NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
CHASE MEDIA DAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
SEPTEMBER 15, 2016
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Chase Media Day and discussed his expectations for the Chase, how it feels to be a Rookie in the Chase and many other topics. Full Transcript:
Do you feel like you’ve exceeded expectations being in the Chase your first year with Hendrick Motorsports or…
“I don’t know. It’s hard to say or for me to judge. It’s not really for me to judge.
“But for us, I’m definitely proud to be here. I’m excited about it. I think it’s a great opportunity. You know, we want to try to do the best job we can each week, like we always say. But I’m proud of it nonetheless.
“Like I said, that’s kind of for other people to judge, I guess.”
How much did it take to get over the relief of Saturday, then get refocused on what’s at hand?
“Yeah, Saturday was definitely a handful. It wasn’t looking good there at one point. Got in four or five wrecks, cut a tire. So it was a long night, for sure.
“Obviously we were happy to make it through. So we’re past it at this point. Like I’ve said before, you can’t go back in time, so the only option is to move forward and to look at the next week.
“I feel like Alan has had a good plan for Chicago. He’s been prepared whether we were going to make it or whether we weren’t. We had the mindset we were going to be able to get in. We were able to do that. I’m excited.
“I think he’s geared up and ready to get going.”
How do you tackle the Toyotas? It seems like Hendrick has been a little bit off their game this season.
“I just think try to keep improving, you know. And for us, just like anything else, there’s going to be times where things aren’t perfect for you. I think that we’re working hard. There’s a lot of good things I feel like coming down the pipe [sic] for us.
“Things don’t just happen overnight. It takes a lot of time and effort. Folks at Hendrick Motorsports have been working really hard over the past couple months to try to improve and make our stuff better. I think they’ve been doing that.
“For us, we’ve just got to take what’s given some days, but just keep after it. It’s not going to fix itself. So I think putting all of our heads together and try to get going the best that we can and make the most of what we have is the best way to do that, and just keep working together and work through it.”
Can you size up your season so far, as a rookie learning the ropes?
“It’s had its ups and downs, for sure. I’m proud of some moments, not so proud of others. But, you know, we’ve given ourselves a couple opportunities to contend for a couple wins, which I think is good. Not so good to not be able to capitalize on those opportunities. As I’ve said before, that’s disappointing.
“I think you have to look at the positives of the fact that we were able to, you know, be a contender some this year, which I think is good. Other weeks, we’ve had our struggles, like anybody else. But I think we’ve got to put the positives together and get ready for these next few weeks.”
“I think we have to have the mindset that we can go to Homestead and give ourselves the best chance we can to give ourselves a shot. I think if you don’t have that mindset, if you don’t have it in your head that you’re going to make it to Homestead, then you should have let the guy behind you in points in.
“So I think that’s how you have to view it regardless of what anybody else thinks. That’s just the way your team and your group internally has to think about it and go forward and try to execute on that.”
Did you talk to Gordon at all after Richmond?
“He sent me a text after the race. I knew it wasn’t his fault. I wasn’t concerned with it at all. It was a racing deal. You hate, of course, it had to be two teammates, it had to be myself and Jeff. But at the end of the day we both get it and our teams get it.
“You know, it’s one of those situations, we’re all racing hard. Ryan was trying to get himself in, as we were. So you can’t fault folks for that. It was just one of those situations where we were on the unfortunate end.
But luckily, you know, cut our tire where we did. We didn’t cut it in the center of the corner, we cut it going down the straightaway. It worked itself out. It’s all good.
“He did give me an apology, but it wasn’t at all necessary.”
How have the practices debriefings been with the revolving door with the 88 car?
“It’s been good. I mean, Jeff’s had a lot of good input, as you would expect. Honestly, Alex has done a good job, too. I think he was going to be a really strong contender at Michigan a few weeks ago had he not had his issue. So I think he’s done a good job of helping us as far as trying to get better.
“And I think he’s brought a lot to the table. He’s also done a good job of helping himself. He’s in a situation where he’s got a lot to prove. I think he’s a guy who can prove that he can do it. I think he’s done a really good job. He’s won a lot of races. I’ve raced with him for a number of years now. I think he’s deserving of the opportunity he has. I’m excited to see how he does these next races he has, including this weekend.”
How are you going to balance being the first time in the Chase, trying to win a championship, but also maybe just trying to kind of figure things out?
“Yeah, I think a little bit of both. You kind of just have to take it a week at a time and see what time brings you. I think for us, we just need to, like I said, not get ahead of ourselves. This is a long stretch of races. It’s obviously a very important stretch of races. We just need to try to be ourselves, go and have that goal each week to try to go and win each weekend.
“I think if you come to the racetrack with that mindset and come and try to execute each weekend the best you can, minimize those mistakes, that’s all we can do. We’re going to try to do that to the best of our ability and hope for the best. “
You’re driving in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles car this weekend. Did you have a favorite growing up?
“I did not. I was never a real big Ninja Turtle watcher. Can’t say that I did.”
A bit of a lull between the two Michigan races. Can you point to anything that you saw that might have had an effect on your performance during that stretch?
“To be honest with you, I thought we had some strong cars between those two Michigan races. I made a lot of really dumb mistakes I thought between those two races. I took some weekends that I felt like we deserved some good finishes as far as what my team guys deserved, and I kind of took that away from everyone.
“So I don’t necessarily know that it was a product of, you know, bad cars or anything. I feel like we had some solid runs and some solid cars those weekends. I just made some mistakes that earned us some bad finishes.”
You raced against a lot of these Cup guys in other series. One Cup guy you didn’t race against would have been Tony. In the 26 races, what have you learned in racing with Tony? I guess these are your first 26 races with Tony. What is he like? What’s allowable and what’s not with your relationship?
“Yeah, for sure, Tony is a guy I’ve looked up to for a long time. As many of you guys know, Tony was the first guy, other than my dad, I was ever okay with pulling for. I’ve always had a lot of respect for him.
“It’s kind of funny watching him and how he is with Kevin’s son Keelan. I kind of remember that being kind of how he was with me, which is kind of cool. I could assume Keelan will have some of those memories as he grows up, looks back at going to the racetrack with his dad.
“I have a lot of respect for Tony. I’ve enjoyed racing with him. I’m glad that he decided to wait one more year because that is a pretty special moment for me to be able to race against one of my heroes like that.
“So, you know, I don’t necessarily look at him any different than I do anybody else when it comes to a competitor or how you treat anyone. But, you know, I think he’s obviously done a good job. I have a lot of respect for him. I expect him to be strong in these next few weeks.”
Have you had any run-ins with him or conversations?
“I can’t say. I don’t know that we have, other than just your normal conversations at the racetrack. A small thing at Loudon, the 78 car I think was missing a third gear or something. Tony and I got together. I was trying to work my way out of line so I could get past him.
“But other than that, I mean, that was really a racing deal, but it wasn’t a problem that we ran into. I didn’t feel like, at least.”
How much have you talked to the other guys in the Chase, with this being your first Chase, about what to expect going into these elimination rounds?
“You know, we’ve discussed some amongst our team, kind of amongst Jimmie, myself and Alan. Jeff’s been involved in those conversations, as well. We’ve talked about it some, kind of how we want to approach it. Just try to be solid and eliminate as many mistakes as we can. Just take it a week at a time, like I’ve been saying. No need in getting ahead find yourself. There’s no guarantees you’re going to make it to the next round or how the weekend’s going to go, for that matter. Just focusing on that and trying to keep it as simple as possible.”
Do you feel like you have to win this year to call it a good season from your perspective?
“I certainly would love to, for sure. That’s definitely my goal. You know, that’s a goal I have each week. That’s the goal we have each week as a team. We definitely would love to.
“No, I don’t necessarily think you have to put that kind of a title on it, but I do think that’s a goal of ours, and we certainly want to achieve our goals like anybody else.”
Are you under the radar going into the Chase? Are you favored?
“It’s not for me to look at. I look at our group as being our group. I really don’t care how anybody else looks at us. It really doesn’t matter.”