NASCAR CUP SERIES
LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
SOUTH POINT 400
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
SEPTEMBER 24, 2020
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 UNIFIRST CAMARO ZL1 1LE, met with media via teleconference to discuss his outlook going into the first race of the Round of 12 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, how the temperature change can have an effect on the track, the importance of capitalizing on stage points, and more. Transcript:
WE’VE HAD THE SITUATION WHERE TALLADEGA IS THE CUTOFF RACE AND NOW IT’S GOING TO BE THE MIDDLE RACE. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT – NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE IN POSITION, THERE’S TIME TO RECOVER A LITTLE BIT IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG OR BASK IN THE GLORY IF SOMETHING GOES RIGHT AT A PLACE LIKE TALLADEGA?
“Yeah, certainly how it plays out is a little different I guess than what we’ve seen last year and in years past. But I look at – you have Vegas and that to me, I feel like, is the first opportunity and you really need to kind of take it a week at a time because I think we would be messing up to already be looking ahead to Talladega. We have an opportunity this weekend to try to perform and try to get a win. And if we can do that, then the rest of (this round) doesn’t matter near as much, as far as pointing your way through. So, that’s the goal right now and we’ll take it as they come.”
ON THIS WEEKEND, IT LOOKS LIKE IT’S GOING TO BE SIGNIFICANTLY HOTTER THAN WHEN YOU VISITED EARLIER IN THE YEAR. HOW SENSITIVE IS THIS TRACK TO TEMPERATURE CHANGE?
“Yeah, it definitely seems like it’s been some time since we’ve been Vegas. It’s going to be a good bit hotter. I feel like all these tracks can be temperature sensitive, for sure. I think this race, as early as it gets dark out, it will probably end at night like it did last year. So, that’ll be interesting and I’m sure it will have a pretty big swing from the beginning of the race to the end. Hopefully we’re on top of that and try to have things rolling.”
WHAT’S YOUR THOUGHT ABOUT LAP TRAFFIC, FRIENDS ON THE TRACK, AND LETTING PEOPLE GO IF THEY ARE FASTER THAN YOU?
“I honestly feel like there are times where if it’s not your day, it’s not your day and that’s kind of the way I see it. If I’m getting lapped, it’s not my day and I get that, I feel like. I know for dang sure that if I’m getting lapped by the leaders and the race is coming to a close, I feel like I have strived to make sure I am out of the way for the simple fact that I would want that returned to me if I was ever in the other position racing for a win and trying to get through lap traffic. I feel like you want all the help you can get. So, I just do it as I would want it done to me on the other end and kind of deal with it that way. It’s really up to the individual. I’m not sure that there’s a written rule or an unwritten rule that says what’s right or what’s wrong. But I think as a racer, you know when it’s your day and you know when you’re struggling, have damage or whatever it may be. So, I think you have to take it case by case, but it’s certainly up to the individual. That’s really all it comes down to – is the person and who they’re dealing with.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT FRIENDS WHO ARE DRIVERS COMPETING WITH YOU ON THE RACE TRACK? YOU’RE A GOOD ONE TO ASK – YOU AND (RYAN) BLANEY ARE FRIENDS. SOME DRIVERS SAY YOU BRING YOUR OWN FRIENDS TO THE RACE TRACK.
“I don’t necessarily go to the track to make friends. Ryan (Blaney) and I were friends long before we started racing in NASCAR. So, I think that one’s a little unique. I feel like my friendships that I have around the track were made when I was a kid and it just so happens to be that way because I grew up around the race track. I can’t say I’ve really made any friends since I’ve been racing with the rest of them and I really don’t have a relationship with very many of the guys on the circuit. I definitely can understand the side of no, we’re not there to make friends. And that’s not how we should race each other. I feel like Ryan and I race each other hard regardless. But I try to race him with respect as I feel like he’s raced me with respect over the years. So, it’s really just more of a respect thing, I think, than it is a friendship or not a friendship situation with guys on track. If you respect somebody, I feel like the right thing is to show them that, especially if it’s mutual. And if it’s not, that’s typically where problems come in and there certainly are different views of things and guys have different ways of approaching and solving problems. A lot of times, you can butt heads and whatnot, which is fine – that’s entertainment too. So, I think it’s really not as much of a friendship situation as it is ‘hey, do I really respect this guy or not and how does he race me’ and how am I going to in-turn race him. I think that’s really what it comes down to more so than it is being friends or not.”
YOU TALK ABOUT FOCUSING ON VEGAS. IS THE FOCUS ON VEGAS, AS FAR AS STAGE POINTS, MORE URGENT BECAUSE OF THE UNCERTAINTY OF TALLADEGA AND THE ROVAL?
“Stage points are huge and everybody knows that now. Ten or twenty points in a stage – that’s a ton. So, I think everybody knows how important stages are and what they can mean, especially stage wins. Getting that extra bonus point is a huge thing, too. I think everybody knows that and that’s certainly a game that’s been played. I don’t know that it was as much played that very first year that we had this, but really ever since that first year, I think it has been known and everybody really gets that. And it’s just gotten more and more aggressive, I feel like, as time has gone on to perform well in stages. So, I think it makes it important to run good throughout the entire race. I thought that our stage results at Richmond and Bristol were good and that’s really what allowed us to get through. I haven’t moved to the mindset of Talladega next week. The way I kind of look at it is I’m probably going to crash – I think that’s just the odds probably point that direction. I hope not, but I’d say anything more than crashing would just be icing on top is how I’m going to look at it. I’m going to go into this weekend and really focus on Vegas. I’m not going to dwell on next week yet. We have a whole race here at Vegas this weekend to try to perform, get a win and move on the right way.”
LOOKING BACK AT LAST YEAR AT THE ROVAL – CAN YOU WALK US THROUGH WHERE YOU WERE AS A TEAM PRIOR TO THE ACCIDENT, PRIOR TO THAT RESTART, AND HOW THINGS WERE GOING FOR YOU PRIOR TO THAT MOMENT?
“Everything was really going really well, I thought to that point. We had a fast car, had got up to the lead, was making laps, and trying to get a little better and push certain areas to try and improve. I felt like the margin to the competitors was certainly going to close up as the race went on. So, both myself and our team, we were just kind of pushing in all the little small areas that we thought we could to get better. That was where my mistake ended up coming. I was trying to find an extra little bit for a late-race restart if we were in that position or whatever it may be. Leading up to all that, things were going good and we were just fine-tuning, which was really nice.”
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU REALIZE THAT EVERYTHING WAS GOING TO BE OK ONCE YOU BACKED OUT OF THE TIRE BARRIERS?
“I didn’t, really. I pretty well thought it was destroyed, so I didn’t think there was any chance. I thought it was over, initially. And then once we kind of got back going, the thing was still driving pretty good. It still had some damage and it didn’t drive as good as it did, but it was still pretty solid. We started marching our way up through there. There was still a fair amount of time left in the race. Not enough time to mess around by any means, but there was a fair amount of time to march our way back forward. We were slowly clicking laps off and were able to make some passes. At that point, once we got back into the top-five there with the last couple later race restarts, if I recall correctly, I’m like ‘hey, we have another shot at it’. Tried to just mentally reset as much as I could and, luckily, things went our way. I had a couple good restarts, cars stayed together and we got really fortunate to have all those things go our way. To hit the tires as hard as we did and it not tear it up bad enough to keep going was probably a miracle. I don’t take that one for granted. That was definitely a piece of fortune in our direction, for sure.”
NEXT WEEKEND IS GOING TO BE 20th ANNIVERARY OF THE 2000 WINSTON 500, WHICH WAS EARNHARDT’S FINAL VICTORY. I KNOW YOUR DAD WAS IN THAT RACE. DO YOU EVER GO BACK TO WATCH THAT RACE? WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS BEEN THE LASTING IMPACT AND LEGACY OF THAT RACE?
“I’ll be honest, I’ve never gone back and watched it. I was very, very young – I don’t remember the race. I haven’t gone back to really see or watch what happened or how it unfolded. I’ve seen a photo of Kenny Wallace there running second to Dale (Earnhardt) as the race was winding down. That’s really about all my memory serves of that event. Like I said, I was so little, I don’t really remember it at all.”
VEGAS HAS BEEN ONE OF THOSE TRACKS THAT HAS BEEN UP AND DOWN FOR YOU. JUST LOOKING AT YOUR PAST RACES AT VEGAS, WHAT DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO BE THE DIFFERENCE IN YOU GETTING A TOP-10 RESULT/WIN OR YOU POSSIBLY FINISHING NEAR THE BOTTOM?
“That’s a great point because I feel like Vegas has been super hit or miss for us. We’ve crashed a bunch out there, I feel like, and had some really bad finishes. I thought we had our best run going here in the spring race this year. I forget – we had a flat tire or something there in the middle of that last stage or towards the end of the race. I think the key would be to run like we were in the spring and not have a flat tire. That would be a fantastic opportunity, I think, to have a solid day.”
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