviously has been from the beginning. Mr. Hendrick came in and really changed my life when he wanted to help. Not to sound like a NASCAR driver, but NAPA Auto Parts, too, coming in when they did. 2014 wouldn’t have happened without them and the championship that came that season. And man, they’ve been a champion partner for years. Now they have a championship to go with it. Very grateful for a lot of great people, more people than I named that have got me here today. Q. Can you explain what the emotion is, how high this emotion is? Last week you were in the car screaming. Was this a different kind of emotional scream or situation today? CHASE ELLIOTT: Similar. Just bigger. You know, heck, this is as big as it gets. I mean, my goodness. I mean, a champion in the Cup Series? Are you kidding me? It’s nuts. It’s absolutely nuts. Q. That moment when Jimmie drove up to your car afterwards, he said he couldn’t quite remember what he said to you during that time. I’m wondering if you remember and what sort of that moment symbolized for you. CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, we were just screaming, or I was screaming. I don’t know what he said, but I know we high fived each other, and that was really cool. Yeah, in that moment actually there was a photo that had sat around my parents’ office for years. I think it was 2001, if I’m not mistaken, ’01 or ’02, dad won the race at Homestead and Matt Kenseth won the championship. And y’all can fact check me on that, but I think it was ’01, whenever Matt won his championship. 03? Okay, so dad won the race and Matt won the championship. There was a photo that sat around of them high‑fiving in their cars as they were driving by. I saw Jimmie kind of taking his victory lap up there and that picture flashed in my head. And I was like, damn, that would be super, super cool to recreate that moment. Yeah, we did. I really hope somebody took that picture because that was really cool. I hope somebody got it. That was really what sparked that and what made me want to go do it. Q. Jimmie had mentioned he spoke with you and Alan pre‑race about when he won the race and championship in 2016, his final championship, obviously. You did the same today, carrying the neon yellow No. 9 in his honor. What did it mean for you to achieve that feat in your first attempt? Was that kind of a passing of the torch in a way? CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I guess we should just change our colors to neon all the time. Kind of what I’m thinking. Today I feel like symbolized a lot of great things, and I feel like there’s a lot of things from today I’ll look back on in a week or a month or a year, and I’ll be like, dang, that was really cool. That being one of them for sure. Jimmie and I have shared some really cool moments on track, and they’ve been in really big moments of my career. The moment we shared after Watkins Glen, the road to that first win. And then for the greatest of all time to be kind of hanging it up today and to win a championship on that day, I mean, that’s just a really cool thing. As a fan of his, number one, and as a person that’s looked up to Jimmie in many ways over the years, I’m not sure I could have dreamt that any better. Q. With all the craziness this year has brought, what was the most difficult obstacle you had to overcome on your path to the championship? CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I think for us it’s kind of been getting over the hump in those big moments, something that we’ve done an okay job of at times but not something we’ve been able to do with authority. I really thought performing like we did last week at Martinsville was a really big deal. And then performing like we did today I thought was a really big deal. Finding that groove and finding that comfort in those big moments I think is huge. That’s something that we can take this and grow from further. I’m really excited about that, and I’m really proud of my team for stepping up in big situations and getting it done. Q. How did you get the news about the penalty, and what was your first thought? CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, Morgan told me. She’s a part of our team. And she kind of let me know that we had failed twice. My first thought was like, Oh, we’re going to lose our pit pick, too. That was the first thing in my head. I’m like, Oh, dang, we’re going to lose that first pit box. I really don’t think ‑‑ starting position is great and all, whatever, I feel like from that standpoint, but that pit pick is huge. That starting position stays with you. It could potentially be done when you leave Turn 2, but that pit pick stays with you until the race is over. The first thing that really kind of stuck in my head was, Dang, are we going to lose that, too? And once I realized we didn’t, I’m like, Okay, if we have our car good and our balance is right, who cares if you start at the back for the race? 312 laps, you know. That’s no excuse to not get the job done if your car is good. Yeah, just took it for what it was and enjoyed that we still had that first pit box and got going. Q. (No microphone.) CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, I don’t know that that’s really for me to say who is or isn’t the face of something. But from where I sit, it’s the performance industry, right? It’s entertainment from the outside looking in, but what makes my living is performing or not. I think me performing at a high level is going to take me a lot further in life than being the face of something. My focus is on doing my job, and that’s to drive a car to its full potential every week as long as I’m hired to do so. Q. When you look back on this season, what would you say are some of the biggest lessons you have learned as a race car driver? CHASE ELLIOTT: Man, y’all got some tough ones today. Heck, I don’t know. You know, I know I kind of keep coming back to last week, but I just think about last week and the things that that kind of brought and the emotions that came with that. I guess a big lesson I’ve learned over the past couple weeks is if you believe you can do something and you put the preparation and you put your head in the right place, you can go and accomplish great things. I felt like I was in a better mental state over the last couple months than I’ve been in in the past. I felt like I was locked in. That’s great, right? Like being locked in doesn’t just guarantee you to do good, and I understand that. I feel like everybody is locked in when you get to this point, but those things certainly helped, and I think that helped me to get to another level. I look forward to building on that and trying to improve. Q. 60 years from now when you’re sitting on the rocking chair and you think back on this championship run, what are you going to remember the most? CHASE ELLIOTT: Just exactly that. Like when I’m dead and gone and my dad is dead and gone, he and I will share a championship with the last name Elliott forever. I don’t think it gets any cooler than that, in my opinion. Q. That photo is on Twitter. I’ll make sure you can get the actual real copy of it. CHASE ELLIOTT: Thank you. I’m excited about those. Q. Do you think this day, this race, not the championship per se, but with everything that’s gone on this season, was there kind of a sigh of relief when you came in here today and you knew this was the finale, win, lose or draw, that this was 2020 for you? CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, that’s what it is. I think last week was that for us, too. I put a lot of emphasis on that and I talked about it a lot, and I challenged myself to realize that, too. It wasn’t the Championship 4, no, but it was a perform or end your season, yes. That’s the same thing as it is today. This is such a unique format. I did think about today when I woke up this morning, I was just thinking about my kind of career and the things I’ve gone through in racing, and it’s just such a unique way for racing to be. There is no other ‑‑ like there was nothing through my racing career that took 16, then to 12 and then to 8 and then to 4. It was just super interesting. I just thought about it. And I was like, Dang, it’s such a unique thing, and it’s such a new perspective on racing that we have not had. Being a competitor, all my years of doing this, short tracks and things of that nature, there’s just nothing that really felt like that. There were big races, but heck, the Daytona 500 is a big race. So it’s just such a different feel, as you kind of dwindle it down. It makes you kind of understand, I guess, what other sporting figures and athletes feel like because that is more similar, I guess, to their situation. It’s different. In some situations, some people might not like it, and I understand why, but from a competitor’s standpoint, dang, it is different. There’s not a lot that really prepares you for it until you get to NASCAR. Q. I’m just wondering, being a champion, a NASCAR series champion, that’ll change perceptions, obviously, outside your world of who you are. Does it change your perception of yourself as a driver? CHASE ELLIOTT: I don’t know that it changes ‑‑ I don’t know. I don’t know what it changes, to be honest with you. I’m not really sure that I realize what has happened today. Ask me when we get to Daytona if it changed anything for me or not because I don’t know right now. Q. Can I ask you about the emotion in the car right after the race. The in‑car camera caught you kind of teary‑eyed. CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, this is a moment that, heck, I’ve only dreamt about, and something that, heck, I’m still not sure I completely realize what has exactly happened. I don’t feel like I’m a crier in these situations, but dang, I feel like there’s going to come a time where I’m probably going to break down and really lose it. I feel like I kind of did there after the race, and then you get caught up in everything else that’s going on. I’m really looking forward to just kind of sitting back and looking at everything from a different perspective and just enjoying it. But I’m also going to enjoy it as I’m living it because this is something that may not ever happen ever again, and I recognize that. It’s a moment and a time and an accomplishment that I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever take for granted. It’s a really big deal to me. Q. Rick Hendrick handed you a phone. Who was on the other end? CHASE ELLIOTT: Jeff Gordon. Jeff was on the other end. There was only so many people allowed this weekend, and I was grateful to have my family. And as you have family and partners and Mr. Hendrick and whatnot, there was only so many spots, and Jeff was gracious enough to stay back home. Just really appreciate him calling and reaching out and saying what he did. It’s a big moment for both of us. I think it’s kind of unique and special for he and I because we both work with Alan, and he had a run at a championship with Alan and things didn’t work out. I just think he’s probably one of very few people that respect AG the way I do and believe in him like I do. So, I think he just knows how big of a deal it is for him. He’s been a championship crew chief for a long time. It just took until today to actually have the title next to his name. Man, I’m proud of him. I wouldn’t want to go to war with anybody else. Q. That was my next question for you was just talk about Alan. He came close with Jeff, came close with Mark. You guys finally got him to that championship. What is it about his character, his determination? We could all go on and on, but what is it that makes him so unique? CHASE ELLIOTT: Well, I think the bottom line about Alan is he wants it more than you, and he’s going to work harder than you to go get the job done, period. He’s an intense guy, and he’s going to outwork you to get it done. I guarantee it. I’ve seen that for a long time, and I’m very, very glad that he can quit and be done and be a champion because I don’t deserve shit I don’t feel like, but I feel like if anybody deserves anything, it’s him. I’m very proud of him for that. Q. I wanted to ask you with you being so young, 24 years old and getting your first championship and doing it the same year that Jimmie Johnson ends his Hall‑of‑Fame career with his seven championships, do you gain any inspiration off that at all as far as the type of Hall‑of‑Fame career that you want to build now that you got your first one out of the way already? CHASE ELLIOTT: Man, right now I’m just enjoying today. It’s certainly easy to look ahead and kind of think what’s next. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned so far today, I feel like when you win a championship, it’s enjoy now. I’m going to do that. I will worry about 2021 and beyond when 2021 gets here. I’m not going to sweat it right now. Q. You said that earlier this week you had no idea what car Alan was bringing, you didn’t really worry about any of that. With no practice or qualifying I assume you didn’t have any worry about it rolling off the truck being fast. There were no second thoughts there? CHASE ELLIOTT: No, I didn’t have any second thoughts for sure. Heck, I couldn’t tell you what car we ran today, currently. I have no idea. But I know that when we started the race today, it was in the ballpark. We fell off, I felt like, on a couple runs there. Brad got by us, and the next adjustment was good, and the last one was even better. That’s all you can ask for. Q. You’re talking about you’re going to soak this in. What are the celebration plans? Are you going back home or are you saying in Phoenix tonight? CHASE ELLIOTT: Good question. I’m going to stay here tonight. I feel like it’s late. 7:00 maybe. I’m going to stick around here tonight and enjoy the night in Phoenix on November 8th of 2020. And yeah, I guess I’ll go home tomorrow and figure out what’s next. I’m looking forward to it. I’m going to try to do some racing over the off‑season, which I’m excited about. I haven’t really spent an off‑season racing before, so looking forward to doing that. But heck, I’m going to enjoy it, enjoy it, enjoy it. We did it. It’s done. Yeah, that’s it. Here we go. Q. (No microphone.) CHASE ELLIOTT: Are they? Perfect. Hey, I’m down. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, but I feel like the town of Dawsonville should just exempt all work and school tomorrow I feel like would be really cool. But yeah, I can’t wait to get home. It’s actually funny this week, actually the past couple weeks I really didn’t know where we were going to start. As I was driving to the airport, I passed the poolroom on the way. And on the way they have where I’m starting on the sign. As you know, I’m not on social media right now, so I’m like, there we go, hey, we’re starting wherever this week, which is really cool. I like that. I like figuring it out on the way to the airport and the poolroom letting me know. Excited for them. What a cool tradition they’ve carried on for a long time. Grateful for the Pirkle family and great that all those great people can experience this with me. Q. Jimmie was in here talking about his conversation with you. Before the race he told you he had to start in the back prior to his final championship. I’m wondering if that helped set your mind at ease going through everything that had to happen today and made the job a little easier at hand? CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, you know, the last text message I saw before the race was from Jimmie. And he said, The road to the top ‑‑ I forget what he said. He said something about the road to the top can have some twists in it. I hate you guys are having to start in the back, but you can get it done. That was the last thing I saw before the race. Certainly appreciate his support. He’s been a great support system this week. I’ve talked to him multiple times. He’s reached out on a couple occasions, which is very cool. Very thankful. He’s a hero of mine. I think he’ll go down as the greatest to ever do this mess. For that type of guy to be reaching out lending support and genuinely wanting you to do good, hell, what else can you ask for? Q. You said before that you’ve been dreaming about this moment. Has it lived up to those dreams and expectations? CHASE ELLIOTT: Oh, my gosh, yeah, absolutely, and far surpassed. Grateful cameras and all the stuff is as good as it is nowadays because we get to keep these moments and cherish them forever. Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. Q. I asked you last week or earlier in the week during media day how cool it would be with Bill winning the championship in ’88, like all those similar LA teams, and now you in 2020. That’s finally happened now. What do you think and how cool is it? CHASE ELLIOTT: I still think stats are for losers. I said that during the week. And that’s one of those stats that just don’t do you any good, I feel like, to think about during a week. Yeah, that’s really interesting. 1988 was a good year, I guess, for the Elliotts. I wasn’t around for it, but I heard it was really cool. And 2020 certainly is now, too. Q. And what you just said about the town of Dawsonville, thinking they should get an exemption, I looked back at your tardy slip from 2014 back from when you were in high school on the Daytona 500, that you thought the day would be called off because of Junior. Is this the way you are kind of feeling tonight, similar to what you’re feeling tonight because of that? CHASE ELLIOTT: Heck yeah, for sure. If I had to go to school tomorrow, it ain’t happening. There is no doubt about that. Yeah, for sure. Really big deal to me. To be honest with you, there’s really not a bigger deal to me than this and today. Like I said, I’m not going to take it for granted. Q. You are the latest NASCAR champion from Georgia and obviously you’ve got everything going on in Dawsonville. You also had UGA athletics congratulate you on the championship on Twitter. How much civic pride do you take in being that person to not only represent the state of Georgia but also bring the championship back there? CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, so cool. Listen, I’m as big of a Braves fan, as big of a Dawgs fan as you’re going to find. And I know the past few weeks have been rough. The Braves losing to the Dodgers after being up 3‑1. But hell, I guess it all happens for a reason. If that didn’t happen I wouldn’t have the cool stat y’all just told me about, about the Dodgers and the Lakers and dad winning in ’88. I hate that it came at the expense of the Bravos for sure, but selfishly I’m happy the way today turned out. THE MODERATOR: Chase, thanks for your time, and we’ll see you in Daytona.
ALAN GUSTAFSON, Crew Chief:
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race‑winning crew chief, Alan Gustafson. Alan, congratulations, quite a run out there today. Just walk us through that championship‑winning race. ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, what an intense race. Super competitive. Congrats to all the Championship 4 guys. I think that besides us starting in the back, those guys were in the top four, five all day long. Everybody had really fast cars and really competitive. We were really fortunate to come out on top. I was a little worried there when the 22 got in front of us on that pit exchange, but our car was good enough there at the end to get past him, so it was a really special day. Q. Obviously, you guys had a lot of speed today and you guys have this new coming relationship with ECR. I’ve heard you guys have implemented some things that ECR was using. Was it your engine or ECR’s engine, and how much of an impact did that have? ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I certainly don’t know all the details but it was certainly a collaborative effort between ECR and HMS and all the Chevy teams. It’s been a great evolution in our relationship, and everybody is working really well together. I think the performance obviously showed on the track today and I think it’s going to continue to yield good results. Got to thank certainly Hendrick engines and ECR engines and Chevrolet and all they’ve done to give us a great engine and great package with great durability today, and it was a huge benefit. Q. Can you just kind of go through pre‑race tech and what happened? ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, certainly it’s unfortunate and I apologize to our sponsors and NAPA and everybody involved. We don’t want to go through that. We had our left rear quarter top was low and there was a few spots on it, and we had to fix a couple other things. We went around and ultimately worked on the left rear quarter top and tried to get it up. The rear package (indiscernible) and the quarter top kind of meet there together and it’s hard to get into that quarter top from the trunk or from the inside. We had what I thought was enough and we worked on it, and unfortunately it wasn’t. It’s tough for us in those situations. There’s just no way to know how much we’ve moved the body panel. You try to go a little more than you think you need to, and we thought we did and unfortunately we didn’t. I hate that that happened. I hate that we put everybody in a bad spot there. Fortunately we got it right for the third time. Q. I just wondered, how did that leave you guys going into today? Did you think it was really going to be much of a bad headache to start that way? How did you think it was going to play out? ALAN GUSTAFSON: I didn’t. You don’t want to start at the back and you certainly don’t want to give up the first spot. But I didn’t think it was going to be a huge disadvantage. Then, as the race went on, I started to realize how hard it was going to be to pass. I was like, man, that could have been a huge deciding factor. All the guys in the championship were so fast and so good. It was tough to pass, especially the leaders. It was certainly concerning. Once we got of got up into the top 5, I realized we’ve got to find a way to get around these guys. It’s going to be hard to do. It’s going to be hard to pass those championship guys and certainly the leader. Q. I know you have a really talented driver, but could you describe what you have seen out of Chase, particularly over the last two weeks? ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I mean, I think I’m his biggest fan. His abilities, his intelligence, the quality person he is, he’s top‑notch all the way around. I think just going through those situations and succeeding gives you some confidence to not be indecisive and not second‑guess yourself and not let doubt creep in when you get into a situation that’s not ideal. When you go through races that are must‑wins and championship moments like this, no matter if you do everything perfect, you’re still going to have some adversity to overcome. I think him being able to win in those moments has given him some confidence to know that he’s certainly good enough to do it. We all know that, and you can hear it, but until you do it, you just don’t know that. I think that now it’s given him that reassurance. Q. (No microphone.) ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I was not ‑‑ I don’t know how I found out. I’m sure by the time I talked to him it was pretty well publicized, so I wasn’t the person to tell him. We did talk about it, obviously, and he’s super supportive of us and what we’re trying to do and has a lot of faith and confidence in us, as we do him. It’s just the situation we were in and we had to make the most of it and the best of it. You know, you never know. I did feel like coming in here, based on how we’ve run over the last three or four years, I know the finishes aren’t there and the stats may not be the best, but we’ve run really good. We’ve had some real tough situations and circumstances, whether it’s knocking a valve stem off in this race last year or speeding on pit road or we got in an accident off of Turn 2 a few years ago. But we’ve just been at the front, we’ve had a lot of speed, a lot of pace. So I had a lot of confidence. To be honest with you, winning with four different drivers here is cool. I’m super proud of that. I hadn’t won on the new configuration. The old configuration we had a lot of success and hadn’t been able to master this new one. I think it’s finally wore out enough and tires fall off enough that the stuff that we try to do is kind of back in style. Q. Throughout your career you’ve had the experience of working with some younger drivers and also veteran drivers, and I’m curious as there are a number of younger drivers moving up and certainly your organization is full of them now, can you give me a sense of perspective of working with a younger driver? What are the things you had to do as a crew chief, what are the things the driver has to rely on other people and how that works when they’re relying on other people, trying to get as much information as possible? I’m sure there are some challenges in just how you work with a younger driver and how you work with Chase those early years to build to this moment. ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, it’s a bit different, but it’s very similar. I think I learned something when I worked with Mark Martin. We sat down ‑ and obviously he had a huge amount of success ‑ and we had a long conversation about what we need to do and how we needed to proceed. I can remember through that conversation he told me to treat him like a rookie. He said, Don’t treat me like a veteran, don’t treat me like I know what I’m doing, just treat me like a rookie and give me as much information as possible and use as much information as you can to influence me and help me move forward. Really, to be honest with you, since that point in time with him, I’ve taken that philosophy. He taught me a pretty valuable lesson. Regardless if it’s Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Chase Elliott, the team, myself, we just try to put the drivers in the best position we can so they succeed and feed them as much information as we can and try to educate them as much as possible and try to put them in a position to put their best foot forward. Certainly, you’ve got to give them their individual leeway or attributes or different things they have. Certain guys are good at certain things, but I think you just try to support them as much as you can. I think we’ve taken that philosophy with Mark and with Jeff and with Chase. To be honest with you, Chase is not a normal 24‑year‑old person, that’s for sure. He’s got the physical attributes and skill sets of a 24‑year‑old, but he’s got the intelligence and the experience of someone much older and wiser, so he acts like he’s a 35‑year‑old in his prime. He’s very similar to the great champions I’ve worked with before, and he’s going to be every bit as good or better. Q. Kind of curious, since you’ve been with him through his development in the Cup Series, where have you seen his biggest gains, and what has surprised you the most about him in this short period of time? ALAN GUSTAFSON: That’s a tough question because when we ‑‑ I can remember we tested with him in Nashville way back in the day. It was years before he even drove our car, but Jeff had to go somewhere. He came in and filled in. Even then he was just getting ready to run Xfinity or was running Xfinity. I was like, Man, this kid is fast, like he’s really good. From the time he showed up, he was ready to win. The thing that I look back at in the first couple years, there was so many races I felt like we should have won and were in position to win, and it’s almost like we were keeping ourselves from winning or obsessing over too much and not just being natural and doing what we know we can do and execute and just have confidence and trust in ourselves. That’s what I see that’s changed. I think that he now trusts in his ability and he is very decisive and he doesn’t second‑guess himself and he doesn’t race not to lose but he races to win. I think that the whole team has come along that journey with him, and that’s what I see the difference. He’s obviously improved, but he’s not that much different of a driver really than he was when he was a rookie. He’s certainly gotten better, and laps help, and he knows the lines and knows when he’s out of his car and the intangibles on and off pit road and the pit box and all those different things. But I think just the confidence in being extremely decisive and going out to win instead of going out not to lose is the difference. Q. At one point during the course of the race you asked him what he needed, how his car was reacting, and he said, “What do I know, I’ll let you make the decision.” At what point do you see his maturation level where he’s comfortable enough to give you the type of feedback that’s necessary to just really get the cars dialed in? ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I think that it’s there. I think when you listen to that when you’re at home, you’re like, he’s not giving feedback or he’s not telling us what we need. Actually that’s a very mature thing to say because I think the point that he’s trying to make is he doesn’t feel like what he needs to make him feel comfortable or the car easier to drive is ultimately going to be the fastest thing to do, and that’s what he’s referring to. In this situation he was right. If we would have done what ultimately would have made him the most comfortable, we would have not been as fast. He was basically defaulting to me to say, Hey, just make it fast and I’ll do the rest. It kind of gets lost in translation, but that’s ultimately what he was saying. Q. Obviously, this was a race at a 750 horsepower racetrack, and four of the five wins that you had this year were on those kinds of tracks, obviously these last two weeks particularly. Was there any extra emphasis on this package this year? Obviously, the road courses are that package and we’ve seen what this team is capable of there. Did you put any extra stock into this package? ALAN GUSTAFSON: No. No, I can’t say that we did. To be honest with you, I didn’t realize that statistic until you said it. I did think our 550 stuff and intermediate stuff was pretty good, and certainly we probably should have won a few more of those races, and we didn’t. Yeah, I don’t feel like there’s any extra effort put there. I think we enjoy racing those style of tracks and the 750 package and being on the gas and braking and the short tracks in general. I consider this a short track. I know it’s technically probably not called a short track, but that’s what I consider it. So places you’ve got to brake and the car has got to drive good and the tires fall off, that’s just what we most enjoy. But I certainly think that our 750 stuff was pretty good. There were some tracks that we weren’t very good, but one of them is gone, so I’m happy about that. One of them lost a race, so that’s probably a little bit better for us, too. Yeah, no extra effort is a long way of saying that we try to win every week. I know that sounds corny but it’s the truth. Q. This year was obviously unique. What kind of leadership did you feel was asked of yourself this year particularly, and how do you feel like you navigated it? What role did that play in getting to where you are right now? ALAN GUSTAFSON: The silver lining in this year, and one thing that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed is it’s been really pared down. I have to work on the cars and Tom, my lead engineer, works on the car. My car chief, it’s his first year as a car chief and we all had to work on the car together, the whole team and everybody that goes to the track. From the truck drivers to all the team members, everybody has got to pitch in and everybody has got to do a lot. It just reminds me of the way racing was when I was growing up as a kid. It just was a small group of people probably working more hours than they should and putting a lot of effort towards trying to have a common goal and win races. The pit crew, everybody, it’s just a different ‑‑ it was very pared down and all, especially jobs evaporated when the pandemic hit and we went to this schedule. I have a simple philosophy, I always have, is you just lead by example. Talk is cheap. You’ve got to go do it. You have to set that standard and go do what you want your guys to do, and don’t tell me, show me. That’s all I’ve ever tried to do, and this wasn’t any different. But it was really intimate with the guys, and I really enjoyed that. I think the whole team did. It brought us together closer and I think also made us stronger. It’s something I think we’ve learned from and will serve us well in the future, is just being able to lean on each other. Q. Sort of following up on what you were just talking about here, you’ve done the equivalent of hitting two back‑to‑back walk‑off homers to win the championship, to get into the Final 4, then win the championship. Did you feel that this team had it in it the whole time? And how do you feel about your team coming through in this way, back‑to‑back with so much on the line? ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I absolutely felt like we could do it. You know, I feel like we have performed really, really well. And yeah, I just knew we had to operate at our maximum capacity and do the best job we could. Did I know we could win two races back‑to‑back and win Martinsville and Phoenix? Certainly you believe you can and you feel like you can and you can’t say that you will or can or did until you do it, I guess. I didn’t have any ‑‑ I never lacked confidence in this group or in what we had. There was a time in the summer that we weren’t very good, and I just knew those were tracks that we just historically weren’t very good at. But the good news is they weren’t in the Playoffs. We just kind of had to battle through those times and not lose our heads and not hit the panic button and just stay true to ourselves and keep pushing forward. Yeah, I was pretty confident that we could do it. I think this should show it. You’ve kind of got to look a little deeper than wins. But I think if you look past that, our stats are really right on top of anybody else’s, even those guys that have won nine, seven races. Ultimately I think we should have been a little closer than that. And certainly, Charlotte is on me. We should have won that race. And there’s a few others that we should have won, too. Ifs and buts, but we got the one that mattered. THE MODERATOR: Alan, enjoy the off‑season.RICK HENDRICK, Founder & Owner of Hendrick Motorsports:THE MODERATOR: Thank you so much for taking some time with us. We are now joined by our championship‑winning team owner, Rick Hendrick. We’ll get right into questions. Q. Rick, I wanted to ask, obviously Jimmie’s last race is also Chase’s first championship. Do you feel that’s symbolic, and do you think Chase can match him? RICK HENDRICK: Well, you know, he’s a young guy. I think he’s going to win a lot of them. Seven is a big number, but that’s something to shoot at. Chase has shown so much maturity and everything by just winning these races and now the championship at 24 years old. I think he’s got a lot left in his tank. Q. Did you feel like this was kind of the turning of the guard from Jimmie to Chase, obviously getting his first title? RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, I thought it was pretty cool the way they met each other on the track at the end of the race. Jimmie’s last race is Chase’s first championship, and to see those two guys embrace, that was really cool. I think it means a lot to our whole organization. Jimmie is really special to us, like part of our family. Chase is the new kid coming along ‑‑ not a kid, but… He’s a champion now. It was a special moment to see those two guys embrace. I think they tore the cars up running into each other out there a little bit, but it was a special time and a special place. Q. I was hoping you could confirm that you hadn’t seen Jimmie in a long time, like several months, through all of this season. Can you talk about that? RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, well, I haven’t gone to the races. We talk on the phone but not in person. I’ve kind of tried to stay away from a lot of folks with all this COVID‑19 crisis going around, but we talk on the phone. I think this was the first time that I had actually seen him in the flesh. So it was, again, really special, and I’m going to be with him again tonight. Linda and I are looking forward to spending time with he and Chaney and his friends. This year has been really difficult. We didn’t know if we were going to run races or not. The owners couldn’t go, you couldn’t go in the garage. If you go, you have to sit in a suite. I applaud NASCAR for what they did because if they hadn’t, we wouldn’t have had a season. We’ve run all the races and it’s been amazing to think that we got it all in and crowned a champion. I think right now I’m just a little bit not in shock, but I’m in kind of thinking about the highs and lows of the day, with Jimmie’s last race, thinking we won’t see him at Daytona next year, and then Chase’s first championship. You know, it happens to all of us, I guess. The good thing about Jimmie and I, we’re buddies and we’re going to do things, and I’m probably going to watch him run an open‑wheel race. He’s excited about a lot of different racing. Both of our guys, Chase and Jimmie, will be in the 24‑hour race, so I’m looking forward to that. You know, I think probably the middle of next week ‑‑ Jimmie and I actually said we’re going to get together next week, but I’ll reflect back on the day and what it really meant. It was the last time to see him in the 48 car and to see Chase win his first championship. Q. Obviously, much has been made about how you signed Chase Elliott a decade ago as a 14‑year‑old. I guess going back to those days, in one sense, what in the world are you thinking signing a 14‑year‑old kid? Can you kind of explain that process? Obviously the lineage is quite clear, but what was it about that? Did anybody try to talk you out of cooling your jets, or were you afraid if you didn’t sign him you were going to lose him to another manufacturer? RICK HENDRICK: I won’t name any names at our company, but I think a lot of people thought I was nuts. No, you see a kid like that… Actually, James Finch told me, Have you seen Chase Elliott drive? And I said, No. He said, Man, he’s whipping all these guys on dirt. So I started getting some videos, and then I called Bill, and they came down and we talked. I just watched him in those late models and then actually saw one of the races he was racing Kyle Busch. Just the way Bill raised him and what a polished young guy he was and had a lot of talent, I thought, man, he’s just 14 years old so sure want to take a chance if we can. You’ve got to find a guy like that early. And again, I think it was a combination of skill, pedigree and just a sharp young man. Q. You referenced Chase and Jimmie both will be in the 24 Hours Rolex at Daytona, and a little bit more information, are you going to be involved with that in any way or is that a different team? RICK HENDRICK: Maybe I jumped the gun on that. I’m not 100 percent sure. I heard a rumor, okay, so I can’t confirm that. Q. We hear a lot from drivers saying that they’re never sure when their next win is going to come. Do you have that same feeling? It’s been four years since your last championship. Were you starting to wonder when is that next one coming as far as titles? RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, it’s so hard to win a race out here. You look at the talent that’s out here today and in the sport. If you have, like in this race today, a flat tire or a slow pit stop, anything could cost you a championship. You don’t have any buffer. It’s just hard to win these things, hard to win races. You know, it has been a dry spell, and it’s gotten a little old going to the finale and not having a car in it. We’re very proud of our guys for getting there and Chase for winning Martinsville and then coming back today and winning the whole deal. What’s really special is that he had to go to the back, which I was scared that he would get swept up in something. But to go to the rear and then come back and have to run those three guys that he did all day long and couldn’t make a mistake, guys in the pits couldn’t make a mistake. This sport is hard. You look at Kevin Harvick and the kind of year he’s had. Everybody thought you were going to have to beat him, and he didn’t make the Final 4. It’s a pretty competitive deal, but glad to get this one. Q. I know this probably doesn’t help your blood pressure to have your teams hit two walk‑off home runs at the end of the year when it’s all on the line to make it in and then to win the championship. What’s it like to have a team on the razor’s edge come through? RICK HENDRICK: Well, it’s a nail‑biter and nerves. Martinsville, if T.J., our jack guy, didn’t go back and touch the wall, we wouldn’t have been able to have a shot at winning the race at Martinsville. I like the ‘walk‑off’ deal. That’s pretty cool. Then you come here in the finale and you’ve got to go to the rear, and you work your way back through the field and you end up leading the race and pulling away at the end. It was a great day. I think, again, I go back to Kevin Harvick. Three or four races prior to the end of the year, they were probably thinking, Hey, we’ll be in Phoenix, one of my best tracks, and I’m going to get another championship. But man, you can’t bank on anything in this sport anymore because you can be as good as anybody out there or better, and the cars don’t follow you away in the race, you’re out. Q. Does it ever get old winning races and winning championships? RICK HENDRICK: No. I wouldn’t be doing this at my age if that got old, I’ll tell you that. No, I just really love to see young guys at our company have an opportunity to go out and do something really special. I love seeing Chad Knaus now become competition director, and Jeff Andrews who’s worked so hard for us for so many years, and he’s general manager now. Marshall Carlson, all the guys at Motorsports do a heck of a job. But when you see these young guys, young engineers become crew chiefs and then become champions and you see young drivers win races like William or Alex and you think about their age and how much they have ahead of them, it makes me feel pretty old because I can remember when I met Jeff Gordon at 21 or 22, whatever it was, 20. And now time moves on, but it never gets old. If you don’t have that winning, wanting to win, keep the momentum going at your company… I owe it all to a lot of good folks that work hard every day. Just watching them be successful, that’s a tremendous satisfaction for me. Q. I’ll ask a similar question that I asked to Alan. You’ve obviously known you had a talented driver in Chase, but was there anything that you’ve noticed over the last two weeks, last week and today specifically, that you think that you’ve seen him do that may carry forward, both him and the team to future success? RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, I think they don’t get rattled. Chase at his age, to be as calm as he is… And if you heard him on the radio when the race started, he had to go to the rear, he said, Okay, guys, let’s have some fun. Alan was just as calm as a cucumber. They had a lot of confidence coming into this race today, a tremendous amount. You’ve got to believe in yourself, and man, they did, and they did it. They pulled it off. They were confident in Martinsville. We had a couple situations that could have put us out of the deal. But I think that’s the maturity of the team and Alan and his crew, that they’re soldiers. They work well together. Chase believes in them, they believe in Chase. I can’t believe they were as calm as they were today, especially having to start in the rear. Q. This may seem like a silly question since you won the championship, but when you look back on this season, with everything that took place, and you guys made a lot of changes in the off‑season hoping to get better, how do you feel as an organization that you weathered the storm this year? RICK HENDRICK: Well, if you go back and look at how the year started and we were really running well, Chase and Alex both had a ‑‑ Chase had a valve stem issue, a flat tire at one of the stages, I think it was in Vegas, and ran good in several places, leading on the last lap or two at Darlington. So the cars have had speed. Then the middle part of the year we kind of slowed down a little bit. Then toward the end we picked up the momentum again. It’s been a crazy year. We’ve been trying to tell the sponsors, Hey, we’re going to race. They can’t come to the track, and thankfully all our sponsors hung in there and supported us. You didn’t know if you were going to run all the races. NASCAR did a heck of a job dealing with all these states and governors and rules changing daily and telling them they could and they couldn’t and all that, and then to come through it. Jimmie was the only driver that tested positive, I guess. That knocked him out early. If you think about it, it’s been an awesome year of good racing, and I think our sport has probably done better or as well as or better than any of the other sports. We got them all in. Hopefully we’ll get a vaccine and have fans back. It’s good to see the fans that were here, and you see how excited they are. I think our sport is really healthy. It’s very competitive. It’s just super competitive. I think we’ve got a bright future ahead of us and a lot of young talent. Q. With Jimmie departing and Chad moving off the pit box, how important was this win for Hendrick Motorsports as a whole moving forward, and is there a new sense of leadership? RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, for sure. Alan is one of our senior guys, probably the most senior crew chief. Chad has done an excellent job. But now he can help all the teams being the competition director. Alan still wants to be a crew chief. He’s got a real horse in Chase. You know, we split those guys up, Jimmie and Chad. But to go to the racetrack in Daytona next year and not seeing Chad on the box and Jimmie in a car is a big adjustment. I went through it with Jeff Gordon, I went through it with Dale, went through it with Terry Labonte and a lot of other drivers along the way. You have to adapt and change. I think the good news is that Chad is moving up to help the whole organization. He’s not leaving. He’ll be there. Jimmie wants to do some things and has a bucket list that he wants to go after, so we’re all happy for him and his family. I feel good about our company. We’ve got young crew chiefs, young drivers, and they’re super competitive. I think we’ll be good for years to come. Q. 13th title for you. I’m sure that each one is special to you in their own way, but this is the first title you’ve won with a driver whose father was also a NASCAR Cup champion. What does this title mean to you to see Chase Elliott win the same title that his legendary father did? RICK HENDRICK: You know, I think what’s so exciting today is to see how excited Bill was and Cindy. You don’t see Bill get excited very much. Man, he was pumped. I thought that was super special. I think there’s only been three father‑son champions. It’s special to be able to be a part of that. Again, Bill and Cindy did a great job with Chase. He’s a racer. Smart. He’s just so much like his dad. He understands the chassis, understands the car, super laid‑back. When I say ‘laid‑back’, not driving the car, but they let their actions on the track do the talking for them, which I’m impressed with the way Chase is. He doesn’t let it get to his head. He’s the same kid that ‑‑ he’s way more mature, but he still loves the people, thanks the team. Just a great young man. He’s going to be a great ambassador for our sport being a champion this year. Q. Today was a bit of an end of an era for another driver in that Alex Bowman will be moving from the 88 to the 48 next season and also that you will have two other young drivers on your side in Kyle Larson and William Byron. What can you say about the job Alex has done, and what’s the biggest lesson you’re going to take from this unusual season into navigating the future? RICK HENDRICK: Well, I think what you have to do, what everybody in the sport has had to do was call an audible. You had to change on the fly. You had to run races in the middle of the week. But I do like our lineup for next year. I like all of the drivers and crew chiefs. I think Alex has done a super job. I’m super happy, too, that Ally likes Alex and wanted him to take over the reins of the 48. Pretty excited about that. And Alex has really shown a lot of talent, so I’m excited about watching him. And William, he won his race this year. He was running really good today. I think he finished sixth. I think it was sixth, I believe. Putting he and Rudy together again, I think that’s going to be exciting. Larson, we know what he can do. He and Cliff will be a good combination. I’m excited about next year. THE MODERATOR: Mr. H, thank you so much for taking some time with us. We will let you go. Congratulations and have a great off‑season.