Chevy Racing–NASCAR–Daytona Media Day–Chase Elliott

FEBRUARY 22, 2017

CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 24 NAPA CHEVROLET SS AND KYLE LARSON, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at the annual Daytona 500 media day at Daytona International Speedway. Full Transcript:

THE MODERATOR: We’re joined now by your Coors Light pole award winner, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet, Chase Elliott. I’ll go ahead and start taking questions right away.

Q. Did you guys exchange Thunderbird stories, and how did it go?

CHASE ELLIOTT: We did talk about it some. I really enjoyed my time, as I said last year. It was a lot of fun, and flying a little bit myself, I have ‑‑ you watch and you see what those guys do, but until you actually go and be a part of that, I just couldn’t imagine ‑‑ that is physically very trying on your body and very tough to just not pass out and stay awake through all that, and I couldn’t imagine being in a dogfight with somebody and trying to shoot somebody down or being shot at and being in one of those situations. A lot of respect for those guys, and they’re great people, too, very down to earth, and easy to work with. I enjoyed my time for sure.

Q. How have the last couple of days been different for you this year compared to last year when you won the 500 pole?

CHASE ELLIOTT: You know, really I haven’t ‑‑ I’ve kind of had a pretty laid‑back past couple days, just enjoying my time down here, and I have some friends in the area, so I like to stay throughout this week to kind of spend some time with them and hang out. I just enjoy that. I don’t really know that those two days have been different per se as far as what I’ve been doing. I think it was pretty similar last year, but just kind of my outlook I think is a little different. As you go along, obviously last year going the way it did, having such a great beginning of Speedweeks, qualifying well, and getting to the XFINITY race and running good in it, things were just going really good, and as the Sunday rolled around, that just kind of went to prove how fast things can go south. They can go south a lot quicker than they can go north. Just keeping that perspective and knowing that ‑‑ I mean, heck, we didn’t even make it to the first pit stop last year, so all that stuff can just be all for naught if you don’t do your job correctly and don’t make sure that you’re where you need to be mentally and with the car setup and the whole deal when it comes to race time, which is the day that counts, obviously.

THE MODERATOR: We’re also joined now by the driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet, Kyle Larson. Kyle, welcome.

Q. Chase, how anxious are you for the Duels to kick off, whether it’s tomorrow night or whether it might push to Friday? Are you really excited and anxious to get into those?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I’m definitely excited to get to the Duels personally. I think nobody ‑‑ we haven’t drafted yet with our 500 car, which I think is going to be important. I think as we saw with ‑‑ I was actually disappointed obviously that the race got rained out on Saturday, but as we got through Saturday night and got the race on Sunday, I was actually kind of glad that we raced on Sunday, and then the sunshine and the heat down here, I think it was good to kind of get some of that information and just see if the cars are going to start driving bad or not. I’m sure these guys will agree that I think handling is probably going to be a bit of an issue on Sunday, especially if it’s warm and the sunshine is beating on the racetrack. I’m anxious just to get a little more time on the track and get a little more in tune with Eddie. There’s a few things that he and I wanted to work on. Eddie is my spotter, and we talked through some of that stuff, and I’m curious if we can correct those couple small things that I think will make a big difference come race time. So that’s a good time for us to do that.

Q. Chase, Elliott Sadler says you’re undefeated in Daytona 500 poles. I wonder if that has sunk in. And also, how much better prepared do you think you are this year to do better in the actual race?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Well, I hope I’ve learned something in the past year. You’d like to think so, at least. I do feel like that from where we were at the spring race here, I actually thought our car when we came back in the July race was way better than our car was in the spring. We wrecked then, too, but it was better until we wrecked. I learned a lot from those two races, and then definitely the race at Talladega.

So to answer your question, yes, I think I’ve learned a lot from the drafting side. I don’t think I have it perfected by any means, but I do think I’ve picked up on some things, which hopefully will help. One thing is you definitely want to try to put yourself in the best position you can to try to make it to the end of the race. Obviously that’s much easier said than done, but trying to position yourself to do that is the most important thing. I’ve struggled with that down here, so hopefully we can correct that on Sunday.

And as far as the qualifying goes, you know, it’s definitely a privilege to be able to drive fast race cars, and as anybody knows and as Elliott knows, I have very, very little to do with qualifying here. You know, really just try not to mess up going through the gears, and if you do that, the rest of it is just kind of up to the Hendrick engine shop and the body shop and the 24 team to have everything tuned correctly and balanced out like they hope they had it for Sunday, and luckily they hit on it, and we were able to put down a good lap.

I really think that the coolest part about that whole deal is Alan having won that pole three times in a row is the first time anybody has done that since Uncle Ernie did it with Dad in the ’80s, and that was something that was really cool to me, and that’s really been kind of the coolest part about it is hearing that, and that’s pretty special, I think, a little bit of family heritage there with Alan, and I’m proud to have, like I said, a very, very small part in that.

Q. Kyle, just talk about your outlook going into this weekend, but also I’m hearing a little bit that you guys may be flirting with a third team potentially down the road. Is there anything in the works if you can get the sponsorship for that?

KYLE LARSON: That’s the first I’d heard of that. Yeah, I hadn’t heard anything like that. But yeah, as far as our outlook for this week, I’m excited, like both of them said. None of us have gotten to draft with our 500 cars yet, so it looks like there’s going to be rain in the morning tomorrow, so our first time in the draft with our 500 cars might be in the Duels if we get those in tomorrow night.

Don’t really know what to expect, but hoping for a solid Speedweeks. I haven’t had a ton of luck up until last year in the 500. I was able to finish ‑‑ well, actually see the checkered flag for once and finish seventh, so if we could finish in the top 10, have a solid start to the season and roll on to the mile‑and‑a‑half’s where we can hopefully run good, it would be nice to get a good start to the season.

Q. Chase, full year under your belt, came close a couple times last year at Pocono, Michigan. What do you have to do to get over the hump, and what was the biggest thing that you took away last season that you learned?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I’d say one of the bigger things is just the amount of time you spend at the racetrack for these Cup events is a lot. I mean, we get hours and hours and hours of practice, and for me that’s ‑‑ the problem I run into is that’s a lot of time for me to mess it up over a weekend. You know, sometimes I felt like I led us down some wrong paths last year in practice that didn’t necessarily suit the balance as well as it needed to for the race, so just kind of thinking back to that, and I’ve said it before, but when we show up at the racetrack each week, when the guys load up that car and they have it on the setup plate before they leave the shop and they have the most confidence and the most ‑‑ they feel the best about what they’re going to take to a race right then when they’re setting it up, so when you unload you have the most confidence in what you have for that racetrack, and I think just not straying too far from that is a good way to lean, and I think I leaned the other way a little bit last year. So just keeping that in mind as the year goes along and trying to kind of step back sometimes and have a little bit of a general perspective of the weekend, and hopefully that’ll improve a little bit.

Q. Do the stings of the races that you almost won but didn’t, does that weigh on you at all coming into this season?

CHASE ELLIOTT: No, I don’t think it weighs on me. I obviously look at those races, and you’re disappointed that you had missed opportunity, but I kind of use it to motivate you to try to go and do a better job next go‑around. So it’s one of those things where, yes, it was unfortunate that we had opportunities and couldn’t get it done, but at the same time, those are mistakes that you need to learn from, and if you can correct it, hopefully those opportunities will be there again and you can capitalize on them again next go‑around.

Q. Kyle, you raced Volusia Wednesday, and things have been crazy there the last week. Was there anything different about the track or anything when you were running it? Was it faster than normal or anything different than what you had felt in the past?

KYLE LARSON: That was my first time racing there last week was Wednesday, so I don’t know as far as know what was different. I think just circumstances, you know, odd wrecks a little bit maybe, and in the worst spot on the racetrack, led to some of those events. But yeah, I don’t really have an opinion because I have only raced there one time.

Q. Kyle, I just wondered if you could talk about this season you have the same crew chief, the team, things kind of seem to be a little bit more consistent. Over the early course of your career you’ve had different things that have come up or have changed. Does it feel like this might be a real good opportunity to step it up even beyond the one win?

KYLE LARSON: Yeah, I think so. You know, we’ve had consistency in our ‑‑ my second year was basically the same team as my first year, and we ran really bad that year. I hope for some really good things for this season. It’s nice to have Chad Johnston and Phil Surgen and Jerame Donley back as my crew chief and engineers. I think Chad last year and Phil and everybody brought a lot of new knowledge to our race team, which really helped the speed of our race cars, so I think we should have a good start to the season, at least I hope so. We had a good test at Phoenix, I thought. We were at least just as good as we were there in the Chase race last year. I was happy about that.

I think Jamie McMurray, he had a decent test at Vegas. Yeah, hopefully we can start these couple months off good. That’s where I’ve struggled in the past, and by the time we get rolling in the middle part of the season, it’s too late almost, and luckily last year we were able to get that win at Michigan to get us into the Chase. Yeah, I hope everybody has worked hard and done their homework over the off‑season and we can fire off good.

Q. Chase, was it any different emotionally to win the pole this year than it was last year?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Obviously your first of anything is really special, so the biggest difference this year, like last year I felt really good about it going into qualifying. This year we were not expecting to qualify very good, so I think the biggest thing emotionally was we just weren’t expecting it, and it was a big surprise to our entire team to go that fast.

That was the biggest thing, which made it kind of fun just because we’d ‑‑ anything better than ‑‑ really anything over making the second round we were going to be pretty happy with. To be first in the first round and actually have a shot at the pole going into the second one, we were excited about that, and like I said, it was just unexpected.

Q. Your off‑track commitments for the sponsors are very unique, and you and Ryan talked about being with the Thunderbirds. I see Joey Logano and his wife are driving a tank; is that something you see in your upcoming plans here?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Driving a tank?

Q. A tank?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I don’t have any plans to drive a tank. It might be kind of cool to look inside one, but I can’t say driving a tank would do a whole lot for me. I mean, maybe, I don’t know. We can’t shoot at anything, so no point in driving it.

KYLE LARSON: They said they were shooting stuff yesterday.

CHASE ELLIOTT: Oh, really? Well, then yeah, let’s go. If we get to shoot something, then yes.

Q. Chase, can you remember your first trip to Daytona when you were a kid, and what does this place mean to you personally?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I don’t remember a first trip in particular. I remember coming here. Unfortunately Dad always had really bad luck down here. It seemed like he never ran really well when we came down ‑‑ I remember they were fast. I think he sat on the front row maybe at one point in the early 2000s. I think, if I’m remembering that right, with Ray. But never seemed to have things go their way in the race. So the racing side, never really had anything special stick out there because he never won when I was little coming to the racetrack with him here.

Honestly, the biggest thing I remember about Daytona is they had the coolest playground of all the racetracks we went to. That one always stood out to me. But aside from that, I don’t really remember a whole lot.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, good luck this weekend. Thanks a lot.