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August 5, 2018
Watkins Glen, New York
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race winner, Chase Elliott, driver of the SunEnergy1 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, along with Bill Elliott, NASCAR Hall of Famer and proud father of today's winner. We'll open up the floor for Chase and Bill.
Q. What did it mean to you to actually play a role in this win since you were a spotter, and can you explain to us how did you get from where you were spotting to Victory Lane? Did you run? Did you get a golf cart? And how quickly did you get there?
BILL ELLIOTT: I had a lot of help from my friends. I got there actually before the car did. My role was very little. My goal was to‑‑ if anything happened in the Bus Stop or if I could get some information if somebody was having problems in the Bus Stop, just tell Alan or Eddie on the radio and go from there. But Chase has been good in the Bus Stop throughout the whole time here, and when I was over there during practice and qualifying and stuff, I felt like that was his strong suit through there. You know, I know the first couple of runs they went out, they had some issues with the front and finally got all that sorted out, and in the second practice, I think they made a 10‑lap run, and I felt like in that he was pretty good.
I tried not to get any emotion at all there the last 20 laps or so, just try to watch cars and see what people were doing. There was a couple of cars having a few issues, but I knew a couple places traffic was going to play a part. But they finally‑‑ I know the 00 and there was another car over in the Bus Stop kind of got him bottled up there one time and Martin made a lot of ground on us.
But it all worked out. I couldn't see Turn 1, the issue there on the last lap. But regardless, with the way it worked out, I didn't know who was going to run who out of gas. Luckily we run Truex out of gas, and even if he'd have done something there in 1, we'd have probably beat him back there anyway, but the way we beat him today, that was even better.
But Kyle would have been very good, too. Kyle, he made up a lot more ground than I ever thought he could there when he started back with I think 32 laps to go. So it was kind of a weird day, but a lot of luck was on our side. We had to think ‑‑ they had about three quarters of a lap of gas left for Chase. I told him to burn it down. He wasn't able to, it would run out of gas. It was kind of one of those days. But I'm proud of him, proud of the team. They've done a good job.
They've worked really hard the last two and a half years to put this together, and Mr.Hendrick has done a lot for this organization and done a lot for racing, and proud to see him get back from almost a year ago when Kasey won at Indy.
Q. Were you able to not be emotional?
BILL ELLIOTT: I really didn't have time to think about it. When the race was over, when I knew he got the checkered flag, I went down and I rode back with some guys, and we had to go around and come out between 1 and 2 across the track and come up. I was actually there, like I said, before the car got there, so I was pretty lucky to get there.
Q. Bill and Chase, you both have a lot of memories here over the years, 20 plus. Can you describe a little bit of those memories throughout those years and what this means to you?
BILL ELLIOTT: Well, I mean, to me, it's kind of weird. You talk about numbers, I think this was his 99th start, correct? The 9 car wins the 99th start. I won my first Cup race at a road course in Riverside. I won the only Xfinity race I ever won was right here on a road course, and lo and behold, he wins his first road course. It's kind of‑‑ you don't think about these things until kind of after the race, but it's kind of weird. It's like when I was at Darlington back in the '80s, and '85 and we go into the race, and to win the Winston Million and so much pressure was on us and so many things were going on that particular day, I mean, there was nowhere near we were going to win the race. We were about a fifth‑ or sixth‑place car the way things were running.
One thing happens, the next thing happens and then I ended up racing Cale at the end of the day. He breaks a power steering line going into Turn 3, and here I am leading the race with a handful of laps to go.
It's just sometimes certain things line up and you can't ask why or what or why things worked that particular way. But this is probably one of the toughest road courses that I've seen. A lot of things have to go your way. It's a very fast, demanding place, and the team did an awesome job.
Q. Chase, do you feel a tremendous amount of relief finally getting the first one after coming so close?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Oh, for sure, definitely. A lot of relief, a lot of emotion in general, but definitely relief I would say would be one way to describe it. It's been‑‑ I've left these races pretty down over the past couple years at times and had some great opportunities, and I think that you just have to realize, we run second eight times, whatever it was, I think kind of one thing I tried to beat in my head was that you don't run second eight times by luck and take it for what it is. That's the truth, you just don't. You have to realize that you were in those positions for a reason, A; and B, if you were in them at one point in time, you can get back to them and learn from whatever it was that prevented you from ultimately getting a win and try to correct it to do so.
I learned a lot about myself the past couple years. I've learned a lot racing in general. I felt like the end of last year I was probably at the top of my game that I've ever been racing as a race car driver in general and felt coming into this year with a lot of confidence and knowing that I felt like we could compete with these guys and haven't had the year that we were hoping for, but the past few weeks have been encouraging and feel like we've been running more like we did last fall, which was really nice, and no reason why we can't do that more often.
Q. While you were celebrating on the front stretch, the crowd was going pretty crazy. I don't expect you to kind of toot your own horn here, but do you feel like your win is something that NASCAR has kind of needed, that that's something the fans have kind of needed?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Well, I don't know, but it's really cool and something I'll never forget. I ran out of gas‑‑ I was going to do a burnout in front of him, and I ran out of gas right when I got there. So I coasted on around, and then probably one of the many cool things about today was Jimmie Johnson pushed me back to the front straightaway, which he's been a hero of mine for a long time, and he's been a big supporter of mine, a guy I've leaned on a lot through some of those hard days I was mentioning.
You know, he was the first guy at my car to talk to me after Dover last fall, and then to have him push me to Victory Lane today was pretty cool. That's something I'll never forget, and to see the fans' reaction, the people fired up, whether it's from me or whoever, that's pretty cool to see, and certainly glad that we were on the front end today.
Q. You read your stats off a while ago, the eight runner‑ups and 27 top 5s, etcetera, but on that last lap, what was going through your mind? This has been a big weekend for you with your dad announcing he was going to race in a few weeks. What was going through your mind as you were making that last lap trying to hold off Martin?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, we started that last run, and Martin was saving gas pretty heavily, so I started to save gas, as well, trying to back up to him. I didn't want to get too far out to where I'd burn up what I had. And then he started to inch back to me as I was still saving, so then I tried to pick it back up, and as I picked it back up, he was still gaining on me. I think he had found a couple things that was helping him.
It was just funny, like if I hit a good lap and he hit a good lap, we would come out pretty even. He might gain on me a little bit here or there, but we were just better in completely different parts of the racetrack. He might be better than me in one section and then me be better than him in another.
So my big thing was just trying to make the most of the sections that I felt like I was better than him and not mess up. We were coming to that white flag, I felt like I had a pretty nice gap, just don't mess up, and I messed up, of course, and I had to knock it out of gear and I completely missed Turn 1 and luckily had a big enough gap that he couldn't get up next to me.
Just nice to‑‑ Dad mentioned he was close on gas, too. So just nice to win it straight up and it not be a fuel mileage race. You can win these things a lot of different ways, but to actually go out there, run in the top 2 or 3 all day long and race the guy that's won the past two road races straight up for a victory at the end is very satisfying.
Q. Did you think he was going to get as close as he did?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Well, I knew it was going to be close. Yeah, there it is, I'm watching it on TV. Luckily he got really sideways there, but yeah, I blew it there. Glad that the gap was there to him, and yeah, don't do that.
Q. Obviously your first win is important, but you have a lot of season left. You broke a winless streak for Hendrick Motorsports, 250th Cup win for the company. The way that the organization has come on as of late, what do you see as the possibilities of going forward? What's possible for you and your team?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Well, I think anything's possible in general. I feel like the past few weeks‑‑ have we had the actual pace of the 4 and the 18? No, probably not. But have we been a hell of a lot better than what we were at the beginning of the year? Yes. And have we been a legitimate top‑5 car? I would say so. So that's a big improvement from what we've been. You don't just go from running 12th to 15th to winning these races overnight consistently.
It takes time, and you have to make those steps and those strides to get better, and I think we're hopefully going the right direction. I think we have a good idea of what we need and what we need to do to move forward. I said this at the beginning of the year, but having the struggles that we had running in the back half of the top 10 and beyond some days, it put a lot of emphasis on put stops and race strategy and some of those things, and I felt like our pit crew and race strategy and all that stuff becomes even more important when you're back in the pack because that can be worth spots that you're not fast enough to gain back. So I think that that has made us better because our pit crew has gotten better because of that, and now that we've been running better the past couple weeks, they're better for it, and they're at the level that these other guys are, if not better. And I think that everything kind of happens for a reason.
Q. Did anything surprise you or did anyone surprise you that came to Victory Lane to congratulate you? Was there anything that stuck out to you there?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, just in general, I was out of gas, so a lot of guys had to drive by me, but there was a lot of people that were‑‑ whether they were actually happy for me or not, they acted like they were, and that meant a lot to me. So I thought that was really cool.
And to have‑‑ really all the guys that came, I think, is neat. To have the respect of your peers is one of the most‑‑ it probably one of the coolest things about what you do if you can earn that respect because no one understands what you do on the racetrack, not whoever watching, more than your peers, and when they know what you do and they understand you as a racer and respect that, that's a pretty cool thing.
To have all those guys come up there, that did say something. It was something I'll never forget.
Q. And Kyle Busch?
CHASE ELLIOTT: And Kyle, as well. I've been on the bad end of Kyle winning a couple‑‑ last year at Dover, and he won Martinsville, too. So yeah, that was pretty neat. And racing against him today, felt like we paced him the majority of the day, and that's just satisfying as a racer when you're able to go and race with the guys who are dominating this deal right now and actually be a legit contender and not back into one. That's pretty cool.
Q. And now we go to Michigan, where you have an incredible average finish of 4.6 there. I doubt anyone is better than that. What do you bring in the way the team is right now?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, yeah, averages are what they are, but they're also over how many races you've run. I've only run, what, five there, but it's been a good place, no doubt; I won't deny that. It also helps when you haven't run many, too, to help that average.
But yeah, you know, Pocono was a really good race for us in the spring. Pocono this past time was a good race for us. I was really encouraged when we left Pocono in the bring race that we were going to be able to go to Michigan and be really solid again, and we went there and really struggled. I think that'll be kind of a testament to really see where we stack up and where our gains have got us because that racetrack is‑‑ you really‑‑ the driver certainly is a big deal everywhere, but you've got to have your stuff driving good to be good at Michigan. I think we've gotten better, so I hope that we're improved, and we'll see where we stack up.
Q. Bill, did you lose a bet with Mike Beam?
BILL ELLIOTT: I must have. I really must have. I think it was Mike Beam and Keith Barnwell and maybe Chase all threw me under the bus. That's why I was over in the Bus Stop. So we'll see.
Q. Chase, was there any part of you that didn't want your dad to spot for you?
CHASE ELLIOTT: No. No. We've actually over the course of short track racing, late model racing, he always spotted for me in that stuff, too. It was never really‑‑ that's not a new thing to have. No, I thought it was fine.
Q. Did he do a good job?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, he did fine. We didn't crash, so that was good.
Q. Jimmie said that during the winter, you guys had some drinks and talked about some of the disappointments of the season before. What did you take from those conversations, and do you think you put anything that you learned from those conversations with Jimmie into play today?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Absolutely. I think about them every weekend, and Jimmie has been‑‑ like I said before, he's been a hero of mine and he's been a big supporter of mine, too, which is pretty neat. He and I were out in Colorado at the same time last year and I had an opportunity to sit down with him and just talk about some of those disappointing days. When you have a chance to talk to somebody like him about those days, that's certainly a character‑building moment. They weren't over a lot of drinks, but they were still very meaningful and helpful to me. When you have not only a fellow racer but a teammate and a guy who's done what he's done take the time to lend me advice or just listen to what I had to say, that helps a lot. So I just appreciate his friendship, and looking forward to racing with him for hopefully years to come.
Q. Any insight on the advice?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Nope.
Q. Chase, today they announced a fourth straight sellout here at Watkins Glen, and I know you commented that on your TV interview about the atmosphere of this place. That's got to add to this first win for you, as well.
CHASE ELLIOTT: For sure. Yeah, like I say, I ran out of gas, so I was coasting around, had a great view to see all the people. It looked like a sellout. When I was coasting around, people were still fired up. I'm sure some of them weren't happy, but there were a lot of people that were still pretty damned excited and still in their seats ‑‑ well, they were still in their sections. They were standing up. So that's just a cool thing to see. There's nothing that can recreate that feeling and looking in the stands and seeing people that excited for you for something that you did.
And the fans have been a big part of my career thus far, voting us in a couple All‑Star Races and so on. A lot of great supporters. I appreciate the ones who don't support, too, because that drives you to be better, and the whole bit. Appreciate all of them, good and bad.
Q. Chase, you have a lot of great partners, NAPA, Mountain Dew, Hooters, but it's another little funny coincidence about this win that of all the people you work with in the sport that it's SunEnergy on the roof of your car for this first win; would you agree?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, definitely. Just funny how it all works out. Kenny Habul and SunEnergy1, they've been a great supporter of mine over the past couple years, and Kenny typically likes to have road races. He's a big road racer himself, and a little back story on the paint scheme. So he ran a race at Bathurst this January or February, and I saw a photo of his car, and it was painted up like ours was today. I was like, hey, man, any chance we can swap our paint scheme to what yours was there. I thought it looked really cool.
Lo and behold, he made that happen, and we had a paint scheme swap for this weekend. Just kind of funny all the things that go into it you don't really think about until after the fact. But definitely have some great partners, and it wouldn't happen without them, so you appreciate all of them.
Q. Chase, what was that moment like when you got on the phone and talked to Rick Hendrick? Can you tell us what he said, and can you talk about how instrumental he's been in your career? And is your mom here?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, my mom is not here, unfortunately. I wish she was. Actually I couldn't hear him on the front stretch when he originally called, so I have no idea what he said. He probably couldn't hear me, either, so he doesn't know what I said. So we basically just sat on the phone for a minute.
I did get a chance to talk to him when we got out of Victory Lane, and he just said that he's proud of me, and more than anything, I didn't‑‑ I failed to mention this on TV. I should have. But his efforts and his belief in me dates back further than a lot of people's, and I'm sure he caught a lot of slack for helping me through the times that he did, and he has put a lot of faith and confidence in me over the years since I was, I think, 15 years old to try to help me progress and move forward and get me to the point that I'm at today. I don't know that I would have made it to the Cup Series when I did without him. I know I probably wouldn't have. So without him, none of this would be even a factor.
Q. Bill, kind of following up on Bob's question to Chase about getting through the difficult come‑close times and his relationship with Jimmie, there were times during that when people thought maybe Chase was too hard on himself after some of those races where he came close. I just wondered what was your advice during this time until getting this victory, and how did you feel he kind of handled the whole situation?
BILL ELLIOTT: Well, I still think last fall was kind of a defining point in his career. I mean, the way he ran the last 10 races last year and the things that kind of went on, and I just‑‑ you kind of look at the end of last year, and we were so close to getting a win and getting that last few legs of the Chase, and he's done everything right and there was nothing really I felt like he did wrong. There's going to be days that circumstances plays a part, good, bad or indifferent, and that's a part of the way the racing gods go, right, wrong or indifferent.
But then really you look at this year and the way this year started, and the way HMS and the program has gone from their side, they were really good on the speedways but everywhere else has been a little bit of a struggle. Until they kind of got that under them, and usually the road courses don't‑‑ it just kind of goes if you're halfway decent, you kind of get things together. I'm talking about this could be off a little or that could be off a little bit, you can make it up. And I think Chase did an excellent job of that today, and being able to race with the guys that‑‑ like I said, Kyle Busch would have been the car to beat I think if he'd have been around there at the end, and then Truex is no slouch, either. He ran a really good race last year here and won here, and he run a really good race at Sonoma. To turn around and beat that guy, even with him‑‑ I felt like we'd have beat him easy even before he ran out of gas to the line. But anyway, it's a great part of it, and I think it'll give him confidence to continue on where he needs to be.
Like I said, I think sometimes you get in this sport, and this is kind of my philosophy. You get in this sport and you win too soon, then in your mind it becomes too easy. I think it took me‑‑ I know it took me a long time to win my first race in a lot of years because I didn't run a lot of races first off. So I think I started racing in '76, and it wasn't until '83 until I won my first Cup race. It took me a long time in years wise. You learn a lot through that, you learn a lot about yourself. I kind of picked my way through it. I finished second to Richard at Rockingham and beat myself up I didn't win the race there. I finished second to Bonnett at Charlotte and I still remember that day that I didn't win the race.
But this is a whole different level today. I mean, when you've got guys like Kyle and Harvick and Truex and all those guys that run like they run, to be able just to even finish second to them, that's a heck of a day in my opinion.
Q. Chase, I have a question about what your celebration is going to be like, but first, is your motor home by chance like a dark gray and dark red?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah.
Q. So it's covered in toilet paper right now.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Oh, nice. Nice. Hey, that's okay. I'll take that any day of the week.
Q. The picture came up on Twitter. I don't know who did it‑‑
CHASE ELLIOTT: I haven't got my phone yet.
Q. I'm guessing that's kind of like a prelude to what the celebration is going to be like tonight?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Oh, it's going to be a hell of night, I'll go ahead and tell you. Don't ask me what tomorrow is going to be like, but it's going to be a good one.
Q. Steve Tasker was in here earlier today and he was the pace car driver today. How did you think he fared being a football player?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, he didn't crash nothing, so he did fine, I guess.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports