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October 7, 2018
THE MODERATOR: We have now been joined by our race winner, driver of the No.9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, Chase Elliott, and this is just a quick note, the 40th victory for Chevrolet at Dover, and this becomes the eighth track that Chevrolet has 40 or more victories at. A quick little Chevrolet stat for you guys there, and Chase, they always say the second win comes a little quicker than the first. Tell us a little bit about your last few laps there to pull off that victory.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, everybody said‑‑ we struggled for obviously a couple years to win a race, and they said, oh, once you get one, they all come easier, and I was like, oh, there's no way that's true at all. Certainly didn't come easy today, and just so glad we could get a win. Last fall was such a tough race for me, and as I've said to a bunch of people, that was probably the toughest day of my career, and just to be able to come back and kind of put those things behind you and prove that you belong is very gratifying.
Just thankful for the opportunity.
Q. Chase, Alan was talking a little bit about last year, and he said going through that adversity kind of helped you grow and get to where you are today. Do you feel like last year kind of helped you and today gives you a sense of redemption really where you got to today?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Well, I mean, it definitely makes you learn for sure, and it makes you appreciate a day like today more, I can assure you if last year wouldn't have happened, I wouldn't appreciate it as much as I do today. When you have those hard days, that certainly makes you learn and gives you no choice but to grow up a little bit.
Yeah, I think the biggest thing is when you have days like that, you're just proud of the opportunity to be able to come back and be in a position to do it again. I mean, just for the thing to work out, to have a chance to win today, is crazy as is, a year later.
This is an important race. To be able to move on, huge. The same thing was riding on it last year and realized we missed out on a hell of an opportunity. Just a great effort today. Fell behind early and fought back to have a great shot there at the end.
Q. Chase, from what you learned from the race a year ago, is there anything that you really felt you put into use today, either kind of mentally or strategically?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, I think just mentally having a little more confidence in it. I think that last year you get in those situations, and you just‑‑ yeah, I don't know, but yeah, I think just having some more confidence going into that. It was no‑‑ the ending was nothing like the race was last year, but it was certainly a tough ending with adversity, restarting on old tires and having those guys coming on fresh tires behind you. All that stuff adds up, and it certainly wasn't the same complexion as the race a year ago. Didn't win it the same way we lost it, but still, just to have some more confidence going into those restarts and things is great, and the more you're in those positions, the better you feel.
Q. Chase, did you at any point question Alan's decision to stay out on old tires? Did that make you think twice, what are we doing staying out on old tires?
CHASE ELLIOTT: No, I actually thought it was the move. I was shocked that those other guys didn't stay out there with only seven laps to go. I just felt like‑‑ I thought staying out was the right thing to do if you have a few rows of cars behind you. If that's the case, I think you can make it happen if you do all the other things right. But yeah, I was shocked that at least one of the two of them didn't stay out there at the end.
Heck, I don't care. I'm glad they didn't, so it worked out for me.
Q. Obviously you're happy that you won, but as someone that's had heartbreaking defeats towards the end like you mentioned last year's race, do you kind of sympathize with Almirola at all?
CHASE ELLIOTT: No. (Laughter.)
Q. Wondering whether or not you studied tape, film, whatever as far as restarts go, because you finished second so many times earlier in your Cup career. It really seems that you're getting better at closing now.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I'd like to think so. I just think doing it more. You can watch and watch that stuff to death, and you just won't have the feeling in the car is not the same as watching it. So I just think being in the position more often helps you learn, and until you're in those positions more, it's going to be hard to learn from. Doing it consistently, being in high‑pressure situations and enjoying those moments is the only way you're going to get better at it. Just glad that we had another chance to do it today.
Q. At what point did you realize that, hey, this race might be mine?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Well, you never know if anything is yours until it's over with. Certainly felt like we were in a good position with those guys staying out. We had a couple rows of cars behind us that were also on the same strategy as us, so that makes you feel better about it. Does it make you confident, like you know you're going to win it? No, but it makes you feel better about it. Like I said, I thought staying out was the right thing to do there, and I was glad those other guys went down pit road.
Q. Obviously with this win, you don't have to worry about next weekend and you're locked into the next round. How big of a weight off your chest is that?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Oh, huge. I mean, I think it's nice to be able to know you're going to move on, but you can't get complacent in the fact that you are moving on, and you can't let those points just sit out there and not try to go get them because those bonus points you get for winning or winning a stage or winning a race or whatever, that's huge, and you need as many as you can get. One or two points could be the difference in you making the round of four or not. Just knowing that and not being complacent with the win and trying to go get another one or two before it starts I think is important.
Q. Chase, before the caution where you guys elected to stay out, you I believe were running some incredibly good lap times and I believe were the fastest‑‑ you were being told you were the fastest car on the track. I just was curious first if you thought that that kind of speed in the race, if it were not for the pit road penalty, did you think you had a chance to race your way to the front?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Well, we certainly got it a lot better there. I never had a chance to run with Kevin. Obviously he was really fast. But I thought between the 10 and the 41, I felt like we were pacing them there at the end, at least from what I could see. It's hard to tell when those guys are half a straightaway or a straightaway ahead, but I thought we were close to them, way closer than we had been all day. We had made an adjustment the stop before that that I felt like was the last little bit that we needed to make our car as good as it was going to be today, but yeah, it just worked out. Was able to put ourselves in third, and once they came down pit road, that gave us the lead, and what else can you ask for?
Q. With the strides that your team and you have made this season and now with the pass into the Round of Eight, what do you think is possible for this season?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Anything is possible, man. There's no reason at all we can't make a run at this deal. I thought we made a great run at it last year. Personally I felt like we went way further than anybody expected us to, a couple laps away from going to Homestead. No reason why we can't do that this year and give those guys a run.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by team owner Rick Hendrick, so he's also available here for questions, as well.
Q. Chase, talking with Alan this weekend, he said that he's really worked to make sure that you and the 9 team aren't consumed by pressure, that you guys don't focus on the negative energy, it's all positive. How much does that help your mindset in the playoffs?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, I feel like Alan's approach is great. He lets me do my thing, and I let him do his thing. He doesn't question me, I don't question him, and to me it's really simple, and it works great. I've always appreciated that approach. He reminds me a lot of my dad in that sense because Dad has always kind of let me do my thing and has never really questioned it along the way, and that's all I can ask for from a guy who's leading the team or in his position.
I'm just appreciative of the opportunity to work with him. I think he's as good as it gets really at the end of the day. I think he's been underrated for a long time, and I just hope that we can give him the gratification and the wins and success that he deserves because he's really good at what he does.
Q. Chase, having Denny Hamlin on the front row restarting with you there late, did that add any extra motivation, or do you think any differently when Hamlin is beside you in that circumstance?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, at this point, no. I feel like we've raced with each other a lot since last fall. But I haven't really had an issue with him since then. No, I can't say that I singled him out there.
Q. For Rick, what have you seen in Chase here and at Watkins Glen that maybe you haven't seen previously?
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, I've seen what I saw today a lot with Chase. We just didn't have the car for him early in the year. What I saw him do at Watkins Glen was, I mean, unbelievable against some of the best road racers. I mean, seeing him develop at some of those tracks have been unbelievable. But like he said, we were a lap away from him going to Homestead last year when he got spun.
I think we were behind this year. We've caught up a little bit, and he's just got an awesome amount of talent. I think, again, to be able to show it on a road course, it was pretty unique.
Q. Chase, it's been well‑chronicled the close calls and the struggles, and it's one thing to have that if it's at the local short track when there's not as many people viewing. When there's so many people there and so many people having to ask about it week after week after you've had it, how does that not break you? How does that make you stronger? How does that prevent you from repeating and falling into the same circle?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, honestly, it's frustrating at the beginning of it, but you guys asked me so much, I got to the point where I really didn't care, so I appreciate that, because that was kind of where I landed with it.
Yeah, just really don't care what y'all ask me anymore, and that's a great way to be in my opinion. It may not be right or wrong, but that's the way I've approached it, and it's the way I'm going to continue to approach it.
Q. For Rick, obviously this year you guys have been looking for sponsorship for the 48. That's been something you haven't had to do for a very long time. How challenging, what has that process been like? I think there's certainly a lot of questions but there's nothing been announced at this point in regards to where that car will be sponsorship‑wise.
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, you know, when you have as many‑‑ sponsorships in general have been tough for everyone, and for Jimmie, we haven't had any sponsor other than Lowe's. We've had some opportunities, but there was a conflict with some of the other sponsors we had. But we're pretty excited. We're going to have an announcement probably in the next 30 days or so, and I feel real good about it.
But it's really hard when you have someone that has been so successful but they have been tied to one brand for a long time. We're excited about the next chapter there.
Q. This is actually the 20th win at Dover for Hendrick Motorsports, and the vast majority of those wins came from Jimmie and that guy up there. Do you feel like Chase has that same potential to eventually get to that level?
RICK HENDRICK: Absolutely. When you, again, when you see Chase, he's run so well. He runs good on superspeedways, he's good on the mile‑and‑a‑half. He's good everywhere, short tracks. I think Jeff will say the same thing. He's cool. He's calm. He doesn't get rattled. He knows when to race. I've been so impressed with him in the last couple of years, and we just could not put it together. I mean, we'd lose it on pit road. We'd stay out and everybody pitted. It was almost like he was snakebit.
And I know why he feels like he did, because he was there so much, and it was like, he can't close the deal, and it wasn't really his fault.
Q. Jeff, does this win remind you of anything from your career like as you were a younger driver, maybe something that you kind of lucked into or kind of had the circumstances play out?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I was in Victory Lane there and Alan was talking about how we stayed out one time maybe in one race here, so I didn't remember that. But you know, I think kind of going off of what Rick was saying with Chase, I mean, you think about how many second‑place finishes he's had, how close he's been, and I think to Watkins Glen, just getting that monkey off his back, just being able to get into Victory Lane, recognizing that all the ingredients that it takes to finally pull it off is such a huge relief as a driver.
And now to be able to follow up that Watkins Glen win with a win here in the closing laps on a restart against a guy that had a little bit fresher tires, a guy you have some history with, I think this only elevates up his game and the whole team's game of being capable of now going and closing the deal. It's tough when you've been so close and it doesn't quite work out, but all it takes is a couple of big events like this where you do close it to build that momentum and confidence to continue to go do that. Timing couldn't be better for Alan and Chase and this entire team.
Q. Jeff, I know what Rick would probably say about this, but Alan was in here talking about the two young guys, Chase and Alex, making it possibly to the next round. What are your thoughts on that, to see the two young guys at Hendrick Motorsports moving on and kind of you were the young guy once and Jimmie was, kind of following in those footsteps like that?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I think going back, that was really unfortunate the way that race ended last week, that knocked Jimmie out. He did and that team did everything that they needed to do to get themselves to the next round, and then it just didn't work out with the way that thing unfolded.
You know, I think‑‑ and I told Rick this a short time ago; the momentum of the Roval and how exciting that was, I mean, I saw people at that race, including myself, that were seeing things that we haven't seen in a long time, and it just reminded me like the Brickyard 400 and just events that were inaugural events. It just brought a lot of buzz and excitement to the sport.
You follow that up with a Chase Elliott win here in Dover, and yes, we're biased, but I think we all know what that means for momentum in the sport and positive things.
Young guys are very, very important, but so are the veterans. What you want is those to go head to head, and you want a changing of the guard, but you want to see the veterans do what they're capable of doing, and then you want to see a young guy come along that challenges that. So it makes for great headlines and stories, and I think we're fortunate to have both at Hendrick Motorsports, a guy that's a legend and still a little more work to do, and one that's got a lot ahead of him in the future, several guys actually, you look at William and Alex.
Q. This is actually a question for both Rick and you, Jeff. What type of advice have you guys given Chase over the last couple of years, and how have you seen him kind of develop and mature over the last couple years, particularly with the performance on the racetrack?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, I think you could sense it up here, he was‑‑ there was so much pressure on him to close the deal, and I would reassure him, man, that wasn't your fault that the pit crew fumbled the ball. Several races like that it wasn't his fault. And so you keep trying to reassure him, but you could to a certain point, but when he won that race at Watkins Glen, it was like the world was lifted off of his shoulders. I saw a different‑‑ he was loose, he was having fun, and I think Jeff can tell you, until‑‑ you can coach him, you can talk to him, you can do whatever you want to do, but until they get that win and that kind of eases up, that's‑‑ we've talked to Chase a lot, but Chase is a smart, super smart race car driver. From my standpoint, I think‑‑ and Jeff talked to him, too. It's just, hey, man, don't let the pressure get to you. You're Bill Elliott's son, you're supposed to win, you've been so close, you've been an Xfinity champion. But he's handled it well.
I think I'll let Jeff answer the rest of it, but he's shown me some poise and how to race, when to race, take care of the car, feedback on how to‑‑ what the car needs. I mean, he's still a young guy. He doesn't have a ton of laps.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I like to hear when I was sitting over there, hearing Chase about embracing Alan Gustafson. I think Alan Gustafson is very underrated, and I think Kyle Busch, if he were to be honest and tell you, he'd say the same thing. Mark Martin would tell you that; I would tell you that, guys that have worked would him. I think by him embracing what Alan and this team is capable of giving him and now to have some momentum and confidence, you know, I don't think there's anything that we can tell him other than to just continue to support that.
The team loves him, and they believed in him, and now things are starting to click. It's great momentum, and that's all you need as a confidence booster, as a driver, is just to start getting the W's and getting the things you worked so hard for to start going your way, and I'm a big believer that that doesn't happen on sheer luck, it happens through hard work and commitment, dedication. I think this team is very committed and dedicated, and they'll show that over the next several weeks.
Q. Rick, with having Jeff there with the organization, and I don't even know if the exact title is part‑time advisor or something like that‑‑
JEFF GORDON: Did you have to bring up the word part‑time‑‑
RICK HENDRICK: I really appreciate you saying that, part‑time, quarter‑time maybe.
Q. How important is it‑‑ is it something you want Jeff to be more involved with and in what ways, and Jeff, is that something that you feel like you could put in your schedule or that's just not‑‑
JEFF GORDON: I love my schedule. Go ahead, Boss. Sorry.
RICK HENDRICK: You know, to be successful, you have to show up. Show up on time and show up on time with a game face on. He promised me when he got out of the car, he would be there. He's done a great job. I love to give him a hard time. I'd love to see him there more, but he's got his obligations with TV. But when he walks in the room and he goes into the debriefs, he demands‑‑ there's so much respect for him because of who he is and what he's accomplished. All the folks there look up to him.
He's done‑‑ I love to give him a hard time. I would like to have him more because I want‑‑ I don't want to say I want to retire. I'd better not say that. But I would like to see him there more because he's got a lot to offer. So Jeff, how much are you going to‑‑
JEFF GORDON: Later I will thank you for bringing that question up. Couldn't have been better worded. He just told me my nickname was part‑time the other day.
Q. Jeff, going back to the relationship between Chase and Alan, Alan and you were in a pretty high‑pressure situation in 2015 going for the championship in your final year and all that. How much do you think‑‑ and Alan said that that is the most high‑pressure situation he's ever been in, probably will be in, with you. So how much do you think that scenario has helped him with Chase and the expectations of him to win and all that combined?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I don't know if I agree with Alan on that. I think he had high‑pressure situations when Kyle Busch was his driver; he had high pressure situations when Mark Martin and he came close to winning a championship.
I think it definitely heightens the pressure because of the playoff system that's in place now, and to go into Homestead in '15 and battle for that‑‑ I think '14 was our better shot at it, and unfortunately we didn't go to Homestead that year.
And I'm honest when I say this: Alan got myself and he got Mark later in our careers. He has Chase Elliott in the prime, I think, or maybe even just getting into the prime of his career. I joked with Alan but I meant this in all sincerity, is that today what I think made Alan Gustafson grow to the next level is that he put his driver in a situation where others came in to get tires, he stayed out, and they had two restarts and he got it done. He had a driver that got it done.
And if I had a flaw late in my career, it was that I didn't get it done for them in those situations as often as I would have liked to have. So what that does is that now tells a crew chief when I'm in this situation I can take more risks because I have a young guy that's going to put it on the line, that's going to push the limit and do what he has to do to get those wins.
You know these days crew chiefs have to be able to make those gutsy calls because track position is so, so important. That's what made me really happy for both of them, for Chase and for Alan today.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports