ONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONAL
GOBOWLING AT THE GLEN
TEAM CHEVY POST RACE PRESS CONF TRANSCRIPT
AUGUST 4, 2019
CHASE ELLIOTT, CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1 SCORE VICTORY AT THE GLEN
WATKINS GLEN, NY (August 4, 2019) – With a strong showing in every category throughout the two-day Go Bowling at The Glen Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race (MENCS), Chase Elliott capped the weekend in his No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Camaro ZL1 by capturing his second victory of the 2019 season.
Elliott won the pole position, both Stages 1 and 2, and the final 90-lap event itself on the 3.4-mile road course, to mark his second consecutive win at the challenging 11-turn race track and fifth of his MENCS career.
The victory is also the fifth of the season for Chevrolet, the 19th for the brand at Watkins Glen International, and 784th all-time win for the Bowtie in NASCAR’s premier series.
Martin Truex, Jr. (Toyota) was second, Denny Hamlin (Toyota) finished third, Erik Jones (Toyota) was fourth, and Ryan Blaney (Ford) was fifth to round out the Top 5.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season continues next weekend at Michigan International Speedway with the Consumers Energy 400 on Sunday, August 11th at 3 p.m. ET. Live coverage can be found on NBCSN, NBC Sports Gold, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
RICK HENDRICK, CHASE ELLIOTT, AND ALAN GUSTAFSON, NO. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS CAMARO ZL1 PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPTS:
THE MODERATOR: We will begin our post‑race media availabilities with our race winning owner, Rick Hendrick. Thank you for joining us, Rick.
RICK HENDRICK: Good to be here.
THE MODERATOR: Can you tell us what this win means to your organization?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, every win is important, and this sport is extremely competitive, and we’re really proud of Chase, leading that many laps. It’s always good to get a win, and it builds momentum.
I think all our cars ran pretty good today, so looking forward to the rest of the races.
Q. Do you see Chase as a championship contender with all the wins and his variety of wins this year?
RICK HENDRICK: I think Chase has shown that he can win at any track. He’s really good with equipment, doesn’t tear up anything. I think if we can get the car good enough for Chase, he can win a championship, and he can win it this year. So we’ll just have to keep tuning on the car and giving him good stuff like they did today.
He’s just so smooth, so good, reminds me a lot of his dad. Knows when to race, doesn’t wreck a car, but he can be aggressive when he needs to.
I think Chase is going to be a contender for a lot of years to come.
Q. You talked about your other cars. I was curious what you thought of William Byron today. He’s in the middle of a points battle to make it and did some retaliation. Where do you kind of stand on what he did and maybe having to stick up for yourself at times versus potentially hurting your race?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, I think you have to stand your ground in this sport. If you let people push you around, they’re going to push you around. He’s running up front, so I think this was his eighth front‑row start, and he’s learning. People don’t cut him any slack because he’s a rookie, then he needs to let them know he’ll come back. I think probably in hindsight he would not not messed with Kyle and would have had a chance to have a really good finish with a good car.
Q. It looked like William hit the 18 because Chad Knaus told him to. Do you have any thoughts on that?
RICK HENDRICK: I didn’t know that until someone told me that coming in here. You know, I think it goes down ‑‑ like back to what I said. I think if you let guys push you around and you let them know that you’re not going to let that happen ‑‑ and I think he got the worst end of the deal when Kyle brake‑checked him and knocked the front end out of the car. But sometimes in the heat of the battle you want to do things, and if you thought about it a little bit more maybe you’d just settle down and go finish the race. But in the heat of battle ‑‑ and I didn’t know Chad told him to, but if I’d had a radio I’d probably tell him the same thing.
Q. The first time I think we can get your thoughts on the 48 crew chief change. I’m sure you monitored how they did today. Your thoughts on that?
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, I think Jimmie was in a really good spot there, and Cliff is super smart, and the deal there is they have a chemistry together, and when Cliff came back on the road with Jimmie, you could see it made a difference six or seven races ago.
So the communication, knowing what Jimmie likes, Jimmie ‑‑ he was Jimmie’s lead engineer, so I think it gave Jimmie some comfort. Kevin is one of the smartest guys in the garage, but you can’t replace time and years together, and I think that’s all Jimmie wanted, so I think it’s going to work out. Cliff is a sharp young guy.
Q. (Thoughts on Chad Knaus relationship with William Byron.)
RICK HENDRICK: Absolutely. I think Chad is a great leader and gives the guys ‑‑ he has the experience of a lot of structure, and William needed that. They respect each other a lot. Chad has taught William a lot about racing and how to race, and I love that combination. I think that’s going to be a great combination for a lot of years.
Q. What’s it like seeing Chase have a dominant race like this, because I believe this is the first time he has swept all three stages in route to a win this year.
RICK HENDRICK: You know, that’s ‑‑ I was trying to remember watching any car do that, with pitting and having to come back out. It was an amazing run to be able to come back to the front and hold off Martin. He couldn’t make a mistake all day. He had a great car last year, great car this year, and he’s a heck of a road racer. He’s just getting better.
Any time you can lead all the laps in a race and end up winning, that’s kind of like whipped cream and a cherry. You don’t get to do that very often. In all my 35 years I don’t think there’s been many of those.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by the winner of the Go Bowling at the Glen, driver of the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, Chase Elliott. Chase, congratulations.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Thank you.
Q. Would you consider the pivotal part of this race beating Martin on that last pit stop? How important was that? Do you think if he’d have gotten out first it might have changed things?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, for sure. I felt like he was a little faster than we were really in all reality, and track position was king, and just having the clean air I think made the difference. Getting out in front of him on the restart and then guys doing a good job on pit road and not having any mistakes, that was a big deal.
Q. Do you think Truex was trying to side draft you on that last restart when you guys made contact on the frontstretch?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I don’t know, I haven’t seen it. I thought I was going straight, and I thought he just turned in early, so I didn’t really know what ‑‑ I didn’t really know what happened. Obviously I wasn’t real happy about it. At the time I was just worried that I was going to have a flat tire because of it, and then we ended upside by side through the Esses, still ended up hitting each other through there, which is fine. It’s really narrow. I don’t know on the restart thing, but maybe. I’m not sure. Maybe I didn’t turn in soon enough. I don’t know. But yeah, we hit nonetheless, and I was worried about that tire.
Q. Alan when he was in here said that he felt like that obviously was ‑‑ you guys knew whoever came out ahead was going to win the race. Was that pretty much it because it was so difficult passing?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, it was definitely tough. I mean, it was doable. The guy in front just had to ‑‑ you had to get close and then the guy in front had to have a little bit of a bobble at the right time. You could bobble, but you just couldn’t do it at the wrong spot. So I just tried really hard to ‑‑ not to make any mistakes and not give it to him. I felt like he was a little better. If he was going to beat me I wanted him to come up there and out‑brake me and pass me. I wanted to make it as hard as I could on him and not hand it to him was my goal.
Q. When you came over the radio, you said, “He doored me.” Why were you surprised that that happened on a restart because, I mean, there’s so much bumping and banging that goes on on a road course that I think ‑‑ he told us he thought he had the faster car. I guess we kind of weren’t surprised it happened, but you seemed surprised.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know. Restarts, they happen. I can’t answer that. I’m not sure. I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know.
Q. Would you consider this to be almost kind of a dream weekend with as fast a car as you’ve had just every day of the week?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, we’ve never done this as a team. This was the first time we’ve ever gone somewhere and sat on the pole and led the most laps and won the race. I’ve never done that in my career, and I’m sure Alan has at some point, but as a group we’ve never done that.
I just feel like that to me is I feel like the biggest piece of the whole weekend is just knowing that we’re the type of team and the caliber of team that can go and put on those kind of performances, and those are the kind of performances you have to put on to compete with those guys that win often.
We just need to go do that more often, and I think at the end we can run with them.
Q. What’s it like being able to pick up seven playoff points towards the title because a dominant win like that has got to be huge for you?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, and those playoff points are huge, and I think that’s the key to those guys and the advantage that those guys have, the guys that have four or five wins already. They have probably double as many playoff points as we do.
You know, those guys that have won often and won that much, they’re just about a lock for Homestead. Almost. They have a heck of a lot of help to get there.
That’s the kind of position you want to put yourself in before the final ten start for sure.
Q. Your battle with Truex in the final laps, was it more or less to the déjà‑vu moments from last year?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, I felt like it was really similar. Heck, I thought ‑‑ it felt the exact same, and he was a little faster than I was, and I was just trying not to mess up. Yeah, luckily ‑‑ if I had messed up in Turn 1 like I did last year, I think he’d have got me. I think he was close enough to do it.
So yeah, luckily had a fast enough car to stay out front.
Q. I asked Alan this earlier, and you kind of alluded to it a little bit, but you guys have had a tough last several weeks, not just the win but how your team performed throughout the course of this weekend, how important was that to you to reinforce that you still can put the pieces together before heading into the playoffs?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I think that’s huge, you know, and yeah, the past month and a half has been awful. We’ve had fast cars at times. It wasn’t just a complete lack of speed. But one thing or another ended up for a bad weekend.
Yeah, to kind of have a weekend that wasn’t as poor as the last six have been was really nice, and then the way we did it I think was the biggest thing. Like I said a minute ago, we’ve never had a weekend like that in my career showing up, qualifying on the pole and leading the most laps and win the race. That’s the kind of weekend you want to have, and that’s the kind of team and the kind of effort you have to put on occasionally and often to compete with the guys that you’re going to have to beat in this deal.
Q. Short list of multiple‑time winners in this race, shorter list of repeat winners. Just your thoughts on the significance of that and also adding another notch to your road course resume?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, it was ‑‑ like I said, just the weekend and how things unfolded, I hate to keep harping on it, but I just think it’s a big deal how this weekend went and just the effort that we put in from the time we unloaded and practice to my qualifying run in practice to qualifying, starting the race, being mistake‑free, those are the kind of weekends you have to have, and a mistake‑free weekend with as good of a car as we had like that, those are the kind of performances and the results you can get from it, so that’s always the goal.
Q. Last year you had to worry about the fuel plus Martin. This year you had to go further, many more laps holding him off. Which was more difficult, last year because it was the first, or this year because of more time?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, that’s tough. I mean, I felt like Martin was closer to us this year than he was last year in the closing laps, so that was a little different. Obviously wanting to get that first win was a big deal, too. So it’s tough.
I just definitely felt as the race went on today, I felt like I felt more comfortable in that position, and that’s a good thing. And that’s something that ‑‑ that’s a position you have to be comfortable in. And the only way to get better at that is just to be in that spot more often. Happy to have had a pressure‑filled situation and be able to come out on the right end of it.
Q. William Byron had a rough day today. He had contact with Kyle Busch and Knaus pretty much told him to stand up to him and not take his crap. You were in a similar situation with Hamlin in the past; do you have any advice for Byron ‑‑
CHASE ELLIOTT: No. (Laughter.) I don’t, no. William will figure it out. He’s a big boy, and he knows how to handle things. That’s their deal.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race‑winning crew chief, Alan Gustafson. We’ll go ahead and open it up for questions.
Q. Alan, how long did you hold your breath in the last 35 laps? Was there any point at which you were concerned, especially when he reported the left rear might be going down?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I think the left rear damage was probably the biggest concern that I had through the whole experience. It was pretty significant damage, and it did look like it was kind of protruding through the side wall, through the side wall of the tire. That’s a tough one for sure. Some concern over that.
And then I knew lap traffic was going to be a bit dodgy, and sure enough, we caught I don’t know who it was, but they were two wide down the straightaway into 10 there. That got a bit dodgy.
But yeah, there’s nothing you can do. There’s no reason to hold your breath or panic about it. I mean, we had done the best job we could all weekend long and put ourselves in position, and certainly Martin is an extremely good road racer and has a really good car and was really fast. I knew Chase was up for the chase, and Chase was going to have a run a perfect race at that point in time, and he did, so fortunately for us we got the win.
Q. Chase said that after the contact he was pretty worried and it felt soft, that the tire did. When you hear that, are you like, oh, it’s definitely down, or do drivers often kind of ‑‑ I don’t want to say imagine things, but are quick to worry when you’ve led the whole race?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, certainly that’s ‑‑ I mean, not only drivers but anybody in that circumstance when you’ve led the whole race and you know you’ve had some pretty hard contact, you’re going to be hypersensitive to any little slide or any little thing on that left rear tire. I wasn’t surprised that he had felt it was going soft. Lap times were still good, and fortunately for me Martin had an in‑car camera so I could watch, no significant smoke, and you could actually see it on some of the shots exiting the corner the way the light would hit, and it looked like it was up. But certainly there was concern for a slow leak. But yeah, I think in that situation you’re going to be really hypersensitive to that corner, and certainly I’m sure he was.
Q. Alan, despite him winning here last year, at what point did you know you had a good little road course racer on your hands because guys who grow up on short tracks, it would be one thing if he was like Cindric and he ran sports cars and the like, but it just seemed to click so naturally for him, and to us at least it was kind of unexpected. When did you first see that?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: We tested here in 2016, I think, if I remember correctly. There was a test, and we were here, and we started out kind of average, and as we ran, he got better, and we improved the car, he got better, and really at the end of that test, we had speeds that could win the race.
And unfortunately for us, when we came back, we had some braking issues and just couldn’t consistently carry that pace, but I think that was the first time that I saw he’s extremely competent on a road course.
The other thing to me that was a pretty big indicator, we weren’t very good at Sonoma our first time, which I’m not surprised. To me that’s probably the toughest track we race. But the second time we came back, he was really good. He just needed an opportunity to run that race, and we came back the second time and were really, really competitive.
I knew right away that he’s really talented when it comes to road courses. I think this track ‑‑ everybody has ‑‑ even Lewis Hamilton has tracks that suit him better than others, and Chase is no different. This track certainly suits Chase a little bit better than the other two, but I think he can win at the other road courses, too.
Q. Were the nerves more or less or the same compared to last year, because last year you were worried about fuel mileage, and this year you were concerned about a flat tire.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, last ‑‑ I mean, you don’t want to say last because you’re not demeaning the pressure. But last year fuel mileage is something that I’m strategizing for, calculating for and responsible for, so yeah, that was a bit tougher for me. As hard as we try to predict that and as much work as goes into it, it’s not an exact science.
Regardless of what goes on, you always know there’s a little bit of a fudge factor in there for your fuel mileage, so last year was tough because you just need to know ‑‑ I think it was evidenced by Martin running out last year right behind us, so it was close for everybody last year and we were able to make it. And this year we knew we had a little bit of a pad there, so a little less nerve‑racking because of the fuel situation.
Q. On the final restart it seemed like there was contact obviously past the finish line. Did it appear to you like Truex was trying to side‑draft Chase?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I don’t have a good angle at it. I wasn’t watching. The TV feed I was watching right in front of me, and being in pit stall, I couldn’t ‑‑ I’m basically looking dead beside him. Actually the restart before they had touched, too. I kind of took it as Chase was wanting to open up his entry to the corner as much as he could and Martin was not wanting to let him open up his entry into the corner as much as he could, and they got together fairly significantly. That’s all ‑‑ I don’t have a great view. I’m really curious to go back and look at it. But yeah, I think they both knew that that was probably going to be it.
Q. Just generally did it seem like aero was more of a factor? Was aero more of a factor with this package this year?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Any time you ‑‑ yes. I think the turbulence is a little bit worse, and it’s a tough thing because if you have enough downforce that you’re kind of having an abundance of grip and you can run flat through the corners then that would make closer racing than if you have more downforce, but you still don’t go flat I think it kind of separates it. There’s some corners here that it probably made the racing a bit closer, but I think some corners it makes it a bit more difficult to pass.
To be honest with you, I thought it was going to be tougher than it was after the race. There’s a lot of guys that jumped us on that lap 17 before the stage, and we were a bit further back than I had expected and wanted to be, so I was concerned there, and he drove right past them. You certainly could pass, but when it comes to cars ‑‑ the fastest cars, like our car and the 19 or the 11, the 18, one of those cars out front probably wasn’t going to get past unless they made a mistake.
Q. You guys have had a couple tough weeks the last several weeks ‑‑
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Six or seven, right?
Q. I know it’s a road course, not necessarily reflective of a lot you’ll see going forward, but getting the win and showing again that you guys ‑‑ what you’re capable of at a good time as you approach the playoffs.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, absolutely, that’s probably the biggest takeaway for me from the weekend is for as difficult as times ‑‑ I don’t really feel like our performance has been ‑‑ our speed has been terrible. Kentucky we were terrible but that’s no surprise, it’s just not a good track for me or really for Chase. But our speed has been decent, we just have not executed the races for mechanicals or crashes or different issues. That’s the biggest thing I wanted to do this weekend is perform to the potential to the team and the car and get back on track, and certainly we did that in style, which was fantastic. But yeah, we needed to get out of that rut to get back on track and get focused on competing and improving and get some confidence back.
It couldn’t come at a better time, and certainly these things come and go. It happens to everybody, I think, and you can use those last weeks that we had to kind of reflect on what we could do better and improve, and I feel like we’ve done that. So all in all, it certainly hurt us in the points, but I think it’s probably going to make our team a bit stronger.
Q. I was curious how you approach Michigan next week or how you feel about going to Michigan, too.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, Michigan is interesting. Going there in the spring with the new package, I was a bit unsure. I think everybody was a bit unsure, how trimmed out do you want to race your cars. It’s obviously a big track, largest corner radius in the series, so we didn’t know. Although we had a good car and had a part failure, we went probably not trimmed out enough, and the 22 obviously did a great job, and they qualified on the pole and kind of dominated that race.
We’re excited to go back and give that another shot. I think we’ve learned from the spring for sure and look forward to applying those things and going back and having a bit more speed in our NAPA Chevy and contending to win there at Michigan.
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