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

An interview with:

CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET SS:

Q.        Has it been a whirl the last couple of days?

CHASE ELLIOTT:  It’s definitely been busy I guess the past couple days, with everything on Sunday happening like it did, which is great.  It was a good way to start things off for our entire team and for NAPA, their first year back in Cup, kind of, other than the five races we ran last year.

We’re excited to be back.  Definitely ready to get back to the racetrack.

Q.        What has been the most amazing thing?

CHASE ELLIOTT:  I think just the overall feel of still being here and having a chance to race in the Daytona 500.  I think that still is the biggest thing.

Having the pole has been great.  I think realizing that’s one lap, but there’s 500 miles.  I think the most important piece of that is having a good pit road selection is going to be more valuable than the starting spot.

I’ve got a lot to learn before Sunday.  It’s definitely not going to be an easy task throughout the entire year.  We recognize there are going to be challenges.  This weekend I have a lot to learn before we get to Sunday to try to get an idea as to what is to come.

Q.        What did your dad say after the pole?

CHASE ELLIOTT:  Just to enjoy it.  Things go by quick.  Don’t try to, you know, rush through it too fast.  Definitely just try to take it as it comes and not get too excited about things, not get too down about other things.

There’s going to be downs in this sport, you hope that there’s some ups that come along with it.  Try and ride that rollercoaster the best you can.

Q.        What are your realistic goals Sunday?

CHASE ELLIOTT:  For us, I know we have one of the best cars down here, and definitely the entire Hendrick Motorsports team has been fast.  The Hendrick shop has done a great job.  I know we have a car capable of winning.  I certainly think I have a lot to learn from a drafting standpoint, a lot of aspects, just kind of getting used to things, getting around other cars.

I know our car is capable of winning, I just need to learn what to do behind the wheel.

Q.        (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT:  I think for him, he’s been around this deal a long time.  I feel he’s in a unique position because he’s watched the sport change in a way that a lot of people haven’t.  For him to be there firsthand and kind of see how things have come as far as they have from a media standpoint and just how much things have changed from the ’80s to now is pretty dramatic.

I think from that side, he can be helpful.  There’s a lot of things that you guys don’t see, that people watching at home don’t see, that you might go through struggles or just situations that you don’t realize even happen.

I think he’s been there.  I think he’ll be helpful in all those roles.

Q.        As far as driving the 24, is that something when you’re actually in the racecar, do you even think about that?

CHASE ELLIOTT:  You don’t, nope, not at all.

Q.        What do you think about it?

CHASE ELLIOTT:  When do you?

Q.        Yes.

CHASE ELLIOTT:  That’s a good question.  I get in, I can’t see the outside of the car (laughter).  It really is what it is.

You know, I’ve said, it’s an honor to have the opportunity to drive the 24.  I’ve had a lot of fun with it so far.  Everyone has been very supportive.  I’m very appreciative there.

Once you get in it, like I say, you can’t see what number is on the outside.  Just trying to go as fast as you can.

Q.        What did the number mean to you growing up?

CHASE ELLIOTT:  How can you not respect Jeff Gordon and what he did.  When he came in, he opened doors I think for some younger guys to have a chance.  That to me kind of changed the way the sport went forward.  Came out of the box, did such a good job at a young age.

Me watching him grow up, win races, I mean, obviously I wasn’t pulling for anybody but my dad when I was little.  But for me it was always a guy you had to respect for everything he’d already done to that point.

Q.        (Question regarding Chase’s dad.)

CHASE ELLIOTT:  Yeah, man, he did things right, you know.  I think for him, it wasn’t just him, his entire family, I always admire how they went about their business.  They did things on their own.  They showed up.  They came from a small town in Georgia.  They built their own engines.  They worked on their own racecars.  They didn’t ask for help.  They went about their own business.

They showed up at the racetrack, did their thing and left.  They didn’t get caught up in any of the mess and any of the dumb stuff that goes on around these places.  I like that.  I like doing my job and then leaving.

Q.        Did Jeff ever talk about what it was like to race against your dad?

CHASE ELLIOTT:  He hasn’t.  I haven’t really spoke to him about that.

Q.        (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT:  I mean, I think it is interesting because I think Dale was in a similar situation when he came into the sport a handful of years ago.  I’ve had a chance to talk to him about a number of things.

We haven’t spoke about that a ton.  Just I think more about now, the opportunity that’s here now, more specifically tailored to a specific racetrack, asking questions about Daytona or something like that.

Q.        Are you able to appreciate as a teenager how difficult it is to get to the place you are?

CHASE ELLIOTT:  Even going places now with my dad, just seeing the following that he currently has, I think it’s special right up and down the road.  You see Bill Elliott license plate more than one all the time.  I think it’s really cool.

He did things, as I said, went about his business the right way.  I think people at home and from towns across the United States can relate to what he did and the work ethic that he has, how they went about their business.  Just coming from a small town, going to making a name for himself.  I think that’s special.

Like I said, I’ve always had a lot of respect for that.  I think it’s something neat to look back on.

Q.        (Question regarding pressure.)

CHASE ELLIOTT:  I mean, obviously I want to do the best job I can behind the wheel.  The only pressure that’s relevant is that that I put upon myself.  That’s the only thing that matters.

The rest of it, everybody here, y’all are entitled to your opinions.  That’s great.  But for me the most important thing is what I put upon myself and what we put upon ourselves as a team.  We want to achieve our goals that way and not worry about the rest.

Q.        How are you enjoying interacting with the fans?

CHASE ELLIOTT:  So far everybody has been very supportive.  I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of great supporters over the years, whether it’s from the short track days.  Even now it’s been fun.  I enjoy that.

As a driver, that means a lot when you show up to the racetrack and you have support and you have people that are interested in talking to you, telling old stories, asking you to come sign something, whatever it may be.

I don’t think that’s something that you really get used to, but I do think it’s cool that we’ve been fortunate to have some support there and hopefully we can grow that.

Q.        (Question regarding parents pushing him.)

CHASE ELLIOTT:  Not at all.

Q.        Other stuff, sports?

CHASE ELLIOTT:  Oh, yeah.  Mom wanted me to go play golf.  She said golf would be a good choice.

Q.        Are you any good at golf?

CHASE ELLIOTT:  Terrible.  Terrible at golf.

Q.        How important is it to never have been pushed into this?

CHASE ELLIOTT:  I’ve always had a lot of respect from both my parents from that aspect.  Everybody talks about my dad, but my mom’s been there all along, as well.

If you’re going to talk about him, you have to talk about her, too.  I think that is fair because she’s always been there and has worked so hard ever since I started racing to assist in any way that she can.

Neither one of them have ever forced me to race.  It was never that way.  It was always my decision.  They always let me make that call.  They were always just very respectful.

They weren’t that soccer mom and dad out there that sometimes can be tough when you have somebody pushing you to do something.  It was just never that way.

If I ever went home and told my dad I didn’t want to race, there wouldn’t be any hard feelings, we would just do something else and have fun with it.  It was never like that.

Q.        Did you ever play soccer?

CHASE ELLIOTT:  I played soccer when I was five.

Q.        In sports often, the rookie of the team, there’s an initiation styles.  Have you had to do that with your team?  Other drivers make you do some things, low guy on the totem pole?

CHASE ELLIOTT:  I get volunteered for tests that those guys don’t want to go do.  If there’s a test on an off week, you’re probably not going to see Jimmie, Dale or Kasey go do it.  They’re going to sign me up firsthand.  What am I going to say?

Q.        Doesn’t that help you out?

CHASE ELLIOTT:  It does.  I’m not against it.  It’s just funny.  We were in a meeting the other day, and they talked about having a test sometime throughout the year, maybe one of the off weeks or something.

I mean, hadn’t come out two seconds, Jimmie said, Chase, sign him up.

Q.        Did you ever have to buy breakfast or donuts or anything like that yet?

CHASE ELLIOTT:  Not yet.  Not yet.

Q.        (Question regarding Hendrick Motorsports being intimidating.)

CHASE ELLIOTT:  I do.  I feel very comfortable there.  I don’t think I could ask for three better ones.  I still consider Jeff a teammate as well.  He’s been a lot of help even in his role now, being in the FOX booth.  He’s still watching.  It’s not like he’s not a part of it.  He still has a major role in what we do.  I think he’ll have a major role moving forward at Hendrick – I hope.

As we get along throughout the year, I think he can be helpful.  The special thing about where Jeff is and where Jimmie is, those guys, as Jeff has kind of moved away, I think Jimmie really took on that kind of senior leadership role.  He’s done such a good job of that and kind of being that guy that everyone should feel comfortable going to.

The guys have been fantastic to work with, they all have, but he’s really taken on that senior leadership role.  He’s done a great job, like I said.

Q.        You’re so calm here.  Did you smile at all?

CHASE ELLIOTT:  I mean, I don’t know.  For me, it’s more for the guys to celebrate, not for me.  There was nothing special I did to make that happen on Sunday.  It’s about those guys, the kind of car, the engine shop, the kind of engine they put in that thing.

For me, you know, the race is the most important thing.  That’s the starting spot.  It’s not about where you start, it’s about where you finish.

We recognize it’s a very long week ahead.  For me having the questions asked, you should be asking them the questions, not me on the pole, because they’re the ones that deserved it.

Me, being in my position, I look at that as just a way that I give credit where credit is deserved, and those guys are the ones that deserve it, not me.

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