Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin take different approaches to Championship 4

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)

After winning last Sunday’s Round of 8 finale at Martinsville Speedway, Chase Elliott had neither the time nor the inclination to celebrate.

“To be real honest, I came home and went to bed—just to be real clear on that,” said the driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. “I would have loved to come home, had a few beers, whatever, hung out. Just kind of the way it worked out. We had meetings Monday morning, obviously a big week of prep going into this last event.

“Really just kind of after the race tried to enjoy the moment, embrace it, recognize that situations and moments like that don’t happen every day. Really enjoy that. At the same time, just get ready and think about Monday and what we’re going to talk about in our meetings looking ahead to Phoenix.”

If Elliott comes to his first Championship 4 appearance with single-minded focus, Hamlin appreciates the value of diversion as he faces the pressure of his third title race under the current elimination format. Last year, Hamlin played tennis on the eve of the season finale.

This year, Hamlin, a single-digit handicapper, will spend part of his Phoenix visit on the golf course.

“I’m different when it comes to that,” Hamlin said. “I look for distractions versus people trying to avoid them. I tried to avoid them in 2010 (when he lost a heartbreaker to Jimmie Johnson), and it was the worst mistake I ever made was just not enjoying the weekend. It was my birthday weekend. Why wouldn’t I celebrate that anyway?

“It’s my personality. I make sure that I spend the dedicated amount of time I need to do to prepare, and beyond that, I do my normal, everyday routine, which is just live life. I was at a friend’s daughter’s birthday party a couple days ago, and I’ll go golfing tomorrow for the next couple days, and I’m just—I’m happy with the result, because I know that I’m going to be prepared when I get in the car on Sunday to do the best job possible.”

Hamlin comes to Phoenix with seven wins this season. Elliott brings four victories to his Championship 4 debut.