OCTOBER 21, 2018

An interview with:


THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our race winner, Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Mountain Dew Chevrolet.

Give us a summary of your day.

CHASE ELLIOTT: It was just a really fun day. Felt like Friday and Saturday were kind of decent. Wasn’t real sure about today. The start of the race, the car drove really nice. We were way closer to the competition I thought than what we were yesterday, which was encouraging. Felt like if we could get some track position, get in front of some of those guys, I felt like we had a shot.

Obviously got lucky with Kevin’s misfortune there. I wish we could have raced him straight up to see who was better. Felt like we were fairly close to him in that second-to-last run. I don’t know how hard he was trying or not. Obviously being behind him, I was working pretty hard to try to keep up, be close if an opportunity arose. Luckily it worked out.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Chase.

Q. Alan was in here and said he thought you had a good shot at Martinsville, Phoenix, Texas was iffy. You had a chance to think about the Round of 8 since the win at Dover. Do you think you have to win? He seems to think you have to win to advance to the final four.

CHASE ELLIOTT: I think that needs to be the mindset, for sure. I think every week has to be pressure packed. You have to keep the pressure on yourselves. If you were to make it to Homestead, you have to pretty much win Homestead. I think you have to have that mentality every week.

The points game is nice I guess to play. Really you just need to care about winning. If you’re trying to win, putting yourself in position to win, that’s way more important than just barely trying to squeak through.

Having the ability to win, do it weekly, putting yourselves in those positions week by week is the most important thing. If we can do that these next three weeks, I think we can give ourselves a chance.

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: Texas has been the worst one of the three. Martinsville has been hit-or-miss. Terrible my first couple trips. Had a couple good runs there last year. Was back there pretty bad this spring. Really hit-or-miss.

Phoenix, had a good running in the spring.

Texas has been really bad since they paved it.

Just because you’ve had recent good runs at those other places doesn’t mean you’re going to be good when you go back this time.

I think I agree with him, I think Texas has been the worst one of the three as of late.

Q. We all know the story of Hendrick, where they were, where they are now. Obviously with you getting your first win, it’s been like you’ve been on fire since then. With two wins in this round, moving on, did you think this would be how your season played out either in the beginning, middle of the season, after your first win?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Well, I felt like as a team we were capable of winning and doing it often. I felt like I believed in my ability to do so. I believed in my team’s ability, Alan’s ability, our pit crew, road crew, the whole deal. That’s never really been a question mark in my mind.

We started the year and we were pretty bad. I felt like pretty off on speed, struggling with handling, trying to get our cars better. I think we’ve got them better. I don’t think where we’re we want to be, where we need to be, but I think we’re better.

I think the performance on track has put us in positions to capitalize. That’s been the difference. We’ve been just in position more often. If you can keep putting yourself in position, I think those are great places to be.

Does that mean you’re never going to make a mistake again? No. I think you can go and run well and run like we’ve been running. I think we can have a shot legitimately.

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, it is. Just because you ran good this week doesn’t mean next week is going to go good. But momentum is nice. I’d rather have it than not have it.

Still at a pretty big points deficit behind the 18, the 4, some of those other guys. If we just keep running with them every week, I think we’ll give ourselves a chance, like I said. We’re going to keep the hammer down, try to keep as much pressure as on we can, see where it plays out.

Q. How much of a confidence boost is this win? Is it potentially the biggest win so far of the season for your championship hopes?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Like, I said, I wish we could have raced Kevin for it straight up there at the end, have him not have his misfortune. To me, that was a nice goal to have. I think he’s been the class of the mile-and-a-half’s throughout the year.

But just to run with him, be able to pace him lap time-wise, be been 10 car lengths of him trying to get by him, I thought was very encouraging. I’m encouraged by that. Kansas is very different from Homestead. Very different racetrack. Texas is also very different.

I look forward to the next round. Definitely a big win, they’re all big, the road to Watkins Glen was so hard, then the past couple months, being like they’ve been, it’s been surreal. You have to appreciate them. You don’t know when or if you’re every going to win another race. I’m going to be excited today as I’ve been, enjoy the as much as Watkins Glen or Dover. The only difference is we go to Martinsville in four days and it’s game on again.

Q. Beyond the wins, how much more of a championship contender do you feel you are now compared to August 1?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Well, I mean, like I said, from a mental standpoint or a team standpoint, I don’t think we’re any different. We haven’t done anything different approach-wise sense I’ve been at Hendrick, Alan and I have been working together.

The difference has been going through some tougher days, having some learning experiences, making our cars faster, having those learning experiences along with making our car better has meant better results. I think we have just as good a shot as anybody and that’s our approach these next three weeks.

Q. Having come so close so many times, ’16, ’17, now having won three races, what did you apply to today that you learned from those near misses and two wins this year?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, those pressure packed situations, the only time you can learn from them is to be in them more often. I think it’s as simple as that, just putting yourself in position more is going to keep the pressure on more. The more you’re comfortable with that, the better off you’re going to be for it.

The guys you have to beat in those situations are there every week. They don’t mess up. You better be in them and not mess up is kind of the goal. We’ll see where we end up.

Q. When Kyle and Kyle were in here earlier, they said it was tough to pass out there. If Kyle Busch got close to your bumper, do you think you could have held him off?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, there were some times being right up against the wall, they were obviously catching me doing it. Kevin and I had a lot of success the run prior running the lane that I was running. Obviously it was a big penalty with hitting the wall, too. I had run up there some throughout the day, hadn’t done a lot. I felt like Kevin and I were making pretty good time doing the lane I was running. I was pretty committed to it. They were making some pretty good time on me.

I was fixing to move up, the 11 hit the wall right in front of me. I felt that was the sign to not do it. I stayed where I was, stuck to my guns. Found a little something the last two or three laps that I felt was more consistent.

I know the 42 was pestering Kyle, but I felt like I found a little bit of pace there. I don’t think it was as much pace as it was on the wall, but I think it was better than I was bleeding out the handful of laps before that.

Q. When Alan was in here, he didn’t remember exactly how you got the test here last month, but it worked out today. How much from that test did you actually apply to today? Had the conditions changed enough?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, I think generally the trends of the racetrack and things, it was helpful to be here a few weeks ago. I think there were a couple decisions that factored into our setup today that we probably wouldn’t have done if we hadn’t have tested a few weeks ago. Ultimately I think it was a good thing.

Any time you have a chance to run at a place like this, a challenging track, the lane moves around, that’s a great place to come test. The places where it’s one groove, you run the same place all the time is kind of a waste of a test, in my opinion.

Coming here, we moved the groove from the bottom of the racetrack to the wall in a matter of two days. I thought it was very valuable. Not all tests are like that.

Q. How much has Jeff Gordon told you about this track?

CHASE ELLIOTT: We’ve talked about every track a lot. Jeff has been a great mentor of mine. He’s been a great friend. Has become a great friend the past couple years. Proud to still have him come to the races, the support he gives me.

We talked about it a lot. I feel like he believes in me. All you can ask for from a leadership role, if one of your superiors has confidence in you, belief in you, just try to let me go do my job.

Q. Finally got the win at Watkins Glen. Do you feel that was a monkey off your back?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, certainly nice to have gotten a win. Obviously Watkins Glen, very different from Dover and here. But I definitely think there’s been some mental confidence that grew from Watkins Glen. Certainly didn’t hurt.

But I think just on-track performance, making our cars better and things has probably been the biggest thing to help us run better and put ourselves in these positions.

We still need to go, in my opinion, and dominate a race or dominate some races. I felt like we were a contender today, which is what you want to be. You want to go and dominate these things. That’s certainly I think within reach. That’s the goal, is to go and try to get out front, not let up.

Q. This was a race where somebody who led the most laps didn’t win the race. Why are we seeing that disparity? You talk about domination, but not seeing that with leading the most laps winning the race.

CHASE ELLIOTT: It’s a hard thing to do. Racing for 400 or 500 miles, hard to do, be out front, not mess up. I think it’s as simple as that.

We made mistakes throughout the day. The only reason you weren’t talking about it was because we weren’t leading. That’s the big thing. When you’re out front, everybody is watching you. When you make mistakes, they’re emphasized because everybody wants to talk about it. When you’re not leading the race, mistakes happen all day long, but just trying not to make them towards the end I think is the big one.

These next three weeks, there is no room for mistakes. We just need to be on our game in all aspects. I look forward to the challenge.

Q. As a sportsfan, you understand the term when somebody is a playoff player, picks up their game in the playoffs. We saw that with you last year. What makes that you prime time playoff performer?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, I don’t know. I think just cars being faster. We kind of got lucky I feel like throughout the year, been a learning process for all of us. I think we’ve gotten better throughout the season. I think it just so happened as we’ve improved the season goes on, right? I think that is a piece of it.

Obviously I think my team in particular does a great job of just really paying attention to every detail they can, especially at this time of year. I give a lot of credit, my opinion, for picking up performance these past few weeks to Alan. I give him the same credit as last year when we picked up the performance. We had a great run last year. I know it doesn’t seem like it. We had a lot of second-place finishes, an opportunity to win a couple of those races that would have put us in a similar position to what we’re in right now.

That confidence and ability to do that, in my opinion, has been there when things are going good for us, when on-track performance is there.

We just need to keep putting ourselves in the position we were in today, running inside the top three, try to be battling, contending for the race lead. I think opportunities will be there to move forward.

Q. Did the experience of having gone through Dover last year with Kyle chasing you at the end help you today?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, certainly crossed my mind, for sure. I thought it was an opportunity to be in the same position again, to show that you can handle that situation. More to myself than anybody.

I was just glad that the opportunity arose, to be honest with you. It wasn’t easy. I think those days you learn from, you’re going to get better from more so than the days you have a five-second lead, you’re out there to go win the race.

I’ve really enjoyed the pressure of the Dover restarts, the closing laps today, Martin Truex racing for the win at Watkins Glen. That’s been a lot of fun. That’s what it should be. Shouldn’t be easy. It’s not an easy thing. It’s way too hard to win these races to not appreciate them, enjoy those moments.

Q. You win two out of three races in this round. Does it feel you guys sent a statement to the field? Is it kind of a statement, but kind of rendered irrelevant with the points?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, it’s nice, for sure. Great to have some momentum. At the end of the day, yeah, it does reset. You have to go back to work. I think you have to have that mindset, keep the pressure on yourselves individually as a race team every week, try to kind of keep your mindset in that must-win situation.

At some point you’re going to be in it, whether you get into a bind this round or if you are able to make it to Homestead, that’s pretty much a must-win as well.

I think being okay and enjoying those moments throughout the Playoffs, throughout a race season, is going to do nothing but help you. At the end of the day if you are able to make it to Miami and race for the deal, it’s a must-win down there, in my opinion.

I think every week has to feel like that. The environment you put yourself in amongst your race team, the environment I put and Alan puts our race team in needs to feel that way every week.

Q. As we move to four races left, what are some areas you’d like to improve on between you and your crew?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, well, I think honestly everywhere. This is a sport, especially nowadays, where you really can’t struggle on any area and expect to win. You have to really be on your game in all aspects. We need to take every area, amp them up a little bit, in my opinion.


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