MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
FEBRUARY 22, 2019
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway and discussed racing at his home track, the new rules package, his new interest in photography and many other topics. Highlights from media scrum session:
ON THE NEW RULES PACKAGE:
“…it’s a different feel to Friday’s and practice, so we will see. This evening I’m not sure what we are going to see drafting and what not, but once we get to tomorrow and start making some longer runs, we will have a better judge, but certainly potential, I think.”
HOW SPECIAL IS IT FOR YOU TO RETURN TO ATLANTA?
“I enjoy coming down here. I’ve been racing here for a long time, raced a lot of legend cars and bandolero races here, so it’s a special place to me. Home race track, as close as I’m going to get to the house I guess, so that is always nice. It’s cool to kind of have that hometown crowd feel is always neat here too.”
WHAT TYPE OF PRESSURE IS IT BEING A HOME RACE FOR YOU?
“I don’t necessarily think there is anymore pressure it is just nice to be close to home really more than anything.”
DO YOU EXPECT THE BOTTOM GROOVE TO WORK AS WELL AS IT HAS IN THE PAST?
“Yeah, I think that is kind of one of the things I’m not really sure of and I don’t really know if I’m going to know that until we go and start making some longer race runs tomorrow. I’m excited to see. It’s interesting for sure. You can run wide-open there for a little while. I could run the first five laps or so pretty easily wide-open, but once you do lose it and you do have to lift there is a huge penalty in coming out of the throttle and breaking that momentum with all the drag on the car. It will be interesting. Like I said, I really don’t know until we make some more laps. I only made like eight laps today, so not sure.”
WHAT IS IT LIKE COMING BACK HOME? I ASSUME YOU GET A LOT OF TICKET REQUESTS:
“Yeah, people certainly ask, but I like the fact that people are interested in coming to watch and have a lot of friends from around home that like to come down here. It’s close for all of us to come and enjoy a race weekend. Luckily, the weather looks like it’s going to be nice, finally, the rest of the weekend. That is always encouraging too.”
HOW DO YOU ANTICIPATE DRIVERS AND TEAMS GETTING THROUGH THE LEARNING CURVE OF THIS NEW PACKAGE?
“Well, I don’t know, Sunday you will find out I guess if somebody spanks the field. Until then, I am really not sure what we are going to have. I’m sure there is going to be guys that get it better than others to start, but I think as time goes, everybody is going to continue to develop and make it better and improve their cars and their packages for these race tracks. I think Atlanta, too, is a little different than some other 1.5-mile tracks we are going to visit with the surface. I think your car is probably going to have to drive a little better here than it might at other places. All those things weigh in and I’m sure there is going to be somebody that hits it right on Sunday as a team and as an organization and hopefully it’s us. I don’t really know until we try it.”
WHAT IS THE EFFECT OF THE UNCERTAINTY?
“Well, I think you just don’t know how to approach the weekend. You don’t know how much time to spend in race trim on Friday’s and how much time to spend in qualifying trim, I think that was the big one today is how do we split up this practice and make sure we are using the time effectively. I think that is a big one as time goes on is how much time do, we need to spend in qualifying versus race and then on Sunday seeing how close or not we are to hitting it. It’s going to continue to develop and it’s such a different complexion to Friday than what is has been in year’s past. I’m very curious to see how that evolves and like I said, I think Atlanta is just different in general because there are not a lot of surfaces this old. Which is what makes Atlanta fun.”
DO YOU THINK WITH ALL THE UNKNOWNS THAT DRIVERS WILL BE EXTRA CAREFUL?
“I think the pace is going to dictate that more than anything. I think as the pace is a little slower now, I think everybody is going to be in attack mode in a lot of ways. How that translates into the race and how aggressive people get, I mean there is only so much space on the track right? So, at some point somebody is going to have to draw the line as to what is smart and what is not. We are week two of 38, so surely we will think about that a little bit as the weekend goes.”
DO YOU COME BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN THE WEST COAST SWING?
“I usually like to stay out. I lived in Colorado for a couple of years, so I enjoy going back there and kind of commuting from there instead of coming all the way back. It’s a lot of travel and I’ve done it both ways and your schedule doesn’t always work out, but when you can stay, I think it’s nice.”
WHAT WOULD YOU ADVISE FOR RONALD ACUNA?
“Well, I don’t play baseball, but obviously, I think he has as bright a future as anybody and I just like his attitude from a fan stand point I think it’s awesome. He just kind of takes it as it comes, he doesn’t really seem to be bothered by it and he doesn’t look like he has to pressure himself to death to go and have fun and have results. Those are typically the signs of a good player. I think, the energy he brings to that team is going to rub off. They are a bunch of young guys and I think they have a lot of potential.”
WHAT DO YOU ANTICIPATE RESTARTS BEING LIKE WITH THIS NEW PACKAGE?
“I don’t know. It seems like every time we have had a higher downforce, lower power situation it seems like the top, to me, has been the preferred groove on restarts. I remember it being that way a little bit in the All-Star race last year and then some past races I’ve ran like at Michigan and stuff in the Xfinity car when we had some more downforce on those cars, the top was always the place to be. I know that is not Atlanta, but I would lean toward the top being better if I was guessing right now, although I don’t 100 percent know.”
IN THE PAST THE BOTTOM HAS BEEN SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER CORRECT?
“Yeah, I mean not necessarily on restarts. I always felt like the top had a shot on a restart and what not and the bottom I felt like was the place to be for the longer run at this place, but I always felt like the top got rolling, maybe not in the restart box, but at least through Turns 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 once you got the corner, I thought the top was okay here for the restart.”
WHAT IS THE KEY TO GETTING SUCCESSFUL AT BRISTOL AND DO YOU ENJOY RACING THERE?
“Yeah, I really enjoy racing at Bristol. I think it’s one of the coolest places we go to just environment wise and then race track wise. Just a lot of fun. Short track racing in general is fun. I’ve enjoyed it. Yeah, we’ve had some okay runs there. Feel like we had a really good car there last fall and had a realistic shot there that I didn’t do a very good job of. I think it’s been kind of hit or miss. I remember the spring race of, I think, ’16 being really good and then this past fall race being pretty fast and kind of in-between I feel like has just been mediocre. So, it’s hard to get right. You can just be off a little bit one way or the other and it make a big difference there.”
DO YOU ANTICIPATE THE SPEEDS AT BRISTOL BEING EVEN FASTER THAN THEY HAVE BEEN?
“Yeah, it was already really fast before. I don’t know. I’m excited. Bristol is a fun place. I am not sure what they are going to do with the grip stuff on the bottom that has been a big deal in the past as to how the race track evolves and how the day can change and how the race track groove can change. I think it has been a fun dynamic. I think they are down the right path there, so hopefully they keep going that direction and they can just make that a little better. I feel like that has been a nice mix of bottom to top there the last couple of races.”
WOULD YOU SAY THE GRANDFATHER CLOCK IS THE MOST UNIQUE TROPHY?
“Certainly, a cool trophy. They are all pretty cool really at the end of the day. Yeah, that is an awesome trophy. I’m not sure whose idea that was or whatever way back when, but yeah, I think that is a neat one definitely one of the more unique ones they give away.”
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT IT?
“That it’s a clock not a trophy. I think that is pretty cool. It is a trophy, what it signifies, but it’s just something different which you just don’t see a lot of that.”
IS THERE ANY SENSATION YOU HAD DURING PRACTICE THAT YOU CAN COMPARE TO ANY OTHER CAR OR TRUCK YOU’VE DRIVEN?
“That’s a good question. Maybe a Truck in the past. I never ran Trucks a lot of 1.5-miles. When I was doing it, I was too young to run anything over a mile and road courses, I guess. I didn’t spend a lot of time racing 1.5-miles, but I would be curious to maybe ask William (Byron) or some of these guys that have recently come through the Truck Series and see if it’s similar to that. Yeah, I’m kind of ignorance is bliss on that because I really don’t have a lot of experience with it, so it’s kind of new to me.”
DID YOU ENJOY IT?
“Yeah, I think it’s fine. It’s what we have, so it is what it is. I think it has potential and hopefully can move around and race and really at the end of the day if we can do that, I honestly don’t care how fast we are going. You don’t have to go fast to put on good racing. I think that is the key. Some of the best racing isn’t necessarily going Mach-10. You can be going slow and put on a good show and we are in the business to put on a good show and us earn our living doing so.”
ON HIS SPECIAL RACING SHOES FOR THIS WEEKEND:
“Yeah, thanks for asking, we have been doing this program the past couple of years with my foundation and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. They have been a great partner of ours in trying to grow our foundation and help them. It benefits their summer camps, Children’s does a summer camp every year with some of their patients throughout the hospital. Our program here, myself, Alex (Bowman), William (Byron) and Jimmie (Johnson) have a special pair. They had a contest at the hospital that kids got to draw and design a pair and then we got to pick some winners which was neat. We are going to host them and their families this weekend and hopefully they can have a bright spot in their week and enjoy some time at the race track. All the proceeds are going to Children’s and their summer camp program over this summer. It’s been good. We have grown it the first couple of years and this year we are on track to do better than both of the years as well. Hopefully that is the case and have a lot of my partners being NAPA and on down the list that have contributed to this as well outside of the donations. I think it’s NASCARFoundation.com/ChaseElliott to get in on it and hopefully it does well and we can top what we did last year and the year before.”
HOW DIFFERENT IS THIS WEEKEND FOR YOU?
“Well, a lot of our partners are here in Atlanta which is kind of cool. Like I said, just always nice to be close to the house and be able to drive down here and not have to travel across the country to go somewhere which is nice. Aside from that, I’ve enjoyed racing here too. It’s been a fun race track and I feel like we have had a couple of good runs. I thought we had a really good run here in ’17, kind of struggled last year, but I think we have the ability to be fast and contend. Anytime you can do that, I’m looking forward to going.”
WHAT ABOUT GOING TO TALLADEGA?
“Talladega is Talladega. Obviously, the package is going to be different for there too. Daytona was what we have had in the past. I don’t know what we are going to see. I’m sure we will still see a bunch of wrecks and what not. Hopefully, we are not involved.”
TALK ABOUT PHOENIX:
“The same people ran well there as they always have, so I don’t necessarily think the start/finish thing changed a whole lot. I think the big benefiters like I said last year with that whole situation were the fans. The way the sun sets out there the fans weren’t baking in the sun. Had no effect on us and the same guys that were fast, were still fast and that will continue to be the case. As long as the fans have a better place to sit and watch, I think that is a win.”
WILL THE ATLANTA RACE LOOK DIFFERENT?
“I don’t know. I think it has potential to look different for sure, especially at the beginning of a run. Depending upon how long the run is. Honestly, hard to say. I could see the race track being wider. I could see the top lane and the middle being a more viable option than what is has been in the past, but I could also be wrong there too. I only made eight laps today, so I really don’t know.”
BUBBA WALLACE SAID YOU ARE GETTING INTO PHOTOGRAPHY; CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT?
“Yeah, I enjoy it. My mom is a photographer and she got me a little camera for Christmas this year. I have been playing with it some, it’s fun. I’ve been leaning on Bubba some. He has his stuff at the track a lot, so I would like to get into it more down the road, it just takes time. It’s not an easy hobby and it certainly is time consuming. I’ve got a lot of things going on, so just trying to… I like to do it when I have time, but I still have a lot to learn, it’s not easy.”