Chevy Racing–NASCAR–Martinsville Wrapup

STP 500
APRIL 2, 2017

Larson Maintains Point Lead for Chevrolet

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 2, 2017) – A solid day for Chase Elliott netted a third- place finish in the STP 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia. Elliott, who was a top contender in his No. 24 SunEnergy1 Chevrolet SS, led twice for 20 laps and won the second stage of the 500-mile event. It was also his first top-10 finish in four races at the .526-mile track.

Elliott, who won Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) race in the No. 23 Allegiant Airlines/NAPA Chevrolet, credits that experience with today’s strong run.

“I think it (the NCWTS win) helped a little bit,” said Elliott. “We’ve got a little work to do, but it was much improved. We hopefully have a good direction and we can build on this for the fall. This was an important race and we’d love to have a good run then.”

Austin Dillon finished fifth in his No. 3 Okuma Chevrolet SS, earning his best result of 2017 thus far, he was followed in the finishing order by AJ Allmendinger in sixth, piloting the No. 47 Kroger Clicklist Chevy SS. On the strength of his recent win at Phoenix, Ryan Newman brought his No. 31 Chevrolet SS home in the eighth position to give Team Chevy four of the top eight finishing spots.

Kyle Larson, who won last week’s race at Auto Club Speedway in his No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS, finished 17th and remains the current MENCS point leader; while Elliott is just four markers behind Larson in the standings.

Brad Keselowski (Ford) was the race winner, Kyle Busch (Toyota) finished second, and Joey Logano (Ford) was fourth to round out the top 5.

The next stop for MENCS will be at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, April 9.



THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by today’s third‑place finisher, Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 24 SunEnergy1 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Intense race out there today, Chase. You got a stage win there at stage 2, a lot of hard racing going on. Could you walk us through that stage win and your overall finish?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, yeah, as Kyle was talking, about kind of had that one handed to us. For me, at this place I was way much improved than I’ve ever been here in the past, which I thought was great. This is such an important race, especially when you come back here in the fall, it’s not a place that you can just get by with running bad in life, expect to just go on in the playoffs if you’re a part of it.

I was really proud of our improvements this weekend. I hope that it wasn’t just a fluke deal and we didn’t just get lucky today and run good. I really hope that we’ve found something or I have found something at this track that will lend some more consistent finishes that are further towards the front.

Q. Chase, yesterday when you were in here, you told us that you really didn’t think a lot of what happened yesterday would apply to today, and yet here you sit again with a playoff point and a really solid run. I mean, what do you take for future Martinsville races away from what you did today, and what did you guys find throughout the day that ultimately got you back to third because I know there was one stint there in the middle where you guys were struggling pretty good.

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, we started the race, and for whatever reason my car would not turn at all for the first three or four laps, and I about knocked whoever was on the outside of me back to Charlotte a couple times I felt like on accident, and I thought we were going to drop like a rock. Fortunately, I don’t know if it was just being on the splitter or whatever it was, but actually our car kind of came to life and started turning pretty good, and from there it drove pretty similar throughout the entire day. Like I said, I hope it’s a consistent trend, that we can continue to run decent here. Obviously, we’d love to kind of take that next step and try to contend for a win. But from where I’ve been here in the past, night and day, so I was really happy and proud of that.

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by today’s fifth‑place finisher in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series STP 500 here at Martinsville Speedway, and that is none other than Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Okuma Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. You had an incredible run going out there, ran as high as third and had that No. 3 Chevrolet up in contention all day. Walk us through your run, and what made you so successful today?

AUSTIN DILLON: Well, you know, first off, we’ve got to thank the guys. They had a really fast race car, and we didn’t panic. We didn’t have the speed the first couple practices, which for some reason I never do here. It’s just a trend. I can’t go fast enough to start, and then we consistently get better throughout practice and the race. It’s nice to do that, but I wish I could not give the field half a race before we get up through there.

Starting 20th was big for us because our last practice was good. Our car had takeoff speed the whole day. It’s the first race car we’ve had that can actually restart and go for the first five laps, and that’s a lot of fun, and we’ve got to focus on that. I think the way the new racing is with the stages and stuff, short run speed is key, and if you have long‑run speed, falloff, it really doesn’t matter because you’re going to get a caution at some point.

But I’m just proud of the guys. We finished fourth here last year, and to come back and back it up with a fifth, it’s one of my favorite tracks, and really at one point I thought we were going to have a little something for the two leaders, but middle of the run our car just lacked a little bit more turn and forward drive, and then at the end we could come back to them again. I think I was running the 22 back down there at the end. Just proud of my guys and thankful for this run. We needed it.

Q. Austin, today was sort of a pretty good endorsement of the stage racing. Were you surprised how those first couple of stages ended?

AUSTIN DILLON: No, I wasn’t surprised. I was on the edge of the first stage. I was running seventh and it got wild there at the end, and tried to block the outside, and ended up being ninth. I was just thankful to get a point in that stage. But it definitely got wild at the end. That’s what we’re creating, and I like that. I mean, it’s fun, and as long as you’re not in the guy’s that’s getting wrecked or turned or any of that, my day was good.

Q. Austin, first top 10 of the year, and I know obviously, Newman got the win at Phoenix. He finishes in the top 10, as well, today. Does it feel good for you to kind of reaffirm that there’s a resurgence going on for RCR?

AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, top 5, too, that’s even better. No, it’s really key that we do stuff like this, and short tracks have been a lot better for us the last year, and this year it was good to come back and repeat that.

We’ve still got work to do, but it’s huge to see RCR running better and having cars capable of running with guys like this. It’s just fun to see his back bumper most of the time.

Q. Austin, near halfway Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) came on the radio and told you to get aggressive and be aggressive. How aggressive did you have to be to get in the top 5?

AUSTIN DILLON: Well, it kind of came to us. The car allowed me to be good on restarts, and I think that’s almost better than having to be aggressive. If your car is good at points and turns, that makes it a lot easier. Strategy worked out where we stayed out on tires and never came and lost track position, and our car was good enough to hold on the long runs.
It just worked out for us. We got spun early in the race, and it was one of those deals where the 77 was inside, and he came down, and it was like half ‑‑ I needed to go in harder and probably move him up or give him it, and it caused the big kind of crash there and jumbled up a bunch of guys. But it’s hard there. We left and he just kept coming left. I hit him, and then Denny hit me and whoever hit Denny kind of shoved and ruined their day. I didn’t want that to happen to those guys.

Q. I know you talked earlier about the resurgence for RCR, but today in general, just it started kind of crazy and it ended different than we all expected. Were you surprised that this race went as long as it did to the finish after 14, 16 cautions earlier in the day, to go that long green to the end?

AUSTIN DILLON: Not really. I mean, it finally just calmed down. There were enough wrecks where people were finally like, let’s get some laps under our belt, I think, and didn’t get banged around.

It’s just Martinsville. It’s streaky like that, and I bet if you look at the history there’s a lot of stuff that goes up and down, and the race kind of plays out that way. You never know how it’s going to end.

“Yeah, Chris, he was like the steady. I felt like I went from the front to the back a few times, but he kind of kept the pace up there. He did a fantastic job. He is a Xfinity champion, he knows what he is doing. He has so much experience. We both struggled over the West Coast swing. I feel like we’ve learned a lot as a race team, but having him there instead of being by myself having him there over the West Coast swing to bounce ideas off of and figure out where we were lacking has been a big deal. I look forward to the next five to 10 races. I think we have the right direction for our program. Both of our cars can be fast.”

“You know it was really weird. At first no and then the middle of the race hell yeah, and then third of the race no, not really and right at the end I was like ‘oh hell yeah’ we are… this is the best we’ve ever been here on a long run. I knew we needed… I kept hating to see all those yellows. I knew we needed about 100-120 green flag laps there because the car was so fast. I wish we would have had it there at the end. Randall Burnett (crew chief) probably one of the best races he has called when it comes to adjustments. Just to work together like that, we both have to work on each other. We are both animated we kind of feed off each other. We have a weekend like this where we learn and are able to stay calm and keep building our race cars the way we are we will be okay.”