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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 13, 2014
KERRY THARP:¬† Good morning.¬† If I could have your attention, please, we're going to get started with our 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series Champions Media Press Conference.¬† Here at Homestead Miami Speedway.¬† What a beautiful day here in South Florida.¬† We appreciate everyone being here tonight‑‑ or this morning.¬† I'm Kerry Tharp.¬† I'm with NASCAR.¬† I am very, very excited about being here for Ford Championship Weekend.
I can tell you, we said it last night and I'll say it again today, our media are among the hardest working media in all of sports.¬† Trust me, I've worked around a bunch of different media, and I appreciate all the efforts that you men and women put into your jobs.
Fox Sports' Adam Alexander, we're in for a real treat, is going to be our host and get us started.¬† On behalf of NASCAR, Brian France and the France family, I want to thank you for being here this weekend.¬† We are going to have a great Ford Championship Weekend.¬† Thank you.
ADAM ALEXANDER:¬† Good morning.¬† I'm Adam Alexander with Fox Sports 1.¬† So good to have you here with us today as we get set for what is going to be an electric weekend of racing.¬† And when you look at Ford Championship Weekend, there are so many things to be thankful for, but the opportunity to hand out a title, it never gets old.¬† We look forward to doing that both Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.¬† We thank the media who are here with us today, those watching on NASCAR.com, and those listening on Sirius XM radio.
In two hours time, the Camping World Truck Series will be on track, and when those engines fire, Ford Championship Weekend will be off and rolling.¬† Before we get there, we're going to hear from the two teams still alive for the Camping World Truck Series Championship in 2014, and we're also going to have a chance to visit with the man that has already clinched the Championship this season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
It was a long journey for all three teams, and for two, it will end in glory.
ADAM ALEXANDER:¬† And now we bring up the stars of the show, those trying to win the Championship this weekend.¬† Let's start out with the No.29 team from Brad Keselowski Racing, crew chief Chad Kendrick is here, and along with him, young sensation driver Ryan Blaney.¬† Good to have you guys with us.¬† Have a seat.
Ryan, I'll start out with you.¬† Entering the weekend, you're 25 points back of Matt Crafton when it comes to trying to run down this first championship.¬† What is the game plan for tomorrow night?
RYAN BLANEY:¬† We just got to do the best we can, try to win the race.¬† That's all we can do.¬† We've got to focus on us.¬† Like I said, do the best we can, and maybe other things will play out in our favor.¬† We're definitely not as close as we'd like to be, obviously, but I know Chad and everyone at Brad Keselowski Racing has done a great job of preparing this truck to put us in the position to hopefully win the race.¬† That's the best we can do.
ADAM ALEXANDER:¬† Ryan said it, Chad.¬† You need to win the race if you're going to win the Championship.¬† How aggressive is tomorrow night's strategy knowing that you have to wind up in victory lane?
CHAD KENDRICK:¬† It's pretty aggressive, but it's not anything from normal.¬† If we would have been out coming in, we'd still want to come here and win.¬† We really want to win this race.¬† Ryan knows this track well.¬† He likes this track.¬† So our goal is to win this race.
We need things to go in our favor and against their favor.¬† They're a good team.¬† They don't run 20th.¬† They're not going to go out there and run 20th.¬† So they're going to have to have‑‑ or we're going to have to have something bad.¬† I'm not wishing it upon them.
More than likely, we're going to go win the race.¬† That's our deal.¬† That's what we're here to do.¬† Whatever happens after that, I guess we'll find out in Victory Lane if we finished second or won the points.¬† But we're not going to worry about that so much.¬† We're here to win the race.¬† That's what we're here to do.
ADAM ALEXANDER:¬† Now questions from the media.¬† To lead that session, NASCAR's Senior Director of Competition Communications, Kerry Tharp.
RYAN BLANEY:¬† [Clapping.]
KERRY THARP:¬† Okay, Ryan.¬† I like this guy.¬† He is my kind of driver.
Okay.¬† As Adam alluded to, we will take questions for this No.29 team.
What a solid year you guys have had.¬† I enjoyed watching you race and certainly look forward to tomorrow night's race.
Q.¬† A lot of people focus on the end of the season and things that crop up that either get you ahead or get you behind, but as you sit here now and you look at the deficit that you're in, what things happened early on in the season or midseason that you look back on, if it wasn't for that, we'd either be in the lead or much closer?
RYAN BLANEY:¬† We had two races there at the beginning of the year, Kansas and Charlotte, where I think we got wrecked and finished 22nd in both of them.¬† I thought we were out of it there.¬† Just to be in contention and even lead it for a little bit, and then a couple other things happened.
You wish you could take those back, but they're in the past.¬† You can dwell on that as much as you want, but that's not going to change anything.¬† I like to just focus on the present and do the best we can here and now to try to maybe right those wrongs and put us in a better position.
Q.¬† For Ryan, you've won races in a couple series this season.¬† You're still technically in the hunt for this Championship.¬† You've secured a deal to run a number of Cup races next season with Wood Brothers.¬† When you look at this season as a whole, even if it doesn't end with a Championship, how big a step in your NASCAR career would you consider it?
RYAN BLANEY:¬† I think it would be pretty big.¬† Even though, if we don't win the Championship, it's been a good year for us.¬† It's been great to be able to work with Brad Keselowski Racing again and even be in contention for it.
For all Brad's done with me, the best thing I can do is to try to win a Championship for him, and Chad and everyone at the race shop has done a great job putting us in the spots where hopefully we can even be in contention.
I've been very fortunate to be with a great team like Brad's team, and then Team Penske also who's given me great opportunities in Nationwide and the Cup series.¬† Next year I'm really excited to be able to work with the Wood Brothers in alliance with Penske.¬† It's been great to get to know Eddie and Glen and Leonard over there.¬† They've been great guys to me.¬† Just getting to know their history and heritage has been very cool.¬† I'm looking forward to working with them next year.
But like I said, hopefully we can finish out this year very strong.
Q.¬† Ryan, you're a part of a group of second and third generations with drivers with Chase Elliott, the Dillon brothers.¬† How important was that to your career so far to have Dave as a dad and essentially growing up in stock car racing?
RYAN BLANEY:¬† Yeah, I've been very fortunate to have a great‑‑ well, one, a great group of young drivers to grow up with.¬† I grew up racing with Chase and Ty and Austin.¬† It's been very cool to see us all grow.¬† Congrats to Chase on his championship.¬† That's very cool to see.¬† And fortunate to have a dad at the racetrack every week to help me out.¬† It's nice that he's so into it still and is willing to help me out.
And now it's pretty cool of him kind of backing away and kind of letting me do my own thing now since I'm kind of getting a little bit older.¬† I think he just got here.¬† He's definitely been a big help to me the last couple of years when I got started in NASCAR.¬† It's been great to talk to him because he's been through it all.¬† He's taught me a lot of stuff on and off the racetrack that I can apply.¬† Really fortunate to have such a great guy in my corner to help me along the way.
Q.¬† You're the only Ford in the Championship hunt.¬† It's Ford Championship Weekend.¬† Is there any added pressure for you guys to perform extra well this weekend?
RYAN BLANEY:¬† Yeah.¬† Ford puts on a great weekend here.¬† It's so cool to be a part of it.¬† I'm fortunate enough to be a part of two Championships.¬† With this truck one, hopefully we can do it.¬† And then we're in that Owners Championship on the Nationwide side, hopefully we can bring home for Ford and everyone there.
So it definitely brings pressure.¬† Ford definitely makes a big appearance here for this weekend, and then we have a shot at the Cup title with Joey.¬† Hopefully, he can get it done.¬† We have a shot in all three series.¬† Hopefully, we can bring Ford three championships this weekend.
Q.¬† Ryan, you're in a unique situation where your team owner is a Cup champion who's had to sometimes win races‑‑ must‑win races just recently.¬† You're kind of in that situation now.¬† Does he impart any wisdom?¬† Do you seek him out for any guidance going into a race like this?
RYAN BLANEY:¬† I'll talk to him maybe a little bit before, just about the racetrack, but not anything like he's been through.¬† Yeah, he's been able to win in must‑win situations like at Talladega.¬† It's definitely something he can apply, I think.¬† Maybe he can teach me something here.¬† This is a must win for us, you can say.¬† So maybe I can ask him a little bit about it.¬† Like I said, we've just got to do the best we can.
I know Chad and everybody has, like I said, given us a great truck.¬† I'm definitely going to treat it like a must‑win race.¬† Sorry, but if we end up wrecking, we wreck.¬† We got to do the best we can and go all out and do the best we can hope for.
Q.¬† One of the exciting things about covering, no matter what happens this year, is moving ahead and what young talent there is at very young ages coming into both the trucks and Nationwide.¬† Can you sort of assess the talent that you see out there at a very young age and looking forward to next year and beyond for the young racers.
RYAN BLANEY:¬† These young guys coming into the Truck Series, 16 years old, you know.¬† I've been on the losing end of it.¬† I had a great race with Erik Jones, and Cole Custer with his win this year, a bunch of others that have really impressed me.¬† They've done a great job.
I think that's the one thing I love about the Truck Series is they'll allow young kids to come in and run.¬† Even though it's only a mile and under race tracks, you can still get a lot of experience.¬† You can go to Dover, and that's almost like a mile and a half.¬† It feels like it at least.¬† It's been really great to race with the young up and comers, like I said, 16, 17, 18 years old.¬† It's been great to run with them.¬† As well as Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter, it's been great to learn from them too.
It's great that we have a lot of variety in this Truck Series, and it's been really cool just to be a part of.
KERRY THARP:¬† Thank you, gentlemen.¬† We wish you all the best this weekend.¬† We'll dismiss you from the front stage.¬† At this time, we'll bring up Adam Alexander.
ADAM ALEXANDER:¬† And now we'll bring up the front runners going into the weekend.¬† The No.18 ThorSport Racing, led by crew chief Junior Joiner.¬† The general manager at ThorSport is David Pepper, and their driver, the man that won the title one year ago, Matt Crafton.¬† He comes into the weekend 25 points in front of Ryan Blaney.¬† If he can deliver a 21st place finish or better tomorrow night, he'll win his second consecutive Championship in the Camping World Truck Series.
Matt, we'll start the questioning out with you.¬† In 20 years of competition in the Truck Series, we have never had a repeat champion.¬† You are in a position to get it done.¬† Your thoughts being on the verge of history?
MATT CRAFTON:¬† We're not going to talk about that.
ADAM ALEXANDER:¬† You're not going to talk about that?¬† That's what everyone wants to hear about.
MATT CRAFTON:¬† It's something I haven't thought about, something I don't really put a lot of thought into.¬† Me and Junior at the beginning of the year, we talked, and we went into this year a little bit different mindset, see how many laps we can lead.¬† Like I said, we do that every year, but at the same time, let's not worry about points.¬† Let's not points race.¬† I said, at Homestead let's see where we end up, and that's what we've done every race this year, and that's all we're doing.
Like I said, if it happens, it happens.¬† If it doesn't, it wasn't meant to be.
ADAM ALEXANDER:¬† Junior, we were talking to Chad a moment ago, and we asked him how aggressive they would be in setting up their vehicle and how aggressive the strategy would be knowing they likely need to win if they're going to get the Championship.¬† You have the luxury of a 25‑point lead.¬† Do you go conservative a bit tomorrow night to try and protect your advantage?
MATT CRAFTON:¬† No.
JUNIOR JOINER:¬† Yeah‑‑ no.¬† We came here to win too.¬† I mean, Matt's smart every week.¬† I've just got to do my job on the box and give him what he needs.¬† We don't do anything different.¬† I mean, our guys work as hard as they can every week.¬† We bring our best piece, and our owners allow us to have everything that we need to do it.¬† Hats off to them, Duke and Rhonda Thorson.¬† If it wasn't for them, we couldn't do much.
ADAM ALEXANDER:¬† Duke Thorson couldn't be here with us today, but he will be with us for the race tomorrow night.¬† In his absence, David Pepper is the general manager of ThorSport Racing.¬† David, you and I were just talking backstage about how long Duke and Rhonda have been part of the Camping World Truck Series, dating back to 1996. ¬†So now in your 19th year competing in this series, what would it mean for your organization, given your dedication over the years, to be able to win another Championship?
DAVID PEPPER:¬† Well, I think Duke and Rhonda, like Junior said, give us everything we need.¬† They built this organization over the last 19 years to be a Championship contender, and that's what we're here to do.¬† I mean, we treat every race exactly the same.¬† We bring all of our trucks here to try to win the race and try to get as many points as you can.
Much like last year, it would be a career achievement.¬† To set history tomorrow night, I don't think it really‑‑ I don't think it will really sink in with anybody unless it comes to fruition and maybe a couple days afterwards.
ADAM ALEXANDER:¬† Now we'll open it up to media questions.
KERRY THARP:¬† Let's take questions for the No.88 team.
Q.¬† Matt, last year was about points racing.¬† If you can win the race, you can win the race.¬† This year you've been adamant that it's the complete opposite.¬† Why coming into this year was it okay, where the points fall they're going to fall, but we're going to win races, and whatever else happens happens.
MATT CRAFTON:¬† Because I had to listen to Junior be pissed off that we didn't lead more laps and win more races last year, and we had the points race the last half of the season.¬† So we talked about it at the beginning of the season, we're going to lead more laps, we're going to win more races, and do whatever it takes to do it.¬† As I said, I've been a man of my word there.
Q.¬† Matt, last year at the Championship party, you showed me a picture of your father's race shop.¬† Do you kind of keep that with you to remind you of your roots and why you got into racing in the first place?
MATT CRAFTON:¬† Oh, yeah.¬† Like I said, I was just there, drive by it and look at it.¬† I was there.¬† I raced that dirt car out in Bakersfield, say, a month ago, and I drove by it and just looked at the shop and just look at where I came from.¬† It's always a good reminder for sure.¬† It's in my phone now.¬† I can promise that it's something I look at every once in a while to remember.
Q.¬† And this applies to any of you because I think it's for the whole group.¬† Last year you guys were the little team that could coming from Sandusky, Ohio, and not having the shop centered in North Carolina.¬† Do you still feel like you're that small team that's beaten everybody else, or was that like, no, we're on an equal playing field.¬† Now we've proved ourselves.
DAVID PEPPER:¬† I'd like to get that one.¬† We actually never felt that way.¬† Everybody says that because we're not in Charlotte, but if you have ever been to Sandusky, Ohio, and see our race shop, it's just like any other race shop.¬† We have everything that you need.
We have a saying there at the shop, we joke around a little bit, the race cars don't know where they're built.¬† You can build a fast race car anywhere.¬† We're proud of being in Northern Ohio because it's a little bit off the beaten path and it makes a good story.¬† But truly, if you put the right people together, like Duke and Rhonda Thorson clearly have, you'll have a great race team.¬† You can do it from anywhere.
Q.¬† Matt, there's obviously a lot of young guys that you're racing against, and Ryan right there, but can you talk a little bit about all those young guys you're racing and what you've maybe helped them out a little bit or what it's like for you to be racing young guys now.
MATT CRAFTON:¬† It's pretty crazy to think that some of the ones you're racing are 16 years old.¬† I'm 38, and I honestly don't feel old.¬† I feel like I'm 16.¬† And to say that you're the old guy and you're 38 years old, like I said, it's really crazy how young they're starting, and like I said, the talent that they do have.
Q.¬† This is for Junior Joiner.¬† When you look at last year versus this year, what have been the major differences you guys have faced?¬† Seems like you guys have been remarkably consistent pretty much across the board.
JUNIOR JOINER:¬† I'd have to say just maybe time.¬† I was pretty green still last year, and before, I was just a shop guy, so learning the Series and the ins and outs.¬† Me and Matt have always had a relationship.¬† Like last year, Matt said it perfect, we didn't want to be the guy to lose a 50‑point lead.¬† So we had to be conservative, and we had to dot our I's and cross our T's and do everything right when we showed up every week.
This year we've been able to go for wins, and we've had good speed.¬† Gosh, if we'd just leave that darn 51 in his motor home, we'd have about eight wins, I think.
Q.¬† You've stayed true to form, Matt.¬† You've not thought about points or the Championship.¬† You wouldn't talk about it.¬† I've talked to you after many truck races, and same thing.¬† I believe that you honestly believe it in your heart that that's not what's on your mind.¬† But can you talk about the identity of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at this stage, going into this Championship, the Series itself?
MATT CRAFTON:¬† The Series itself, I say it each and every week, I truly believe it is the best racing in NASCAR.¬† I mean, I always compare it to, like I said, if anybody watches NFL, the college football, and you always see the better games in the college football.¬† Like I said, that's one of the ways I consider the Truck Series.¬† Just like I said, it's a step up to get to the Cup Series, but I truly believe it's great, great racing.
Q.¬† David, you touched on in your opening, the longevity of ThorSport in this Series, and now you're on the verge of back‑to‑back championships.¬† What about doing it with Matt, who's been at ThorSport for many, many years, has been dedicated to the company, took so long to break through for his first win, and now you guys are many more?¬† What does it feel like to do it, to make history, and to win both championships with a guy like Matt?
DAVID PEPPER:¬† Matt's been with this race team a long time.¬† He was here when we didn't have the race cars to showcase his talent sometimes.¬† So I think you really make a good point.¬† To be able to give him race cars and surround him with people over the years and the dedication that he's had to Duke and Rhonda Thorson's business plan and just the plan to build this race team, a lot of guys wouldn't have been that patient.¬† A lot of guys would have jumped ship.¬† For him to stay loyal to Duke and Rhonda and this team, yeah, it does make it much more special to, again, be on the verge of history and be a part of that.
I think every one of us‑‑ Junior, myself, every one of the guys‑‑ we want to be part of that history with Matt knocking down two titles if we can get it done tomorrow night.¬† Don't have any bad luck.¬† It would be really, really special for everybody, very much so for Duke and Rhonda.¬† They would have him race here probably till the end of time, and Matt knows that.
KERRY THARP:¬† Thank you very much, gentlemen.¬† We'll excuse you from the stage at this time.¬† I'll call back up our host, Adam Alexander.
ADAM ALEXANDER:¬† Thank you, Kerry.¬† Now we'll turn our eyes to the NASCAR Nationwide Series.¬† I'm sure you all know, after several memorable seasons, Nationwide will end its time as the title sponsor of the series where names are made.¬† We've all witnessed a lot of history over the last seven years, and this season is no different.
We've been asking fans to vote for their favorite moment.¬† It's a tough choice, no doubt about it.
ADAM ALEXANDER:¬† And if you would like to vote for the top moment in the Nationwide Series, you can go to NASCAR.com/NNStopmoment.¬† Voting is still open.
Now let's bring up the No. 9 team from Junior Motorsports, already claiming the Championship in 2014.¬† The crew chief is Greg Ives.¬† The owner is Dale Earnhardt Jr., and the driver is Chase Elliott, who last week by clinching at Phoenix became the youngest champion in national touring series history.
First off, guys, congratulations on what has been an amazing 2014.¬† Chase, I'll start with you.¬† I just want to get your thoughts and reflections on the last week and what you've been doing to celebrate this title.
CHASE ELLIOTT:¬† Last week was great.¬† To be able to kind of have that pressure off and come to Homestead and know that you're at least going to get the trophy over here at the end of the night is a great feeling.
I guess still knowing that it's not official until this weekend, we wanted to make sure we still have our focus where it needs to be and try to go out and hopefully compete for the win on Saturday night.
ADAM ALEXANDER:¬† I promise your crew chief is still focused.¬† He is ready to go for this weekend.
Greg, when the year began, you were working with an 18‑year‑old kid that had never been behind the wheel of a Nationwide car and hadn't even graduated high school.¬† What did you think of Chase then, and what do you think of him now?
GREG IVES:¬† I think it just confirms what I did think of him back then.¬† We're fortunate to be able to have some testing early on in the season, mid‑January, I believe, and he was testing for the Cup side already and getting a good rapport from that, and us getting together early, we were able to find speed quickly.
Just the feedback, just his years in the sport, whether it was just growing up with his dad and being at the racetrack, you have to take that into consideration along with his ability to just drive and his talent.
From then to now, I think it's the same.¬† I think he's a champion when I started with him, and he could win races.¬† For me, as a race team, I had to put that around him and make sure we were able to give him the race cars and the pit stops and the pit calls and all that stuff right to be able to sit here today.
ADAM ALEXANDER:¬† Dale, you've won two championships in the Nationwide Series, so you know how hard it is to put a Championship season together.¬† What has it been like for you from the owner's seat to watch this campaign unfold and to see a young driver like Chase dominate the way he has?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.:¬† When we started the season out, I had a lot of confidence in Chase and Greg and really didn't have to worry a whole lot.¬† Especially throughout the year, there was never a moment where I felt like I needed to say anything to Chase or give him any advice.¬† It just seemed like he was learning at such a rapid pace that anything I could tell him, he already knew.
CHASE ELLIOTT:¬† I don't know about that.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.:¬† I just felt like really he was a turnkey guy right when he got into the car.¬† There was no adjustments or no advice or no‑‑ nothing really needed to be done as far as molding the guy.¬† And the way that him and Greg have been able to work together has been so good for both of them and their futures.¬† So it just is sort of working as it was designed from the word go, and it's been a real ease trying to get through the season.
They've had some good runs, and certainly learned a lot.¬† Chase is going to be around for a very long time, and it's been a pleasure working with him thus far.
ADAM ALEXANDER:¬† Again, guys, congratulations.¬† We'll open up to the media for questions.¬† For that, once again, NASCAR's Kerry Tharp.
KERRY THARP:¬† Thank you very much, Adam.
And congratulations to this race team here.¬† Very glad with the way things have gone this year and continued best of luck.¬† Dale, thanks for being here today.¬† Appreciate that.¬† Take questions for the Championship team, the No.9 team.
Q.¬† Dale, what joy do you get, and what have you gotten out of owning a race team in the Nationwide Series?¬† Not only seeing this young champion, but over the years and then culminating in seeing this weekend.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.:¬† We've had so many adjustments, working with so many different people.¬† There's a lot of people that have come through the company and had an effect on it one way or another.¬† Just from the way the cars have changed, the people have changed, the way we do business has changed, our relationship with HMS and the resources we get continues to change and improve.
We just learned a tremendous amount to try to get to this point, and it's been a real pleasure racing in this Series and being part of this Series.¬† We really feel like we've got a home here.
Q.¬† Chase, you've seemed all season like a guy who has high expectations out of himself.¬† When you look at how your season started with back‑to‑back wins at Texas and Darlington, did that exceed even your high expectations a little bit to the start to the year?
CHASE ELLIOTT:¬† I would definitely say so.¬† Those two wins‑‑ I mean, the first one, much less two back to back, I think were shocking to me.¬† I did, I said it from the get go once I met Greg‑‑ and not just him, but really the whole group that he had assembled.¬† Those guys are proven.¬† They've won races.¬† I know, when I show up at the racetrack, we have one of the best cars here, and I really feel like it's kind of up to me.¬† If I can do my part for them, I feel like we have a shot.
I really felt that way after the first couple weeks, and I felt like it was up to me to make sure I did my end for them, and fortunately, we were able to get a couple of wins early.¬† We're still trying to get one this weekend.¬† We still have goals, and we want to achieve them.
Q.¬† Greg, is it bittersweet that you're leaving, having gone this far with Chase?¬† Secondly, what have you learned running and winning for a Championship that you'll be able to transfer over to the 88 team next year?
GREG IVES:¬† I think it all starts back at the end of 2012, when the decision was for me to go to Junior Motorsports.¬† What I've learned, not only just this year, but over the last 2 1/2 years over there, is being able to work in an organization like that, that as Dale mentioned, Kelley, Dale, and all them gave us the reins to steer the ship in the right direction with Ryan Pemberton and Mike Bumgarner and myself, just to be able to keep pushing forward and getting the cars better and going to the racetrack with the ability to compete, and with that competition, being able to win races.
I think, when I look back on it, it's not so much just this year, it's like I said, those 2 1/2 years that I spent at Junior Motorsports.¬† I've been fortunate to be able to work with Regan and been fortunate to work with Chase.¬† We put ourselves in the same position over the last two years being competitive, winning races, and trying to win the Championship.¬† Being able to do that is cool.
There's more words I probably could say than that, but it's just a great learning experience for myself, being able to carry that over and the relationship I was able to start back 2 1/2 years ago, just knowing that they had the confidence and I had the respect for the company and being able to get it to‑‑ help get it to where it is today.¬† Obviously, it's not just me.¬† It's everybody.¬† So I hope they continue that success next year.¬† I'll be there along the way pushing and helping them along the way.
It really hasn't sunk in yet.¬† So we'll see after we hoist the win trophy after Chase gets the job done on Saturday night.¬† Maybe we'll be able to celebrate then.¬† Until then, we've got to live in this moment right now and do the best job we can so that we are competitive over this weekend.
Q.¬† Chase, have you had any celebration yet, either with friends or your team?
CHASE ELLIOTT:¬† I really haven't yet.¬† Like I said, it's really not official until Saturday night.¬† So we'll kind of let it sink in then, and certainly we'll enjoy it this off‑season and just enjoy the weekend.¬† This weekend, I think, first and foremost, it's going to be a lot of fun, and kind of for everybody to enjoy the last week of the season together and just go out and compete for a victory and not have to worry about the championship.¬† I think it will be a lot of fun.¬† So we want to enjoy it as a whole, and we'll definitely enjoy everything this off‑season.
Q.¬† Dale, you've had a lot of young talent come through Junior Motorsports, and Chase is just the latest one.¬† What's that say about the team and the series as a whole that there's so much young talent coming through?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.:¬† Well, the sport's in a real healthy place if you look at a lot of the guys that are in the Truck Series and a lot of guys in the Nationwide Series, we've got a bunch of talent that's got a legitimate opportunity to be around in the Series for a long time and be up in the Cup level before long.
So that's very exciting.¬† There's a lot of guys that really do have exactly what it takes.¬† So that's great.¬† I think that's real important to the health of the sport, the long‑term health of the sport.¬† So I think that that's got to be exciting for everybody going forward, but we have‑‑ you know, trying to find those guys and give those guys opportunities.
I think finding the guys has become easier.¬† That used to be the hard part, finding the talent.¬† The talent has become more abundant.¬† Finding the opportunities, finding the partners and the sponsorship packages to put around those people has become the hurdle now, whereas before it was difficult to find that guy and you were sort of taking some shots in the dark here and there.
But there's a lot of talent out there, and just trying to put the deals together to get these cars on the racetrack is where the hurdle is now.
Q.¬† For Greg and for Dale, just based on the way Chase has performed this year, it would be easy, it would seem like, to forget that he's only 18 years old and fairly new in this series.¬† Have there been instances, either not necessarily on the track, but maybe something away from the track, that you guys‑‑ that kind of hit you guys that, hey, yeah, he's still just an 18‑year‑old kid.
GREG IVES:¬† He'll often ask where the bathrooms are.¬† Maybe not being at the racetrack often enough.¬† Or what's to eat?¬† He's always eating somewhere.¬† We had to start taking away the junk food out of the cabinets because his metabolism is just‑‑ he's trying to keep that fed.¬† So had to get on the truck driver a little bit and try to get some of the chocolate‑‑ I don't even know what he was eating, but I know he was eating a lot.
CHASE ELLIOTT:¬† They turned the junk food bin into pots and pans cabinet, so if that tells you anything right there.
GREG IVES:¬† So I had to start changing that a little bit because he'd be scrounging around down there and trying to find something to eat.¬† I would say that was probably one of the biggest things.¬† Other than that, when it comes to the racetrack, when it comes to his professionalism, not even close to being an 18‑year‑old kid.¬† So impressive.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.:¬† Every time I talk to him, he's real‑‑ got a lot of youth, and the things that are important to him definitely are what evolves around most 18‑year‑olds.¬† Just having a simple conversation back there in the back about what his plans were after the race this weekend, and as soon as the banquet's over, he's going back home to get his stuff ready for the snowball derby.¬† So his priorities are definitely different than a lot of people's, but he's still very focused and very driven, determined, just loves to race, enjoys being in the cars.
The only time you forget he's 18 is definitely when he's behind the wheel.
Q.¬† Chase, 14 months ago after you won your first touring race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, I asked you what your plans were for the next year, and you said you didn't know.¬† You didn't have any plans.¬† Describe the feeling you have one year later to be where you are.
CHASE ELLIOTT:¬† Yeah, that was a conversation Dale and I had just a few nights ago.¬† I think back to, like I said, this time a year ago, I didn't have any plans to do this this year.¬† After we left Canada there, I had no plans to run Nationwide at all.¬† As I got closer to the off‑season, had a couple of conversations with Mr. Hendrick about running just a few, just a handful of Nationwide races maybe.¬† Still wasn't really even confirmed at that.¬† I'd have been stoked to just run five or two or one.
To be able to have everything come on board the way it did and Napa, for them to step up and the way they did‑‑ they could have easily come on and said, hey, we just want to run ten races or five races, and I'd have been happy with that.¬† For them to come up and step up the way they did and commit to a full season, I think says a lot about them and kind of the commitment they have for the sport.¬† I feel like they committed in a big way, and it certainly gave me a huge opportunity.¬† I'm just trying to make the most of it.
KERRY THARP:¬† Gentlemen, congratulations on an outstanding season.¬† We look forward to celebrating the championship with you here late Saturday afternoon.¬† We'll dismiss you now from the front stage and call back up Adam Alexander to conclude the formal portion of today's event.¬† Thank you again.
ADAM ALEXANDER:¬† Thanks, Kerry.¬† On behalf of NASCAR and Homestead Miami Speedway, we want to say thank you to the drivers and teams.¬† Wish them the best of luck this weekend, and also thank you, the members of the media, for not only coming out today, but giving us coverage for both series all season long.
Thank you for coming to South Florida and covering Ford Championship Weekend.¬† Have a great day.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports