CHEVY MENCS AT DAYTONA 500 MEDIA DAY: Chase Elliott Press Conf. Transcript

FEBRUARY 14, 2018

CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 NAPA CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at Daytona 500 Media Day.  Full Transcript:

A lot of drivers have said you’re going to be the new most popular driver.  When you hear stuff like that, how much is it a homage to your father’s legacy or your on-track performance?
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“I appreciate the kind words, for sure.  Nothing is ever for sure till it’s for sure, right?

“I think I just need to be me.  Frankly, not to avoid your question, but it’s not really relevant to what I need to be focused on, right?  I’ve encouraged people to pull for whoever they find value in pulling for, whatever they find a connection with.  Whether that’s me or someone else, that’s their decision, right?

“Why that’s the case, you know, I can’t answer just because I don’t really know, right?  But I’m going to continue to be me.  Hopefully we have some great support.  If I’m not your guy, I’m not your guy.  But I think I’m very appreciative of the support I’ve had to this point.

“Dad has had a great following over the years.  I think the people that were big Bill Elliott fans, they followed me for a long time, not just since I’ve been in the NASCAR world.

“Just try to keep doing my thing.  We’ll see as the season unfolds down the road.”

A driver said today that NASCAR has no idea about the reaction of you winning a race.  Are you ready for that?

“I’m just trying to go and compete for wins.  I’m not in a position to be worried about what is on the other side of something that’s not promised, right?  When something is not promised to you, how is it fair to look on the other side of that?

“I’m living on this side of it.  I’m living in reality.  The reality is I’m 0-78, whatever it is, that I need to go and do my job better, try to win some races.  Whatever happens happens.”

Jimmie has been outspoken about how focused he is on this season with the way last year ended for him.  Have you seen a different Jimmie so far this season?

“Man, Jimmie has always been a great leader, very involved, very dedicated, the Jimmie Johnson that I think we’ve all known him to be.

“I can’t say that I’ve seen him be a different person over the last couple years.  I think what I have seen in him internally within our company, within our team meetings and things, might not be what you guys have seen.  You might see more of that leadership role.  There are a couple younger guys around, so you might see more of that.  But I think it’s always been there.

Has Jimmie Johnson’s career been underappreciated because he doesn’t have the huge personality that people like to see?

“Well, that’s enough of a personality as anybody has to have, right?  If you want to be loud, whatnot, then perfectly fine for you.  That’s one of the great things about living in the United States, right?  Freedom of speech.

“But I think for him or for whoever, at the end of the day we’re racecar drivers, and your on-track performance is going to be what defines you the most.

“I think especially amongst his peers, amongst his competitors, everyone knows what he’s capable of, what he’s done.  I don’t think there’s any racer here that has underappreciated what Jimmie has accomplished, still has opportunity to accomplish.  He’s not done, right?  I think it’s unfair to write him off.  He’s far from done.  I mean, still very much in his prime and can go and race with anybody.

“I don’t think he’s been underappreciated by anybody around here.  I can’t speak for people across the world, I don’t know them.  But I certainly don’t underappreciate him.  I know nobody around us does.”

(Question about Junior retiring.)

“I’m a believer in the safety aspects that have come along.  All that stuff has come a long way, right?  It can still happen to you.  Anything can happen to you.  You can still get hurt.  No matter how safe something is, no matter how great a new product is, a new fire suit, you can still get hurt, right?  That’s part of it.  That is a risk of what we do, is getting hurt.

“Obviously, I don’t want to get hurt.  No one wants to get hurt.  No one wants to have any type of issue like that, but it is a reality that can happen.  All we can do is make sure we’re diligent in the decision-making process, you know, applying all the things that we wear properly, doing all the right things.

“At the end of the day, there’s no one that is going to look out for you more than you in that situation.  At the end of the day, I’m the guy that’s buckling my seat belt, putting my helmet on, tying my helmet strap, clipping my HANS up, all that stuff.  I think it’s important for us drivers to be diligent, make sure the people around us have our backs from that standpoint.

“It is something that can happen, but it’s not going to scare me away from it.  I’m a believer in our process at Hendrick Motorsports about how we go about mounting seats, doing our thing.  I could still get hurt.  I could get hurt tomorrow night.  That’s something that you just have to have confidence in your equipment and hope that things work out for you.”

(Question about dominating the season, whether it’s good for the sport.)

“Heck, I didn’t catch the whole first part of what you said, but for somebody to go and dominate like that, have a year like he had, that’s something to be proud of.  If I’m them, that’s what I want to do.  If I’m a racer, if I’m in any type of sport, that’s what I want to do.  I think it’s unfair to say that’s not right or it shouldn’t be like that.

“They’ve done their homework.  They had a big advantage.  Martin did a great job, did his job.  I think they deserved it.  They proved that they were the best last year, proved it all season long.”

(Question about popularity and changes.)

“We were talking about this a minute ago.  Look, for me, I’m going to continue to be me.  I think you have to go and find a connection with somebody.  There’s obviously a lot of guys that are leaving the sport, retiring.  A lot of young guys also coming in with a lot of different personalities, right?

“I think you just have to find what fits you, find a connection with somebody.  If that’s me, great.  If that’s not me, then, hey, that’s your decision, right?

I just think I’m going to continue to be me, run down the road as I see fit, as I see like I want to do things.  Right, wrong or indifferent, I’m going to continue to do things as I’ve been taught to do, handle situations as
I’ve been taught to handle them.

“If people want to follow that, support that, I’m certainly appreciative of that.  I’ll do my best to make those people proud at the end of the day.  We’ll see.”

Was there a most frustrating part of last season?

“Take your pick, right?  The 500 was kind of the beginning of a lot of those frustrating moments, unfortunately.  There wasn’t a whole lot we could do about the Daytona 500 last year.  We were in a position to be out front.  Would you have banked on not having a late-race caution at the end of the Daytona 500?  I wouldn’t bank on that.  Alan wasn’t banking on that.

“You can’t give up the lead, because as soon as you do to go try to save gas, a caution comes out, now you’re done.  I feel we did the right things as a team, as a team, Alan made the right calls.  The one that frustrates me the most are the ones I feel I can do something to change the result.  I don’t know what I would have done.  I can’t create gas.  I don’t really know how to change that.”

Have you ever wished you would just like to be you, not have the fan base hanging over you?

“I don’t really think there is that hanging over me, to be honest with you.  I think at this point I’ve been maybe not in the NASCAR world too terribly long, but I’ve been racing long enough that people know who I am.  Not know who I am from that standpoint, but know the personality I have.  They’ve kind of got to know me a little better.

“I think by this point, if people are still following along, they’re following along because of the person I am, I hope.  I think that’s all you can ask for.  I’ve been very clear and honest about me being me, wanting people to follow along for the right reasons, finding a true connection with someone.

“I think that’s important to have.  But, no, I don’t think that’s hanging over at all.”

(Question about the council.)

“It was good.  I’d never been a part of it.  To be honest with you, I was doing a lot more listening than I was talking.  I hadn’t really been around long enough to speak of and voice my opinion to a certain point just because I’m not in a position to do that at this point.  Maybe if I’ve been around for five, six years, then maybe.

“There was areas where I felt like I needed to speak up.  I tried to at least lend my two cents here and there, but mostly just listening.  I think it’s a good opportunity for guys to voice an opinion.  It was a good experience for me.”

What is the best piece of advice your father gave you when wins didn’t come?

“Oh, man, a lot of advice.  I just think trying to enjoy the moments of what you’re doing.  I think a lot of times you can take for granted how good you have it in certain areas, whatever it may be.  I think being appreciative of what you have and what’s there for you to take advantage of, the opportunities that could lie ahead I think is very important, not to lose track of that.”

(No microphone.)

“It’s not at this point, man.  I’m year three in.  I’ve been listening to people say that for, you know, two, three years now, right?  At this point it’s just me trying to do my thing, trying to go win for no one else but me and my team.”

What did your dad say about that?  Does he try to take the pressure off you?

“No.  I mean, I think he lets me do my thing.  He lets us do our thing as a team.  He is very into it.  He comes to the track a lot.  He’s very supportive.  I think he enjoys being a dad.  I think sometimes he wishes he could do more just because for so long he was in the driver seat making decisions.

“I think being a dad, but knowing so much about the sport, you wish that you could do something or do something different, do something to help.  At the end of the day, no, I think he lets me learn lessons, as we all have to learn them.  A lot of times you have to learn hard lessons yourself, on your own, or you’ll never figure it out.  I think he knows that and is letting me figure that out.”

Has he told you about when he was your age?

“No, he didn’t get started until he was a good bit older than I am now.  So I don’t know.”

(No microphone.)

“I don’t think so.  I mean, you guys are doing your jobs, right?  You have to ask questions to earn a paycheck.  That’s what everybody is doing.  I get it.  You may not get the answers you want to hear, but I understand why you have to ask them.”

Do you feel this year, year three, you have to start getting some victories?

“Year one was the one I wanted to make it happen for myself.  So was year two.  So, yes, year three is also the year I want to make it happen for me.”

(No microphone.)

“That’s what everybody keeps telling me.  I think we have a good process, we have a good dynamic at the shop, with our meetings, how we do things.  We’ve made some great changes over the past year or so that I think have helped integrate everyone together.

“I think that is probably more of a product of the changes on that side that allow us to be more involved with each other, more so than it is me being a better teammate or a better sharer than someone else.  I think we just have more opportunity to do that now.”

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