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June 18, 2017
THE MODERATOR: We will go ahead and get started with today's post race media availability at Michigan International Speedway. We're joined by today's race runner‑up, Chase Elliott, driver of the No.24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.
Chase, wild race out there. Could you walk us through that final restart and your overall feeling about today's finish.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I'm really proud of our NAPA team. We really struggled Friday and Saturday, felt like we overachieved today from what we thought we were going to have kind of coming into the race.
Those are the kind of things that you have to have, whether you have a really fast car or a mediocre car. Our pit stops were just incredible on pit road, which is a huge help. I mean, I can't express how nice that was to come in and gain two or three spots. It was unreal.
Hope we can keep some of that moving forward. Gave ourselves a chance at the end. Really at the end of the day that's all you can ask for. Gave up a spot to the 42 on the green flag run before those handful of cautions. You hate giving up those spots. I raced him as hard as I could to try to keep him behind me. I knew there were too many laps to go to run green till the end. That spot could be the potential spot that keeps you in position.
I tried to keep him behind me. Our car kind of fired off a little bit snug, just had to wait a little while to get freed up. He took advantage of that and went on to win.
Happy for him. Had a fast car, did a good job, executed his race well.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Chase.
Q. Larson won the pole, had been fast all weekend. Did he have a better car at the end? Were you going to need him to make a mistake in order to win the race?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Once we singled out in line, it's difficult to pass in a short period of time. Sure, I think he would have had to have made a bobble for me to get to him. He had probably about a second on me. I wasn't close enough to get to him or make a move.
In that position, he was going to have to bobble for me to get close enough to do anything with it.
Q. Chase, it seems like you have an idea of how to get around this track. You and Kyle are battling back and forth. How encouraged are you about this performance? Do you feel your cars are getting closer to getting that first win to make the Playoffs?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I hope so. I really felt like we ran better last year in the two races than what we ran today. I think we executed the race better today than what we did last year on pit road, with restarts, the way things played out.
If you had to choose one or the other, I would rather overachieve with a car, finish a little better than what we deserved, than the other way around. So I was proud of that.
Obviously would much rather win the race, but we gave ourselves a couple opportunities at the end, restarting up front, which was nice. Had a couple decent ones. Just didn't work out in our favor.
Q. Chase, did you like seeing those late‑race restarts or not so much?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I think depends on who you are. For me, it was opportunity. For Larson, it was a bummer, I'm sure, to see that. I've been in both situations. I've been in other situations last year a couple times.
Sure hate seeing 'em when you're out front. If you're the guys that are second, third, fourth, you're hungry. Not going to catch him without one.
I saw it as an opportunity. Today I liked it. But if I was out front, I probably wouldn't.
Q. There at the end are you aware Larson has a finish, I don't have a win, Logano doesn't have a win that counts? Are you aware of the Playoff implications of where you are on the track at that time?
CHASE ELLIOTT: No. I mean, I guess you could get caught up in it. You can think about it, worry about it all you want. I mean, really, the people who run good, the people that put themselves in position are going to win, period. That's the way it is. That's the deal. You might as well just go ahead and count on the guys that consistently run well. You can pretty much count on them winning.
Wherever that shakes out, it's going to shake you out. I think if you run well enough every week, you're probably going to get a sticker before too long.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for joining us today. Good luck next weekend in Sonoma.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Thanks.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our third‑place finisher, Joey Logano, driver of the No.22 Shell‑Pennzoil Ford for Team Penske.
Joey, you were 19th with 50 to go, and you battled up for a third‑place finish. Walk us through the end of the race from your perspective, how you really came away with a good finish.
JOEY LOGANO: Feels great. You have no idea how good this feels (smiling). Feels like a win, just to stop the bleeding. No secret, last month, month and a half, has been a struggle for us with just a lot of things going wrong during the races. This was an uneventful race for us.
Todd was able to make some good calls there. A lot of times Todd makes calls and it confuses me. I go, Why did you do that? I never actually say it, I keep my mouth shut because I know it works out at the end. It did again.
Was able to put me in position to drive the heck out of the thing. Finally got a restart on the outside. I actually got three in a row finally at the end. Every other restart was on the bottom. I was just getting eaten up.
Had a good restart, pass a whole bunch of cars, get a restart, pass a couple more, get a restart, it was a good thing for us. Eventually put ourselves in position to almost win the race. I thought when we were fourth there that we might win this thing.
Had a good start. Was able to get momentum on Larson. Actually got to his back bumper. Just couldn't stay attached for some reason, for whatever it is. We got to figure that out. Couldn't stay attached in the bottom lane.
Three cars pretty close. They just pushed ahead, then kind of put us back to third coming up at the corner when Denny slid up a little bit.
Overall, like I said, proud of everybody. This is what the 22 team knows how to do. This is what we've done hundreds of times. It's nice to be able to just put together something and out‑finish our car.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open the floor for questions.
Q. Usually you say 'sucked' after a second‑ or third‑place finish. How rare is this that you're happy in this position?
JOEY LOGANO: How rare is it that I'm happy? What, am I miserable all the time? Geez. Typically I'm a happy person, I just don't like getting beat.
Q. Do you feel like you didn't get beat today or did you make the most out of your car?
JOEY LOGANO: We made the most possible out of our car. The only way we were going to do better is something crazy happening in front of me and sneak by to get the lead. That was the only way I was going to do it.
We had a 10th‑place car. We finished third with it. Proud of that. We had a rough month and a half. We stopped the bleeding today. I'm proud of that, as well.
You know, you're right, it's not a win. But all things considered, over the last month or so, it feels really nice just to stop the bleeding.
Q. With fresher tires there at the end, did you think you had a pretty decent shot on the restart with five to go?
JOEY LOGANO: When I was sitting there 20th, no, I didn't think I had a shot at all obviously (laughter). After a couple good restarts, then restarting fourth, yeah, I got a real good shot at winning this thing if I could get a good start.
I was able to get a good start, I just couldn't stay attached and push Kyle out there. We ended up losing too much track position basically. I fell back to fifth or so, was able to get enough momentum to get back to third.
Overall, you know, didn't stay attached as good as I needed to.
Q. Joey, you said it really feels good to get a podium finish at last. How did you keep your morale up after running into various bad luck? Knowing that you are able to stop the bleeding, did you figure you had to change some of the routines or stick to the game plan that's been working?
JOEY LOGANO: We haven't changed anything. It's easy to say, Man, you got to change something, right? The fact of the matter is this is a winning race team, what is there to change? We just had some bad luck.
We got to figure out the package a little better. We still got work to do. But we did make our car better throughout the race. The last run before we put tires on, the last one, we were actually pretty good. We were able to race with the 4, our teammate, Brad. Just didn't have track position then, but we made our car better. That made me feel good.
We were competitive at least. We just had to get up there. Then with the strategy and restarts, we were able to get there.
Yeah, we still got work to do. Are we where we need to be? Absolutely not. We had tires, all that, and I still couldn't keep up the last run. We still got work to do to catch those guys. But we made a solid step the last couple weeks.
Q. Joey, you said on Friday you had about 15 areas you were looking at, like a he process of elimination. Could you feel like you narrowed that list down with this good finish?
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, I think so. There's always problems that you're going to identify, as you should, as any competitor or person, you should identify your weaknesses. I think we're always going to do that.
But I think we're slowly but surely fixing things, understanding our car better, understanding what I need to do to go fast, what to ask for out of my car, all that stuff.
We're slowly making progress. This next couple weeks, obviously you got Sonoma and Daytona, kind of is not the typical racing we always do, so it's going to change that up a little bit. We got a couple weeks to digest what just happened here and try to build something better for when we come back to a mile‑and‑a‑half type racetrack.
Q. Joey, do you feel you are out the funk heading into Sonoma and Daytona, two unpredictable racetracks?
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, I mean, are we out of the funk? Yeah, I think so. I'd like to think that, at least. Like I said, we still got to make our cars faster. Heading into Sonoma, Daytona, like you said, two different racetracks. Both of them we've been successful at. Haven't won at Sonoma, but we came close last year. Daytona, we've proven to be good speedway racers. We're just going to keep going and start gaining some points back we lost.
Q. Were you surprised at the speed you had when you unloaded on Friday during practice, or did you feel this was a place you could get back on track?
JOEY LOGANO: I'm not surprised, just relieved. That's the biggest thing, you know. We had decent speed last week, too. We were running fifth when we had a flat tire. We don't have the speed to recover as well as we need to. We can't race in traffic as well as we need to. That's our biggest weakness right now. We just got to be able to work on that stuff a little bit. We've made progress. We're getting better, but we still got a ways to go.
Q. Joey, is there anything you learned there in the final stages of this race that you think you can bring to the August race to gain some stage points?
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, we scored a couple stage points today, not many. We didn't do very good in that department. We scored a finish, which was good.
There were some things, yeah, we learned a lot of things about our setup. We made some changes in this race that was the wrong way, then we went back and went the other way with it. That's when we picked up speed.
There were some for sure items that we identified that were better. If we can start the race like that, I think we'd be a lot more competitive.
Q. Joey, the tire dragging that they did here earlier, do you think that was a plus for the track? Did it make a big difference, not much difference?
JOEY LOGANO: I don't know where they tire dragged. I think they did it in the groove, so no. They did it in the wrong spot, in my opinion.
THE MODERATOR: Joey, congratulations on a third‑place finish. Good luck next week in Sonoma.
JOEY LOGANO: Thank you. Appreciate it.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Alba Colon, Chevrolet's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series program manager, representing today the winning manufacturer and the winner of the Michigan Heritage Trophy.
Alba, what is it like to be able to take that back to the headquarters and show that off for a month or so?
ALBA COLON: Of course, first of all, thank you. Thank you to all the media for the time you give us today.
It is a big deal. It's a big deal to win in your backyard, and to have the bragging rights. We did that last August. We gave the trophy back I think it was on Thursday. I was suffering because that trophy is on my desk. Needed to give it back.
All the teams knew it was important to go back and get it back for all of us, and for all of them, for all of the hard work we do. So this baby is coming back home tonight with me. Looking forward to that.
More than anything, it is what the trophy represents for Chevrolet. At the end of the day, what is important about this trophy is that the three OEMs with the track get an opportunity to provide a check to a charity that we all choose later in the year. We have give some money back to a charity mainly in the Detroit area. That's what is more important than anything else.
THE MODERATOR: That's outstanding. What else is outstanding, you have a great young driver in Kyle Larson who won his third Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race today. How important is it to have that kind of talent coming through the ranks of Chevrolet to show you have a bright future?
ALBA COLON: Absolutely. Kyle has done an amazing job, not only him, but when you see also how Chase Elliott did today, how close was that win. It's amazing to see how our young talent is coming up. We are proud of all of them. We have more people. You saw yesterday William Byron finishing second, very close to first. But we have been very dedicated. We are concentrating on bringing the young talent up to their careers, but also to represent Chevrolet.
I think our two guys that finish first and second did an amazing, an amazing job. We will keep working on that to make sure it's still happening.
Again, it's exciting for NASCAR, too. They represent a lot of young talent that we have outside today. More people are coming to see how they are doing. Very proud of that.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open the floor for questions.
Q. You mentioned the other OEMs. Is it a friendly rivalry?
ALBA COLON: Absolutely, absolutely. At the end of the day, we work many things together. That started when we were working on the Gen‑6 vehicle, when the three OEMs started to work a lot together to make a project happen. We're still working on many projects.
We help each other on some things that's going to advance the OEMs and advance NASCAR and so on. As soon as that green flag drops on Sunday, we are there just pretty much to win, to win the race.
But, yes, we recognize that some things, especially in the charity side, we all got together with the track, when this trophy came along the first time, and we said it is the right thing to do, especially for the state of Michigan and the things that represent a lot for us.
Q. Alba, you're very excited to have a young talent like Kyle Larson. Talk about when he brings to the table for you as far as manufacturing in terms of the win on Sunday, buy on Monday mentality?
ALBA COLON: Absolutely. First of all, I always been talking about how passionate people is, how they identify in the sport, not only with the brands, with the OEMs, but also with the drivers. I think that Kyle Larson has brought different people here to this sport. For us, it's really great.
He's a great ambassador of our brand with what he drives. He comments a lot about us. Not only that, not only what he's doing for us as a company, for a manufacturer, helping us on many things, but what he's doing for NASCAR.
We understand that are cycles in the sport. We have seen with some of the drivers retiring, we need to help to bring that young talent.
Kyle was one of those first ones that came to be with us, to attract more young talent. Great relationship with him at the track, outside of the track. So to have him winning and to have him doing so well, I think that he's leading the points after this race, it is fantastic.
We have to continue working with all our drivers, but of course helping to bring that young talent and bring those new race fans, mainly those new race fans to the sport. These young drivers are doing that. When you see other people like the last win, other wins before, all of that helps the sport to go forward.
Q. How important is it to have Larson and Ganassi run better this year, especially losing Stewart‑Haas?
ALBA COLON: Very important, absolutely. Stewart‑Haas, they were one of our key teams. It was sad to see them go. We are very honest about that. All the teams got together and realized, you know what, the game has changed. We have to work different, we have to work more together, we have to do things different.
To see how Chip Ganassi Racing has a step up in the game has been fantastic. But I would say on things you don't get to see the dynamic of those particular key partners have changed completely. They understand, you know, that we have to work together and to have Chevrolet to be up front and, of course, one of our teams, as many of our teams at the front.
The dynamic changed a lot when Stewart‑Haas left. Chip Ganassi has step up a lot. Like Hendrick has done, some of our other teams. It has been a pleasure to see how they're doing this year.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations again on winning this Michigan Heritage Trophy and good luck on defending it when we come back.
ALBA COLON: Thank you very much. We hope to see you all here in August, gracias.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports