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April 28, 2019

Chase Elliott

Alan Gustafson

Lincoln, Alabama

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race‑winning crew chief, Alan Gustafson. Congratulations.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Thank you. Appreciate that.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.

Q. All the drivers have been talking about the Chevy teams were all in today, working together, making sure that somebody got to Victory Lane. With a package as crazy as this was, how tough was that from your seat watching it to actually pull off?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: I think, yeah, orchestrating it and the communication up front, laying out the plan was the majority of the hard work. The execution today was just, you know, staying calm and sticking to our guns and staying committed to the cause.
Fortunately everybody did that and it worked really, really well. The plan went really pretty much how we laid it out. You don't get those all the time, so we'll certainly take it. Proud of everybody at Chevrolet and all the Chevrolet team members.
We needed to win this. We needed to consolidate our efforts. We needed to break the streak that one of our rivals has here.

Q. With what Chase has done, basically the last two years been carrying the banner for this Hendrick team, how have you seen him grow? What does a win like this do for you as a team?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Well, I mean, certainly it's a good points today, a solid effort. It's what we do this for, is to win. Really proud of that. Happy for Chevrolet. I'm happy for Mr. Hendrick. Obviously happy for Chase. Really happy for the guys on the team. They've worked really, really hard. Really haven't had the results to pay off their efforts.
Just thinking back a year or s0, we've been so close to winning one of these restrictor plate races for so long, haven't been able to do it. Happy for them we were able to get that done today.

Q. The next two races are Dover and Kansas. You won both of those last year. Did you have a better feeling of a potential win going into today or in the two weeks after today?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: That's a good question. Probably of the three, I was most looking forward to Dover. I don't know if that's just because I like the track, like to go there and race at it. Typically, besides the win, we have a pretty good track record there. I was looking forward to getting to Dover.
I was looking forward to coming here. I mean, you get a little beat down after doing it for so long, not getting the results, how fickle it can be. Certainly don't want to say I wasn't looking forward to coming here. You're a bit cautious with your expectations because this place can bite you in a second.

Q. You've had the opportunity to work with Eddie as the spotter dating back to Jeff. Being able to monitor that relationship as Chase progresses as a plate driver, taking on a leadership role, getting Chase to be a better plate driver, from your standpoint what has it been like to have Eddie take on that leadership role here and Daytona?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: I love Eddie. He's a great friend of mine. We've worked together for a long time now. To be honest with you, I don't know how many years. We have a great relationship, work well together.
The biggest accolade I want to give Eddie, he really had a good cadence and a good kind of plan or mode of execution the way he did his job with Jeff. It worked out. Then when we got Chase. Chase wanted something completely different. Eddie had to adjust what he did to supply Chase with what he needed. It's significantly different. That's not an easy thing to do when you've done this for a long time and you have your system kind of worked out.
He was able to adapt to what Chase needed. I think that helped Chase get comfortable and confident, be in a position to be successful. We've had really good success with Chase on these tracks.
Chase is a really good plate racer, been a good plate racer since the day I started working with him. He's a great team member, a true friend. Really happy for him to win today also.

Q. Regardless of the Chevrolet plan, if the race had stayed green, were you fully prepared to see Alex give it a shot? How did you think you were positioned?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Absolutely. I mean, you kind of knew it was coming. He was going to need some help behind him. I don't know how much he was going to get. Certainly he was going to form a plan. I think in those situations, you have to have a big enough run that the leader can't block. That was going to be the key.
We certainly were going to try to block it. Certainly he was going to throw it. I'd like to believe it would have ended up with one of the two of us winning. You never know. Could have been wrecks. That's just part of it.

Q. Obviously a lot of communication with Chevy and the teams this week to work together. What was it like to sit in those type of meetings? I don't think that's something you have had to this degree maybe before.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: No, you're correct. We've tried before to very little success. There wasn't certainly ever as much effort as we have had over the last few weeks.
I think Jim Campbell deserves a lot of credit for stepping up and facilitating it all, drawing the box of guidelines we're going to have to work in. Everybody quickly agreed to that and continued to push forward to support Chevrolet.
Like I said, we've tried this before. It's really been a pathetic attempt at it. Today was a culmination of a lot of hard work and a lot of effort by all the Chevy teams.
I think all those guys, certainly the drivers and the crew chiefs, the team managers, they share in this victory because they were a huge part of that, a huge part of the success today.

Q. What did the wins at Dover and Kansas last year mean to you? How much did that solidify you guys as a team to be reckoned with?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I think to win the championship and to get to Homestead, you have to be able to win races. That was the hurdle we hadn't been able to get over. We won the Glen, it was fantastic. But you have to win in the Playoffs. You have to win when everybody is on their best game.
I think at both those tracks, we did a really good job, were able to win in crunch time, had really fast cars. What kind of stands out to me, I just love Dover, because when you win Dover, you've done something. That's a tough, fast track. There's no place to hide. There's no way you can get away with not being on the edge all day. That's kind of Dover.
Kansas, to be honest with you, as much as we struggled on the mile‑and‑a‑half tracks last year, I didn't feel like there was any way we were going to win a mile‑and‑a‑half track. We worked really hard at this mile‑and‑a‑half program and had a test at Kansas that went fantastic. We were really solid all week. Really were in position all day long. That's kind of what stood out to me about Kansas.

Q. How do you feel about your mile‑and‑a‑half program now?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: About like I did last year (laughter). That's between me and you.
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by our race winner, Chase Elliott, driver of the No.9 Mountain Dew Little Caesars Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.

Q. After last year, the three wins, making the Playoff push you did, how big is a win like this early in the season to solidify your place, show everybody this wasn't a fluke, that you're here to stay?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, last year obviously was good with the three wins. The cool thing about today is how early in the year it is. Those Playoff points propelling some of those guys to the final four obviously needed to win at other places aside from a speedway, too.
A sticker is a sticker, the Playoff points are what they are. I think it's important to rack them up as early as you can, as long as you can keep stacking on top of it.
It's certainly a big deal, excited about it. Yeah, just nice to get a speedway win. We've been close, had some really fast cars. Alan has never won one in his 15 years crew chiefing or however many years it's been. That's pretty cool.
Yeah, just looking forward to enjoying it.

Q. It took you a while to get to Victory Lane. Now you have four wins in the last eight months. How have you grown as a driver over the span of the last year or so?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, just trying to ride the rollercoaster. Try not to be too up on the ups, too down on the downs. There's so many things out of my control, out of my hands. You just have to kind of roll with it some days. That's not fun sometimes. Sometimes it is.
Days like today, it's fun to roll with it. Richmond, it was not fun rolling with it. It's one of those things where you just have to appreciate the good days, enjoy them. These races are too hard to win not to enjoy it. You never know if or when you're ever going to win another one.
I think having such a hard road to get to win number one made me realize that and appreciate it more than I would have if I'd been able to get a win right off the bat.
Everything kind of runs its course for a reason.

Q. How big it for you because of your family's success here, I'm sure there's some sentiment there? And posting the video...
CHASE ELLIOTT: Happenstance that that video was when it was. Today worked out like it did, for sure. Dad's history, obviously very cool. To me the biggest piece of today is just how much of a home race it felt like after the race. I mean, I was blown away by the people, how fired up everybody was. That was an unbelievable experience.
We are close to home, so that's cool. They made me feel that way. Couldn't ask for much more there.

Q. Even before you won the race, watching around the middle stages, I was struck by the relationship that you and Eddie built, worked together. Sent me back to the first time you worked with him in the Cup Series. He had to teach you a lot of things. How has that relationship evolved at Daytona and Talladega to get you to the point where you're in Victory Lane?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, Eddie does a good job. Obviously he's been doing this stuff a lot longer than I have. Any time somebody with that kind of wisdom offers advice, I think you certainly listen. I think he has grown to kind of know what I like, what I do. I kind of know what he says, what he likes, what he likes to say, when he likes to say it.
I think all those things are nice. As you grow a relationship with somebody, it does nothing but help that. He deserves a lot of credit. He did a good job today. The Chevrolet teammates deserve a lot of credit, as well.
Alex and I, I kind of single him out a little bit because he and I were around each other a lot throughout the day. I think he built some trust in me early in the race. I built a lot in him late in the race. It takes a lot of patience to push a guy, whatnot. It was certainly a team win.

Q. You were asked about your reaction to the way the fans were cheering for you. There's been a lot of talk about NASCAR needs a Tiger Woods, somebody that can really take the role of being the popular guy. Do you want that role? What did you think about the reaction today? What do you think the reaction will be tonight?
CHASE ELLIOTT: It was awesome. Just the post race was unbelievable. I've never had a crowd just felt like in the palm of your hands is how it felt. You get excited, they get excited. You walk, they don't say anything. You pump your arms up, they get pumped up. That's just something that I've never really experienced. That's one of the coolest moments I feel like of my racing career.
Yeah, you don't know if that will always be that way. People might not like you in a couple years, whatever. Today is something I'll never forget. Just appreciate all the folks making it feel like a home race.

Q. I believe it's been since 2016 since Hendrick has gone 1‑2. To that end, how important was teamwork with Chevy as a whole?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, like I said, I felt like it was a team win, for sure. The large majority of the day we were working together as a bowtie group, as Team Chevy. I felt like we executed that well.
I think we could make it better, too. Just because it worked out, I don't think we need to be content in the results. I think we need to realize we can do a better job.
There's certainly power in numbers at these races. When you have guys being selfless, wanting to push and make the lane go, it makes a difference. Certainly worked out for us today. I know it didn't work out for some.
Yeah, it felt like it all kind of happens for a reason. Yes, there was a lot of effort that went in. I felt like it was executed pretty well.

Q. Big win this week. Going to two tracks where you won last year. What do those two wins mean as far as solidifying you as a contender year in, year out?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Those were certainly great wins last year. I felt like any time you can win and win often is a big deal. I felt like we won pretty often in that span of a couple months last year, which was great.
I still don't think we're winning often enough. I feel like we need to be contending more. I see some of our competitors being in contention more than we have been throughout the season. I think we can certainly do a better job.
To have a win this early in the year I think is nice. And just because we won at Dover and Kansas last year doesn't mean we're going to go run good there, too. You know that.
It's going to be hit‑or‑miss. We're going to go there, see what we have. We didn't run good at Richmond, which was unfortunate. Had a good day today, need to ride that as best we can next week.

Q. You mentioned Alex earlier. If the race had stayed green, were you prepared for him to give it a shot? How do you feel you were positioned to ward him off?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I knew something was coming, for sure. I wasn't going to ride second, if I was him. I knew he wasn't going to ride second either.
I obviously didn't know what he was going to do. I was just trying to position myself the best I could. I knew he was going to make some sort of move. I had been committed to the bottom at that point. Obviously he was going to have to come off the bottom to pass me. I was going to come off the bottom with him when he did.
It worked out. I appreciate his selflessness. There were times when he could have canned me and moved on. He didn't. Stuck to it. That went a long way. I really appreciate that. He deserves a lot of credit. Team Chevy deserves a lot of credit in general. But especially him today.

Q. On the final restart, you let Kurt Busch come in front of you. Four laps to go, most people would say it's great everybody worked together, all bets are off. Why did you do that? How did that help you out to be a favorable move for you?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Well, I mean, if it had been a green‑white‑checkered, I don't think it would have been favorable. I think having it be more than three laps, I felt like there was going to be enough steam and momentum up to where the pack was going to be kind of back to normal.
When you get those green‑white‑checkereds, doesn't seem like there's ever enough energy in it to make a run at the leader. I felt like there was going to be some power in numbers with it being that many laps to go. That's what we did.
I was really trying to stay with him and trying to stay the course on all that, be the best friend I could be at that point in time. He went to make a move on Joey. Honestly, I couldn't get up there to push him fast enough. If I did, somebody else behind me probably wasn't going to do the same. At some point that was going to hurt.
That's just kind of the way it goes. You have to realize the shoe could be on the other foot next time. It's not always going to work out for everybody. I get that. It's easy for me to say today. That's just the way it's going to be at these places.

Q. The fan reaction here. Back to Watkins Glen, maybe there weren't as many people, but that was quite a reaction, too. What makes this one stand out even more?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I honestly can't describe it to you. After the race was over, just kind of the way it ended, I was in la‑la land down there when I was looking for the checkered flag. Every time I stood up, the crowd stood up. Every time I got fired up, they got fired up. That's something you can't ever take for granted.
Like I said, people might not always like you. It's days like today, those moments, that you'll cherish and never forget. Certainly I won't. These races are too hard to win to not enjoy those moments.
Like I said before, you never know if you're ever going to win another one. I'll forever remember getting out of the car and experiencing that. There's nobody to thank but the folks watching for that moment, making me feel special. It being close to home had a lot to do with that I think. They made me feel at home today, which was pretty cool.

Q. We talked to Joey and Aric, two guys that recently won here. They were surprised it took the Chevys that long to formulate the kind of plan you did today, stick together. What took so long, in your opinion, to formulate a plan that you were able to capitalize on it like you did today?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I don't know, to be completely honest with you. We had a plan, we executed today. Really I can't answer that. I know we did the best we could today. Luckily it worked out.

Q. Have you talked to your dad? Was he here today?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I haven't talked to him yet. He was not here today. My mom and my grandmother were here, which was really cool. My mom missed all of the wins last year. My dad was at two of the three. She got to one‑up him today, which was neat.
He was driving some car at Road Atlanta today, running a vintage race over there. I talked to him this morning, but I haven't had a chance to call him yet. I will shortly.
THE MODERATOR: Results of that race. Your dad won.
CHASE ELLIOTT: He won, too. Good day.

Q. You have the last four wins for Hendrick Motorsports right now, going back to last year. Is there any point that you think you're carrying the banner? Do you feel like that?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I think as long as a seven‑time champion is in the building, he will always carry the banner.

Q. With all the chaos going on behind you, caution, no caution, maybe it's out, was there ever a thought you didn't win the race?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I thought I blew it back there. I saw the yellow light. In my mind I was thinking, It's over. Everybody comes blowing by me. I was like, You have to be kidding me. I pissed this way. Of course, my luck, they'd beat me to the next segment, be all mad about that.
But, yeah, I didn't really know. I mean, I thought when the caution came out, it was froze. That's what I was thinking in my mind. Luckily they officiated it the way I was thinking it was done.
I kind of let off. I didn't know where the wreck was either. There were cars everywhere, from what I understand. We were always told to slow down when the caution came out. That's what I did. Maybe I shouldn't have.

Q. You're a pretty popular driver amongst the millennial generation. As the wins keep going, what are some things you would like to see to keep driving in new fans?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I want people to come and just have a hell of a time at the racetrack. This is a great experience for them to do that. Really I think a lot of them are. At the end of the day you want to build a product that's exciting and is exciting do watch. I think ultimately if something is exciting to watch, I'll go watch it. That's the same reason I watch stuff, I find it entertaining.
If you're making something entertaining, somebody can come, have a great Saturday night, Sunday afternoon, Friday night, Saturday night, whatever it is, I think they will.
Yeah, I mean, that's the big one, is making a product entertaining. If that's the case, I think it will be fine. Free wings aft Hooter's tomorrow, yeah. Free fried pickles, I think, too.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Chase.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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