MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
COKE ZERO 400
DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
JUNE 29, 2017
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 24 NAPA PATRIOTIC CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed his contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports (HMS), the past few races, his relationship with Dale Earnhardt Jr., at HMS, his approach to the Daytona race this weekend, and more. Full Transcript:
YOU AND HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AGREED TO A CONTRACT EXTENSION THROUGH THE 2022 SEASON. AND YOU WILL BE SPORTING A RED-WHITE-BLUE PAINT SCHEME, WHICH WILL HELP TO KICK-OFF NAPA’S GET BACK & GIVE BACK EFFORT WHILE BOOSTING AWARENESS FOR THE INTREPID FALLEN HEROES FUND. AND YOU’LL BE WEARING A PAIR OF RACING SHOES THIS WEEKEND AND PROCEEDS FROM AN AUCTION FOR THOSE WILL BE DONATED TO THE INTREPID FALLEN HEROES FUND. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT ALL THAT?
“Yeah, It’s definitely been an exciting week. I’m thankful for the opportunity and the chase to stay at Hendrick Motorsports for another five and a half years. I’m really excited about it. It’s something I’ve been wanting to share with you for a couple of weeks since we got it done. It’s been an honor to work with the men and women that make Hendrick Motorsports go around every day. And as I’ve told everyone (the media) before, I owe so much to Mr. Hendrick and what he’s done for me and really just kind of believing in me from the time I met him, for some reason, and still does and has continued to do that as time has gone along. So, I owe an awful lot to him, not just for the opportunities he’s given me, but for the faith he’s had in me over the years. Even when nobody else does, he does; and he’s made that very apparent for everybody else to see. That means a lot to me. You don’t see people like that in this world very often these days that are willing to go out of they way to help you. And he’s one of those guys. I’m very lucky to have him on my team to do that.
“As far as this weekend goes, we are sporting a special paint scheme. NAPA has been a supporter of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund for a number of years. I’ve been with NAPA for a few years now and we’ve done this paint scheme each year and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund supports veterans with PTSD and brain injury and NAPA has donated a lot of money, I think over $7 million over the course of their support of that fund. It’s been a great partnership with them. It’s a great opportunity for us to show that support and a great place to do it here at Daytona.”
REGARDING THE CONTRACT, DID YOU TALK TO OTHER PEOPLE? DOES THIS DO ANYTHING TO YOU NOW THAT IT’S SIGNED THAT WILL MAKE IT EASIER ON YOU?
“I don’t really know that it really changes how I go about my job. I think if the length of a contract changes how you go about your job, then you’re in the wrong sport. I feel very passionate about that. I think you have to bring the same amount of intensity and drive each weekend, whether your contract is good for ten years or this is your last race. I think that’s how you need to go about it or anything that you do. So, I’m not changing how I race or how well I want to do. We want to win and run well more than anybody else wants us to or thinks they want us to. We are certainly very driven to want to continue to do well, regardless.”
“No, we haven’t. At the end of the day, he’s a guy who has been so consistent and has stood by his words since day one. That in itself is enough to stay true to him. So, I haven’t had any interest and don’t. I’m very happy to be where I am and what a great opportunity to stay there for five and a half more years. I think it’s great and I’m happy to be affiliated with the people that are there and especially him.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT BRISTOL AND WHAT THAT TRACK MEANS TO YOU AS BEING IMPORTANT ON THE CIRCUIT? YOUR AVERAGE FINISH IN THREE STARTS THERE IS EIGHTH.
“I like Bristol. The Bristol night race is one of the coolest races of the year, for sure. It’s a race I’ve always enjoyed watching on TV as a fan. It was always one of my favorite races to go to and watch. I think just because of that, it’s special to me. So, I certainly want to run well there. We had a really good run there at the spring race last year and went back in the fall and really weren’t as fast and didn’t quite have it and struggled with some of the same things this past spring. Hopefully we can get back to what we found there in the spring race of 2016, which is a long time ago, I know. But it’s still the same Bristol and the same tendencies to you fight are going to be there regardless of the year or the rules package of that week. You just focus on what you know you have to do well there and run on the top and try to make the bottom work on restarts and just some of the same things that Bristol is known for nowadays.”
IT WASN’T LONG AGO WHEN YOU WERE WONDERING WHAT YOU HAD TO DO TO TURN YOUR SEASON AROUND. BUT YOU COME TO DAYTONA WITH FOUR STRAIGHT TOP-8 FINISHES. ARE THINGS TRENDING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION? HAVE YOU HIT ON SOMETHING?
“I really can’t say we’ve done anything any different over the past few weeks preparation-wise leading into the races, at track, or during practice. Our approach really hasn’t changed. I think we just haven’t run over random pieces of debris on lap 20 of a 600-mile race and just luckily haven’t had the stupid things happen that did throughout the month of May. So, I think we had some fast cars throughout that month but obviously never really had anything to show for is results-wise. And it doesn’t matter if you do or not when you have days like that. But no, we haven’t changed anything that we’re doing effort-wise or preparation-wise. I think our execution of races over the past few weeks would be the only thing, in my opinion, that has been better. I think we’ve done a much better job of executing races from a strategy standpoint, from a pit road standpoint, or from my end; even when we don’t have cars that are winning cars that day. Last week, I look at our effort at Sonoma. I wrecked on Friday in practice and put everything behind. We went to a car that was pretty old in the shop. We qualified pretty good and got in the race and really struggled to start. Our strategy was great. Our pit stops were awesome. We were able to stay out of trouble and got a top 10 out of a day that probably wasn’t going to be one. It was kind of the same with Michigan. I don’t know that we were a second place car, but the execution on pit road, we had the fastest pit stop of the day. Things like that can make just a mediocre day pretty good. Those are the kinds of things you have to do to compete in this deal.”
YOU HAVE STARTED ON THE POLE HERE A COUPLE OF TIMES AND I KNOW THE DAYTONA 500 THIS YEAR WAS JUST GUT-WRENCHING FOR YOU. HOW DO YOU FEEL WHEN YOU ROLL UP HERE IN DAYTONA?
“I feel really good about our superspeedway program. It’s been really improving since I started racing and we were able to sit on the pole in 2016 and this past February. I feel like our race this past February, just the execution of the Duels, the whole 500 race and all that went really, really well. We ran better throughout the whole course of the race in this past 500 than we did in 2016. We didn’t make it very far in 2016 but regardless I think our car was more suited to run well in the race this past year and I think I noticed that and it showed up and was pretty apparent when the race started. I think our car had the same tendencies and ability at Talladega this year but that didn’t go very well either. I thought our car was pretty fast and was able to do things that we would like to see in our race car and I could be that guy. When you talk about plate racing you want to be the guy that everybody wants to work with to push and help. If that is the case, then opportunities are going to be there that typically wouldn’t be if you were slower and couldn’t make a lane move forward. It’s really hard to see that in practice and see who is going to be that person or what cars are going to be those cars that you want to work with. But once the race starts, it becomes apparent who those cars are and who is going to be good. It seems like people are just magically more interested in helping you and being with you when that is the case, so that is our goal.”
SOME PEOPLE ARE PRO RESTRICTOR PLATE TRACKS AND SOME ARE AGAINST THEM. WHERE DO YOU FALL?
“Just middle of the road. As I have said before, we do it four times a year and the points pay the same at all of them just like they do at every other track. So the way I see it is that you either accept it and make the most of those races…..and there are guys that have accepted it and won a lot of them over the past three or four years. I think you want to be in that boat than against it.”
DO YOU THINK OTHER DRIVERS, IF THEY CAN’T WIN THIS RACE WOULD LIKE TO SEE DALE JR WIN THIS RACE, EVEN OVER A TEAMMATE BECAUSE OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES?
“He is a teammate and a great friend, but I certainly want to out-run him. I am not going to feel bad about out-running someone for sure if I can do it. I am sure there are a lot of fans and a lot of people who would love to see it but as a racer I think it’s hard to pull for anybody else. I think he would say the same thing about me or anybody else, so like I said, it’s definitely a big day at Daytona for sure. Earnhardts have had a lot of success here at the speedway. Dale Sr. and Jr. have won a lot of races down here and his last race at Daytona is a big deal, but I can’t say that I would like to see him win over me by any means. I would rather out-run him but I am sure there are a lot of people that would like to see him do well. I would be happy for him if he was to go on and win the race and I am not going to be upset about that if that is what you are asking. I think if that happens there will be a lot of happy people. I would be happy for him if that is the case but I would rather it be us.”
WHAT HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP BEEN LIKE WITH DALE JR AT HENDRICK BEEN LIKE AND HOW HAS YOUR OPINION OF HIM CHANGED OR HAS IT?
“I can’t say that it has really changed. He has been a good friend and teammate to me. He is a hard competitor and its very apparent that he wants to do well and is driven. He gets tied in with what is going on at the race track and he spends a lot of time focused on that. He puts a lot of time and effort in to run well, as everyone wants to do. My opinion of him is that he is a hard competitor, a very good friend, a great teammate, and has been a guy that has been offering help and lending a hand to our race team. Anytime that I have asked for it he has always been an open book and from a teammate’s perspective, I don’t know what else you can ask for.”
YOU ARE SECOND TO DALE ON THE LAST LAP HERE, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?
“I am just hoping I have the right push to get around him.”
NO HESITATION TO PASS HIM?
“Absolutely not. I wouldn’t think twice about it if I had an opportunity to pass him. I am not going to let anybody win. Would you?”
REGARDING BUBBA WALLACE AND GETTING IN AN ICONIC CAR, HAVE YOU TALKED TO HIM OR WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE HIM?
“I haven’t talked to him a whole lot about it. Other than I’m just happy for him that he has a chance to go and run. It was kind of bittersweet that he got his first Cup opportunity the same week they shut down his Xfinity team. Which was a bummer in a lot of ways but an opportunity to go and race on the Cup side. I think he has done a good job and has learned a lot over the course of the few races that he has run. That 43 car is always fast down here and I don’t see why it would be any different with him. The racing and the drafting is certainly different in the Cup series from what it is in the Xfinity car. I think he is a guy that will see that very, very quickly. He is a guy that has been doing this long enough that he will pick up on it and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a contender Saturday night.”
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