For Chase Elliott, the best title defense is a good offense

FORT WORTH, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 02: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, stands on the grid during the Salute to Veterans Qualifying Day Fueled by The Texas Lottery for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 02, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Chase Elliott may be the defending champion in the NASCAR Cup Series, but protecting his status isn’t remotely close to his focal point entering the 2021 season.

“There is no defending,” Elliott said on Monday during a video conference with reporters. “We need to be on offense. We need to keep pushing. I think if you’re back on your heels and trying to protect something, I don’t think your mind is in the right place.

“We want more. We’re not trying to play defense. We just simply want more. That needs to be our outlook and keep it as simple as that.”

You might think Elliott would consider the addition of four road course races to the schedule a major advantage. After all, five of his 11 career victories have come on road courses. Elliott has won the last four NASCAR road races, including the Cup Series’ maiden voyage last year on the Daytona International Speedway Road Course, which will host the second points race of the season on Feb. 21 as well as Tuesday night’s Busch Clash (7 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

All told, seven of the 36 points races in 2021 will take place on road courses, but Elliott’s outlook might come as a surprise.

“There’s not been one part of me that watched the schedule change, saw seven road courses and thought, ‘Yeah, we’ve got it now,’” Elliott said. “That’s just not how I am. The schedule is what it is. I don’t enjoy having any more or less road courses. I really don’t care where we go. At the end of the day, you have to be good everywhere, and I want to be good everywhere.

“We as a team want to get to the point where we can win on any given week—road course, circle track, intermediate, dirt…whatever it is, we want to be able to win at any time. The great teams and the great drivers are capable of doing that, and I think we are capable doing that. So that’s where my head’s at—trying to be good everywhere.”

Greg Engle