MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
PLAYOFF MEDIA DAY
NASCAR HALL OF FAME
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
SEPTEMBER 13, 2017
CHASE ELLIOTT, #24 NAPA CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Playoff Media Day. Full Transcript:
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Talking to your crew chief tonight. What do you think about your crew chief Alan Gustafson, how you two are progressing and moving into the Playoffs?
"I think our relationship has been good. I like Alan a lot. I'm not just telling you that to tell you that, but I really do. He's a super smart guy. I think he builds great racecars. I like the attitude he has. I like the vibe he brings to our team.
"I think he goes about his job the right way. I think he does things the right way. He doesn't overstep in any ways, in my opinion, which I think is a great quality to have. He doesn't try to do too much. I think in a lot of ways you can and get in trouble there. I just think he fits his role really, really well."
For a crew chief, when you hear on the radio a driver and crew chief, people gauge and judge, was the setup right. People can only judge if they are the guy driving the car and the guy making the call.
"Yeah, I mean, people are always going to make a judgment in whatever situation. But, no, I think our relationship is very straightforward. I go drive the car. I let him know my thoughts. We try to fix it the best we can. If we do, then great. If we miss it, that's unfortunate, we'll try again next week."
What is your game plan heading into the Playoffs? How do you see yourself being one of the final four at Homestead?
"Our game plan right now is to try to focus on ourselves. We need to be better as a whole. We need to improve, for sure. We need to be competing for race wins. We haven't been doing that recently. I'll be the first one to admit that.
"I think for us, we got to focus on ourselves first and foremost, try to be consistent. I think consistency will carry you a pretty good distance in this deal. I don't think consistency will get you to Homestead alone, but I do think consistency will carry you a good ways.
"That's our first thing right now, try to be consistent and improve ourselves and try not to worry about everybody else right now. "
Do you feel like to get to Homestead you're going to have to win a race?
"I think you're at least going to have to have a really good ability to win a race. If you're not winning a race, you better have just lost it by not a lot. If you make it to the round of eight, if you're not winning, you better be well inside the top five every week, in my opinion."
Why do you feel consistency is so important, especially for you guys?
"When we got to Daytona for the 500, we had the opportunity to gain just as many bonus points as the guys who have, and we didn't. We put ourselves in the situation we're in. We're going to own up to that.
"I think the reason consistency is key is because 16 drivers is a lot. That's a lot of positions. So running well inside the top 10, around that top 5 area pretty consistently, will just by the numbers carry you a long ways, the way I do my math at least."
What is your toughest racetrack in round one of the Playoffs?
"I would say probably Loudon, just for me personally hasn't been a very good track in Cup or XFINITY or K&N, anything I've ever been up there in. I think that's the toughest spot for me right now. Which they're all tough.
"Frankly, it kind of depends on the situation you're in, performance-wise what you've been struggling with driving, what racetracks that suits. It might not necessarily mean you like or dislike a track. If things aren't working for you at certain tracks, they're just not working for you."
What do you find difficult at Loudon?
"I don't know. If I knew, I'd fix it. Didn't really grow up with a lot of flat tracks like that. A lot of the short tracks I raced at least had a little bit of a banking. I don't know if that's part of my struggle, really what it is.
"Track position is so important at Loudon. We had probably the best race I've run there last fall. Ended up not finishing good then either, but we ran well then. So, I think it's possible. We just got to hit it."
How do you learn a track like that? How quickly can you pick up on it? Does the sim help?
"I mean, I've had an opportunity to race there for a number of years now. The best way to learn is to just keep going back and trying to improve as much as you can. Other than just continuing to go, continuing to put yourself in those situations, I don't really know how else you learn."
You have a teammate who has won 11 times at Dover. Have you sought out any advice from him on running that track?
"Yeah, I've tried to lean on Jimmie. I mean, not just now that we're going there in the Playoffs, but for years. I mean, I reached out to him when we were running our truck races there in 2013. So, sure, I've tried to ask and lean and do as much as I can. He still has kicked my tail every time we've gone."
"I think I have learned a lot from him there. I think I've gotten better there personally as time has gone. Certainly, haven't won there 11 times. But it's been a work in progress. I think it's been improved upon from where it started."
Has he given you any advice on how to turn a mediocre summer into a championship run?
"Yeah, I mean, he's done it a lot. He's really good at it. To me, I think the best way to look at that is if you hit your stride at the right time, then things can really go your way. I think he proved that last year.
"Struggled throughout the summer months last year as an organization then, too. I thought for us, and the 24 camp, really for them, too, I thought we peaked about now last year. Started the Playoffs, got through Chicago. To me, I thought Chicago was really our first step in running really good last fall. I look at Charlotte being a really good race for us, Kansas. We had some great races then.
"Just goes to show you, one improvement, whether it's in the shop, at the racetrack, something the pit stop guys figured out, whatever it is, if you hit it at the right time, which now is the time, then it can carry you a long ways."
More important for you to advance through the Playoffs or just get that first win out of the way?
"Both. I'd love to advance as far as we can, but I'd love a win. That's what we're here to do. We've had a year and a half to do it, and haven't. I take a lot of pride in wanting to win. I also have these last 10 races still driving the 24 car, which it's been a cool honor to have that. It would mean a lot to me to add to the win list that Jeff has created with that car over the years while I still have the chance. I think that's an obligation of mine, to try to achieve that. That's on my priority list.
But both, to answer your question. I'd love to win, but I'd love to advance through the Playoffs. I think if you do one, you're going to have a shot to do the other."
Do you find it remarkable that Jeff is the only guy to ever win with that car number?
"Well, I mean it's remarkable, yes. But he's also the only guy that's ever really run it in a long time. I guess just the fact that he stayed with the same team for so long, to me that's more remarkable than anything. That's why that stat is what it is, because he was at Hendrick so long in the same car, with the same sponsor. That side to me is more remarkable than just the number aspect."
Last year you said the organization struggled. Talked about Chicago. Having that experience, how does that help having gone through this? What was it like last year going into Chicago?
"I look at last season, it was actually pretty similar I feel like to where we are right now performance-wise. A tough summer stretch. We had a few races that we ran good in the summer months last year that I don't think we hit on as good this year. Still ran well at some of those tracks.
"But Richmond was still a bad struggle last year, as it was this past weekend again. Darlington was a mediocre day, about like it was last year. So I feel like we're in really a pretty similar spot than what we were then.
"Hopefully things kick off right."
I'm curious about your mindset. My assumption would be last year there would be more concern. I'm sure there's some concern, but I don't know if it's tempered because of similarities to last year.
"I think the biggest thing with that is success in one season doesn't guarantee success in the next. So, sure, we know we need to be better, as does everybody. But like I said, you hit on one thing at the right time, it can carry you forward. We know that as a group. I can't say our mindset is a whole lot different."
(Question regarding upcoming tracks.)
"I don't have a lot of years to lean back on. I look at last year is really all I have to go off of. Chicago is a great track for us. Kansas was a good track for us last season. Kansas hasn't been a good track for us this year.
"It's hard to say. So much changes from year to year that success in a year prior doesn't necessarily mean you're going to have it when you go back this time around.
I'd like to say those, but we haven't shown that to be true so far this year. Kind of have to wait and see.
In the Playoffs scenario, can youth be an advantage versus experience or not?
"I can't say it really matters. I mean, in all honesty, I think at this point age, experience, I think whether it's your first year, your second year or your 10th year in the deal, at that point in your career, if you're racing in the Cup Series, I think you've been racing long enough where you either know how to get things done, you know how to do things the right way or you don't. I'm a pretty big believer in that regardless of your age. I'm not saying that because I'm early on at it. I feel that way about other sports. College football, NFL. If a guy comes in, knows how to do his job, I think he can play for whoever and do a good job at it."
You've had shots at winning the past couple years. If you had won one of those races where you were close, would your mindset be different now going into the Playoffs with that behind you and in the record books or do you think it would matter?
"Good question. Glad you asked me that.
"I can't say it would really change my mindset. I look at the races last fall that we had an opportunity to win, and those races would have changed things if we had been able to win a couple of those races that we were running really good at, just because they were in the Playoffs. A couple of those would have advanced us on that didn't. If any of them were going to change something, it would be those.
"Aside from those opportunities we had, I can't say it would really change a whole lot. We still need to be better from where we sit right now. As we all know, this sport and really anything is kind of, 'What have you done lately'? That's the way it goes."
Are you happy that you were in those positions to maybe get a win, or does it frustrate you that you didn't?
"It's frustrating that you didn't, but I would rather be in those positions and have a frustrating day than to not be in them at all. I think if you're in those spots, that means you're running pretty good, you're running well, and you have chances to win. If you're not, then you're not running well and you don't have the chances to win.
"Granted, they were frustrating days. It was encouraging to be running as well as we were at certain points. "
What is your sense of history and perspective? I know you want to win, if not you, then your teammates. What does it mean to see the Wood Brothers in this for the first time, the first opportunity to win a championship since '63?
"That's pretty cool really. I have a little bit of a tie with the Wood Brothers just because of dad's history in racing with them in the late 2000s. Got to know Eddie and Leonard and all those guys over there. They're such a cool group of guys. The fact they still do it, still want to show up and go to the track after all these years, that's pretty cool. The fact that they're finally in a position where they can go and compete for race wins, the times that dad was there, I felt like they were kind of in a bit of a tough spot with their organization. Went through some trying years I think, for sure.
"Definitely happy for them to be in a good place, aligned with a good team, have a good driver, and the ability to go win races each week. What more can you ask for if you're them, to go from where they were then to where they are now.
What does it mean for the sport that they're back being competitive when they could have been one of many teams that disappeared?
"It shows me if you get with the right group of people at the right time, align yourself with the right organization, get the right people in the right roles, you can have success. I think it's really cool they've been around so long. The success that they've consistently had over the years is pretty impressive.
"But I'm happy to see them having that."
(Question about mindset.)
"I don't think it's evolved. The circumstances have been different. When a race didn't end the way that I wanted it to win because it's something that I did, I'm going to take a lot of blame, I'm just going to own up to my mistakes. I'm going to be frustrated with the fact that I know I didn't do my job correctly. When it's out of my hands, I can't do anything about it, those are the days you just have to recognize I couldn't do anything about it.
"But the ones that frustrate me the most are the ones I know I could have done something different to fix it."
What is the biggest lesson you took from your first experience in the Playoffs last year that you're going to be carrying with you?
"Yeah, we're certainly behind with the Playoffs points, not really having any, just a couple, which a couple is I guess better than nothing.
"You know, I look at last year. To me, it kind of goes to show, if you peak at the right time, it can carry you a long ways. 10 races to go is a lot of racing. The best car rarely wins these things any more. You have to keep that in mind as time goes."
The whole ambulance thing that happened last week, in your career, what is the weirdest thing you've seen in a race, stopped a race?
"Way worse than that. I mean, I've been racing short tracks a lot, I have raced a lot of short track races over the past seven, eight years. I can assure you the ambulance thing at Richmond has not a dent on some of the things that I've seen at some of the places around the United States that I visited."
What kind of things?
"Lights going out. Being dark. A tow truck hitting something. Just crazy stuff that really makes that seem like a non-issue."
--- Team Chevy ---