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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE


April 8, 2014


Kelley Earnhardt Miller

Chase Elliott


JENNIE LONG:¬† Thank you for joining us.¬† With us today is Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet for JR Motorsports and Kelly Earnhardt Miller, co‑owner and general manager of JR Motorsports.¬† Chase claimed his first Nationwide Series win last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in just six series starts and now heads to Darlington raceway as the series points leader.
Chase, with your win on Saturday you became the second youngest winner in Nationwide Series history.¬† Talk a little bit about what it was like climbing out of the No.9 car in victory lane after getting high‑fives from drivers like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick along the way.
CHASE ELLIOTT:¬† Well, first off, I want to say I really appreciate those guys because I'll tell you what, going to‑‑ after we got the win and on the way to victory lane, like you mentioned, those guys just taking a couple seconds to shake my hand along the way, that was one of the coolest things I've ever experienced ever.¬† That was just really, really cool to have those guys, their support, and it was fun being able to race with those guys.¬† It was a great night for us and it was really, really exciting to get NAPA and the No.9 team to victory lane on Friday night.
JENNIE LONG:  Kelly, JR Motorsports is off to its best start in the organization's history with two wins in just six races.  Talk a little bit about the success of the organization and the win last weekend.
KELLEY EARNHARDT MILLER:  Well, obviously you're always excited to get in victory lane, and to do that with Chase in just his sixth start I think solidifies the confidence that everyone had in Chase and his ability to come into the Nationwide Series and perform.  For our organization, adding just with the changes that we made a couple of years ago, continuing to add depth to our organization with Greg Ives that moved over from Hendrick, adding Kevin Harvick to race here and certainly bringing the talent that he has, and Ernie Cope, they've worked so well together all these years, we've just continued to bring people on board that want to keep elevating our program, and they keep digging and working harder and harder each and every week just to find that little bit that it takes to perform at the level that we're performing this year.
Obviously that's all exciting and all that we've been through over the last couple of years and changing‑‑ making the changes to this organization, it's certainly rewarding.

Q.  Chase, can you share a few of the most important elements of racing at this level that you feel you've learned right away that you believe will serve you most going forward?
CHASE ELLIOTT:  Well, I think if anything just having an opportunity to go do it at a young age.  Obviously having great supporters like NAPA while that happened has been great, but to get the experience I feel like I'm getting right now has been great, to be able to go to these bigger racetracks which has been something new to me and trying to learn the atmosphere of it is a different world than what I've always been used to.  The racing style is what it is and your goals there are no different than they've ever been in the past.  For me you always want to show up and try to win the race each and every week and give it your best effort to do that, but the spotlight and the media side and all that is so different right now than what I've been used to in the past, I think that's the biggest change.
Sure, you're going to go to different racetracks and new racetracks for me and a new car and a lot of changes on the racing side, too, but the media side is so different and just that whole world has been a big change.  Trying to adjust to that I think has been the biggest thing, and hopefully we've been doing that all right.

Q.  And do you believe that you've exceeded your expectations?  Have you gotten the start that you were hoping for?
CHASE ELLIOTT:  Well, it's definitely been a proud effort that everybody has given.  JRM as Kelley mentioned, has made a lot of changes in the past couple years, and I haven't been there to be there for them, but I feel like for me I jumped in at an awesome time and it's just been an honor to drive their race cars, and the changes they've made, they're bringing great, fast cars to the racetrack, and I feel like the changes that they've made are headed in the right direction.
So just got to make sure we keep trying to improve as a team and an organization, and that goes for me, too, on the driving side.  Just want to make sure we try to keep getting better and keep going the right direction.

Q.  Now that the confetti or tinsel has settled, when you start out racing, you race against people your own age, and as you move up the professional ranks you race against veterans.  First you win a Truck Series race, but I was wondering now it's a couple days later, has it sunk in that you've beat drivers like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, and what does that mean to you?
CHASE ELLIOTT:  I don't know that it's completely sunk in yet.  It is really, really cool to look back at that and to know that those guys, I've learned a lot from them.  Kevin has been a guy who's really reached out and offered a lot of advice and help, and I really appreciate that.  And Kyle is a guy who I've raced a lot of big super late model races over the years.  We've had some good races.
So it was cool just to have the opportunity to go race with those guys on a weekly basis in the Nationwide Series I feel like is definitely just a privilege in itself, and to have a car and a team and effort to try to go and outrun them, that's just unbelievable to me to just be in an opportunity to be able to go do that.
For me, and I've said this, the guys that I've been paired with as a group is awesome, and they're experienced.  They know how to win races, and it's up to me to get the job done for them.  So hopefully we can just keep trying to get better, like I said, and try and keep chipping away at where we feel like we need to be.

Q.  Next time you go through the Nationwide garage you're going to get a lot of congratulations.  Hopefully you have some rivals, but I was wondering how do you expect congratulations, a little joshing?  What are you expecting from your Nationwide garage mates?
CHASE ELLIOTT:  Well, I'm not sure.  Obviously I'm looking forward to just getting back racing I think more than anything.  I'm not sure what that side is going to bring, but I definitely know it's early on in the year, and there's so much racing to be done, and everybody knows that.  Just got to make sure we keep our heads where they need to be, and like I said before, just got to make sure we keep on the right track and try to continue to get better because that's what our competition is doing right now.

Q.  Yesterday Joey was talking after he won in Texas about he really felt like he had to leave Joe Gibbs Racing to earn the respect he needed to be successful in the Sprint Cup Series, even though he was pretty successful in the Nationwide Series, and he believes he's achieved that.  I guess you're kind of following a similar trajectory having started and been with a significant program for several years now in the Hendrick system.  How do you win respect from your competitors and also win respect and consideration from your future competitors potentially in the Sprint Cup Series?
CHASE ELLIOTT:¬† Guess you've got to outrun them I guess is the simplest thing you can do, and give it your best shot to do that.¬† There's going to be times where you might not have a good weekend or whatever, but like I've said, JRM made a lot of changes in implementing our program and putting things together.¬† It was a hectic off‑season and they were able to get everything done and still bring fast race cars to the racetrack so far, and hopefully we can continue to do that in the future.
As far as earning respect, I feel like racing guys the way they deserve to be raced, those guys are in the positions they're in for a reason, and they know how to get the job done.  I feel like the only thing you can do is just like anybody else, try to go outrun them and try to do it in a good way and try to win as many races as possible.

Q.  Have you been able to draw on advice from your dad's experience related to kind of winning respect from your competitors and from your teammates?
CHASE ELLIOTT:  I mean, a little bit.  We haven't really talked much about it.  I think it's one of those things where you kind of have to experience it on your own.  I don't think that's one of those things that he can really tell you.  I think he'll tell you the same thing; he's always kind of given me space to figure things out on my own, and any information he gives me, it's just kind of there for reference.  It's not ever forced upon.  I think that's one of those things he kind of lets me figure out as we go.

Q.  Chase, congrats on the win last week.  With your debut here at Darlington this weekend, obviously this track has various stories in NASCAR history.  Just your thoughts on racing here this weekend?
CHASE ELLIOTT:  First off, I'm really excited about it.  Darlington has been a place as a fan of racing it's still one of my favorite places to watch races at.  It always seems to put on really good shows, and I'm looking forward to being there this weekend and being a part of that.  I think it's going to be hopefully a lot of fun, and it's obviously a racetrack that's known for being a tough place, and hopefully we can just try to get a feeling for what it's going to take to have a good race car on Friday night in practice on Thursday, and just give me some laps.  That's going to be the biggest thing, just try to get used to that place as quick as I can so we can start tuning on our car the right way.

Q.  Have you tested there before, or is this completely new to you?
CHASE ELLIOTT:  It'll be completely new.  I can't tell you the last time I was even at that track.  That's kind of a recurring trend for me this year going to some of these racetracks I've never been to before and haven't been to in a long time even to watch.  Darlington is going to be one of those, and hopefully we can, like I said, try to get an idea what we'll need to have a good race car on Friday night in practice on Thursday and make the most of the weekend.

Q.  Chase, you touched on it a little bit, but what kind of value is there in getting to race the best of the best of the Sprint Cup competition in Nationwide races like you did on Friday?
CHASE ELLIOTT:¬† Well, I think that kind of ties back to the recurring conflict that everybody likes to talk to in the media world about whether or not the Cup guys belong in the Nationwide Series, and I've always been a supporter of it.¬† I think it's a great thing for the racetracks.¬† It puts people in the stands.¬† It brings eyes to TV, and I think it draws interest to the series.¬† I feel like it's good for everybody, and from a driving standpoint, as somebody that gets to compete against them each week, regardless of what happened this past weekend, I think it's good to have them there.¬† There's too much to be learned from those guys‑‑ it would be a shame if we didn't have them around to learn from.¬† Like I said before, they're in the positions they're in for a reason.¬† They know how to get the job done, and they're at the level they're at because they deserve it.
I've been able to race against a few of them prior to the Nationwide Series this year at some short track levels with Kyle Busch and whatnot running some bigger super late model races, but to be able to race against those guys on a weekly basis at some racetracks that the cup guys race at, I feel like that's a really good thing for the sport and it's good for a young driver like myself to learn.  Like I said, those guys are very knowledgeable and have a lot of experience.

Q.  On the flipside of that, how important will it be for your young group to get to tracks that are standalone races like Iowa Speedway and get the future of the sport out there?
CHASE ELLIOTT:  Well, again, I wish the Cup guys would run those races, too, honestly.  I feel like it's important to go to those racetracks.  I think it's good to have a change and not just go exactly where the Cup schedule goes.  I think it's good for the Nationwide Series to go different places like Iowa and some of the road courses they go to.
I think it's going to be fun.¬† I'm excited to get out there.¬† That's been a place I've raced at a few times over the years, a place that I haven't‑‑ we've had some good runs, some bad runs, some runs in between, so hopefully we can try to put a good one together there and just try to keep growing.

Q.¬† Chase, I just wanted to know what it was like to go back to school on Monday and be a Nationwide winner.¬† That had to be pretty cool.¬† And for Kelley, it was a huge weekend for JR Motorsports, first time in the company's history of four vehicles and all of them had top‑10 finishes.¬† I just wanted to get your thoughts on a great weekend for the organization.
CHASE ELLIOTT:  Well, as far as me going back to school, it was a typical Monday morning.  Nobody likes Mondays, whether you're in school or having to go to work.  It was cool to be able to come home and to have had a good weekend.  I had some good friends that keep up with what I do on the weekends, and cool to come back and see those guys.  But as far as the school side goes, just a typical Monday morning.
KELLEY EARNHARDT MILLER:  As it relates to the four cars in the top 10 at Texas, I think it just kind of speaks to what I started out with, and that's that just all hands are on deck here at JR Motorsports.  It was extremely rewarding for all four cars to be as competitive as they were during the Texas weekend because so much effort went into preparing.  Literally we had to prepare eight cars for the weekend when you're talking about our primaries and backups, and our folks here, being in the Nationwide Series we work on a much tighter budget and so we work with less people that do more jobs and they're not as specialized as they are on the Cup side.
You know, it just says a lot about the effort that all of our employees are putting forth, and they've worked some long hours, they've worked weekends to try to get to this point, and with the 5 car running, with us running the third car, right now through June we have it sponsored for the most part, it's taking everything that every person has here, whether you're the crew chief or the driver or a shop floor mechanic.
That in itself just makes having four cars in the top 10 extremely rewarding, and again, just to be at that level and to beat the 54 and the 22 and those Cup cars that have consistently been up in the owner's points, it means a lot for us because we feel like we're legitimate contenders to be one of the teams that can win the driver and owner's points championship this year if we continue to do what we've been doing and work hard and continue the success that we've had.

Q.  Chase, when you go to a place like Darlington and one that you haven't gone to before, who do you rely on as far as information?  Do you rely on the simulator, the video game simulator?  How do you prepare for a track that you have not been to before?
CHASE ELLIOTT:  Well, just try to ask a lot of questions.  I've got some great teammates in Kevin and Dale and Regan to do that.  Those guys are all guys who have won races at the Nationwide level and the Cup level, so I think the biggest thing is just relying on them.  I don't do a whole lot of the simulator stuff much anymore.  I haven't had a lot of time to.  But just try to ask them questions, kind of get their take on the racetrack and what they feel like they've struggled with in the past and what they feel like is important and how they go about their weekend there.
You know, Kevin and Dale, all those guys, and Regan included, have been guys I've reached out to to try to talk to as much as I can, and I plan on doing that again for this weekend.

Q.  Do you remember the last time you've been to Darlington or any memories of your dad?  Obviously he's had success here.  Do you remember any memories growing up?
CHASE ELLIOTT:  Honestly I can't tell you the last time I even saw the racetrack.  I have absolutely no idea.  It'll be, I guess, a new deal for me this weekend.

Q.  For Kelley, could you talk about what it means to you and your team to have two great names in NASCAR history in Elliott and Earnhardt converge in victory lane this quickly?
KELLEY EARNHARDT MILLER:¬† Yeah, I think it's really‑‑ it's just really cool in my opinion.¬† Just Chase answering that question and saying that he can't even remember his latest memory of Darlington reminds me that he's so young and that I'm getting so old, just thinking back to the Earnhardt‑Elliott relationship with my dad and his dad on track is just really cool to me to have Chase here in this organization.¬† I think I probably relate more to Chase's mom in this scenario just being the female and kind of the relationship I have with Dale just on his success, and even Friday night I was texting her during the race when he took the lead there because I know how proud she is, and that's kind of the pride that I have for my family kind of extends over to Chase and his family just from our history together.
I just think it's really cool in general to see people like Chase and Ryan Blaney and Jeb Burton and those kids come up through the sport and to be able to get the opportunity to run and do something that their fathers‑‑ that's the first time for me that I've kind of lived through that, to just take it all in and see these kids coming up and doing that.
You know, I just find it just a really neat and cool experience that I'm really happy to be a part of and happy to have a front row seat at.
JENNIE LONG:  Chase and Kelley, thank you so much for joining us, and good luck this weekend at Darlington.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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