Chevy Racing–NASCAR–Speedweeks–Media Day–Chase Elliott

FEBRUARY 13, 2019

CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at Daytona 500 Media Day and discussed his outlook for the Daytona 500, trying to keep his momentum up after his victories last season, and many other topics. Full Transcript:

Coming back to Daytona, has it been different this time? Don’t have to answer the question about winning. Different feeling coming back as a winner?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Just nice that that question is eliminated, at least for a little while. Yeah, I mean, if it wasn’t that, it’s, When, are you going to win again? It’s always going to be something. Y’all have to do your jobs, and I get it.

Have you been able to maintain anonymity after the win?

CHASE ELLIOTT: You always want to continue that, right? To me, I think the important thing now, which was the important thing before we won the race, I think just winning and winning often. The guys that are good, the guys you see in the final four, they win and they win all the time. When they have their car right, they execute a day, you know they’re going to be one of the guys to beat. That’s who myself and our team want to be.
That to me is our goal this season.

I think it’s certainly achievable. I’m looking forward to it.

What is it like for you to go back home and race at Atlanta?

CHASE ELLIOTT: There’s definitely a lot of fans around home. I always enjoy going back to Atlanta. Special place being close to the house like that. More than that, it’s a fun racetrack to drive. I’ve enjoyed racing there from a driver standpoint, and glad they didn’t repave it. I’m glad we get to go back. Looking forward to get there next week.

How about the new package?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I haven’t driven it. I didn’t have any of the tests through the off-season. I really don’t know what to expect. I spoke to my teammates a little bit who did have it. But I have not had a chance to go drive it or see firsthand, so we’ll see.

At your age, for people to be questioning winning, do you feel maybe it was a little premature?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Not really. I’ve been racing for a long time. I feel like if you get to this point, you either know what you’re doing or you don’t.
Frankly, I want to earn my spot here. I don’t want to be given an opportunity, regardless of what my name is. I want to feel like I belong. I think that’s as important to me as anything.

I want to earn my right. I want to earn to be here. I want to establish myself as being a good driver and being a guy who belongs. I think regardless of my age at that point in time, I’d done a lot of racing to get to that point. I feel like you either know how to drive or you don’t.

Yeah, I think it was certainly a time where I needed to figure it out.

Were you getting impatient?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I wouldn’t say impatient. I wanted to win from the get-go. Lucky to have some wins over the years, Xfinity, Truck, to get to this point. You come along, I think you realize how difficult it is, racing against the best on Sundays. It’s not Friday, it’s certainly not Saturday. It’s the real deal.

They say winning can breed winning. You won once, then you won quickly after that. Is there something to that?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I think that’s a little bit of a myth. Everybody said that. I don’t think I believe in that a whole lot. I don’t know. I think it was a little more coincidence than it was anything. Everybody says once you win one, they get easier after that. I’m not sure that’s the case.

I think we had some upgrades and some performance things going on at that point in time. Because of that, that led to some good finishes more so than it was me doing anything different.

Alan Gustafson, talk about that relationship, how it’s grown. Did you sense a pressure for him to win like on yourself?

CHASE ELLIOTT: No, I feel like Alan has done a really good job of always having a level head. Through the downs and the ups last year, he’s done a pretty good job of keeping everybody on an even keel. I’ve come to appreciate him. I always appreciated him, always respected him. How he’s handled situations over the first three years, that guy is really good at what he does. I’m not sure that there’s anybody much better.

Not that he would put any pressure on you, but him being from Daytona…

CHASE ELLIOTT: He’s never won a 500 either.

What do you think if you could deliver that win to him?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I think it would be awesome. It’s funny. We talked about that the other day, how many opportunities he’s had to win it, how close he’s come before. Yeah, he’s never won a Daytona 500 or a championship. Would love to deliver both of those things to him. He certainly deserves both.

He’s probably built in the past 10 years, I would say, four or five of those years, I would say his car has probably been the fastest one down here. It’s pretty impressive how good he is at that. Unfortunate that none of those years have worked out. Hopefully we can get that done for him.

You talked about wanting to earn stuff. A lot of people said when you started in Cup that they expected you to win, you are most popular. Obviously, you have to earn it on the track, but is it somewhat of a compliment that people expect so much out of you?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, the expectations outside of our little circle, as much as you want me to say, want me to comment on it, really don’t matter. I know that’s such the boring answer. It’s so much of the truth.
That outside viewpoint and the folks that sit at home, have never driven a racecar before, telling you what’s right, what’s wrong, that is so tired, in my opinion, so wrong.
The fact that is even a topic of conversation is mind-boggling to me. I’m going to worry about me, worry about my team, we’re going to worry about each other and make each other better. Outside that, I really don’t care.

If you did, it would probably drive you nuts.

CHASE ELLIOTT: It probably could, yeah, I guess. I don’t know. There’s some interesting folks out there, man. It’s interesting. But nonetheless, whether they like me or hate me, I appreciate them either way. They’re not going to hurt my feelings whether they hate me or like me. Happy to have them.
What were your thoughts of watching the Daytona 500 as a kid, watching your dad compete? Did you think that was something you wanted to be part of someday? Now that you’ve done it a couple times, do you flash back to that?

CHASE ELLIOTT: No, not really. I’m sorry. As a kid, he never unfortunately — I think he sat on the pole one year down here with Ray, the early 2000s, somewhere right in there. I thought he did one year. Maybe they didn’t. But I thought so. I vaguely remember that going on, that success.

At that age, I was more worried about that playground over there, how cool it was. Aside from that, he never really had a lot of success here at Daytona. Unfortunately got caught up in a lot of wrecks. I wasn’t born or able to experience the really good days he had down here, unfortunately.
(Question about sports betting.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: I’m not much of a better. I don’t really bet on anything. I don’t even know. I couldn’t tell you, so… I don’t bet. If you bet, great.

Pretty easy for you to abide by?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Very easy, yes. Sorry.

(No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: That’s great. I think guys need to be themselves. I try to be myself. I think he tries to be himself. He needs to own that. Everybody should own their own, right? He does him, I do me. We go on down the road.
He does have a good personality. He’s quick-witted, a funny guy. I enjoy hanging out with him.

Being voted the most popular driver, it’s probably not as good as winning 12 races in a year, how much does that mean to you? How much do you think it’s a bit of your dad’s residue as well?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I’m not going to sit here and say I did it all, because I certainly didn’t.
A couple things regarding that. One, I often wonder why me. I can certainly see why my dad, his upbringing, what he had, where he ended up, the success he had, anybody can appreciate that, right? That’s the story that everybody likes to hear.

From my perspective, I’m like, Why me? From my angle, I think the votes are cool, the trophy is cool to have, but there’s nothing cooler than seeing the hats and the T-shirts, people cheering for you on Sundays. That’s part of something I’ll never forget. If I never win it again, that will be the coolest piece from 2018, from the fans’ perspective. I certainly noticed it. If they’re making noise one way or the other, it’s a good thing.

Last year was cheers for us, and I appreciate it. We’ll try to gain some more fans as time goes. I’m going to keep being me. If you want to follow along, that’s great. If not, that’s great, too. Glad to have you.

NASCAR’s decision makers are starting to weigh in about the future.


No, NASCAR. Start weighing some changes, whether it’s the schedule, bringing in new manufacturers. What most do you have your eye on? Any of that have your attention at all?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Man, no. I don’t write the rules. That’s not my job. I’m not sure. I used to get kind of fired up about stuff, be frustrated about different things here and there. It’s out of my hands, way above my position.

I’m happy to be here and happy to be driving. I’ll keep focusing on racing on Sundays. If they seek out my opinion, want to ask me, I’d be happy to give it to them behind closed doors, but not here right now.

Do you think the schedule is a something?

CHASE ELLIOTT: My opinion is irrelevant on that.

(No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: Obviously Daytona is a big race. Having it at the beginning of the year, you don’t really think about that, how you kind of get over it because the year is so long. Yeah, I had a fast car here last year. All that was kind of drown out by having a good couple summer months.

Yeah, I think beginning of the year, if you have a bad day down here, you can kind of move on from it just because you’re not racing for a championship here. It’s the first race of the year. I think the championship to me means more than this race does. I think that can overshadow an unfortunate day down here.

From where you were four years ago when you started this to now, where do you think you personally have grown or changed the most?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I don’t really know. I’d like to think I’ve just gotten better as a driver. I think as time goes, you get more experience…
Sometimes you don’t think or don’t feel like you’ve progressed from a driving standpoint. But as you do things, get some repetition to it, you do improve. I would like to think that some experience in my years doing it I’ve gotten a little better.

I can’t say my approach is really different. I can’t really say — I don’t feel like I’m any different of a person than I was three years ago.

Just like to think I’ve improved some at driving, and ultimately that’s what I want to improve at, get better at. Hopefully that’s the case.

Double duty this weekend. Talk about how that came together.

CHASE ELLIOTT: It was kind of a last-minute deal. They have become a partner of mine. They’re on the car with Bubba on Sunday. Great way to get them started off. An opportunity came up to run, they jumped right on it. It was great. Great to have them. They’ve been great to work with really ever since they got involved with us last year.
I look forward to having them on the car. Car looks good. I don’t have any plans to run any races after Daytona with them or anything, or JRM. But we’ll see how Saturday goes and we’ll try to get them a win.

What are some of the better conversations you’ve had with your old man on the road?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Nothing I can share here, I don’t think. It’s kind of funny. He doesn’t listen to the radio much. We’ll be driving, doesn’t matter if it’s 30 minutes or three hours, radio is not being turned on by him. If anybody is going to turn it on, it’s going to have to be somebody else.

I stuck Blaney in the front seat, I sat in the back and listened to some music. I’m not sure what they talked about. I think I was watching a movie or something in the back.
Yeah, it’s funny. He does not listen to music riding down the road.

Do you like talking about the vintage races with him?

CHASE ELLIOTT: We don’t really talk about much honestly. As I told you before, we don’t spend a lot of time talking about racing. We do here or there. It’s more about other things, flying, stuff like that.

What is your lookout for Sunday? Car looking pretty good?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I’m not sure. If we don’t crash it tomorrow night, I think it will be all right. I’d like to just make it through tomorrow evening without wrecking another car. I’m two deep right now. I would like to halt there.
Yeah, if we can do that, I think we’ll have as good a shot as anybody.

Without a car chief, does that make it more imperative for you not to crash tomorrow night?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I do think it’s important. There’s kind of a flipside to that. If we don’t crash, I think it could be a good thing because Josh can be working on our Atlanta car, getting our stuff ready to go to the West Coast, which is the silver lining in all that, if there is one.

The flipside is if we do tear something up tomorrow, we lost an extra hand that would be nice to have in that case. We’ll try our best not to crash. Certainly want to put ourselves in aggressive positions and race like we always have to see if you can learn something for the 500.

Yeah, I do think having him gone would be a big deal if we were to have to get another car ready. And the fact that I crashed in the Clash practice and crashed our backup car on Sunday, we’re in deep at this point.

Might be running our Atlanta car if I crash another one. We’ll see.

You’ve been teammates with Jimmie for several years. What have you made out of the comments whether he was done, can’t get the job done? Do you feel he’s going to surprise people this year?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I don’t know why it would be a surprise to anyone. That’s silly to me. It’s really stupid, in my opinion, that anybody would even think that the guy can’t do it any more. I mean, silly, silly. When you have that much success, just like you guys asking me when I’m going to win a race, in his case, When are you going to win again? If it wasn’t that, one or the other. It’s always going to be something. You’re always going to ask the question. Always going to be a topic of conversation.

When a guy has had that much success, won seven championships, 83 races, it should never be a question whether or not somebody can drive a car, go win. That should never even be thought about.

Online racing, you’re my son’s favorite driver. He refuses to race you. Do you recommend any games for kids to play?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I don’t play a lot. But he certainly should not be afraid to beat me. I crash a lot down here. If he wrecks, if he wrecks on the video game, unfortunately it would be a lot like me three attempts thus far, so…

Tell him not to be scared.

How tough is it going against the Fords?
CHASE ELLIOTT: It’s hard to say. I don’t know what their game plan is, how they approach races, how much they’re working together, crossing organizations. I don’t know. I don’t know that for any manufacturer aside from our own.

That’s up to them. They can run their races how they want. That’s their choice. I really have no idea. They certainly have been strong at Talladega, and they’ve had fast cars here, too. They have great plate racers, too, driving their cars. That makes a big difference. I think if you put Brad or Joey in another car, they’re probably going to run still good in them, too.