May 23, 2021
An Interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We have now been joined by our race winner, Chase Elliott. Congratulations on the victory.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, thank you. It was a good day for sure. Too hard to win to get picky on how. We'll take it.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go straight into questions.
Just quickly, a monumental day for Hendrick Motorsports with that win, kind of a really neat opportunity that you'll have a chance to sign the door of your car along with Mr. H and Richard Petty, then your race team as well. Talk a little bit about what that means and how neat that will be to auction off for Victory Junction.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, obviously just a huge win on multiple fronts. Win number 800 for Chevrolet. They're a great partner to me personally. They've played a massive role in the success of Hendrick Motorsports past and present. A great group to work with. So super proud of them.
Obviously there's a lot of guys, a lot more guys than me, that have contributed to that banner. Really proud and honored to be able to hold that up today. Then to tie Richard Petty Motorsports obviously is a big one. The boss has been on us heavy about that record. He wants that record. So super glad that we could help with that today.
As you mentioned, the tie, then auctioning the door from today to benefit Victory Junction gang, obviously a well-known charity. What Richard has done there for as long as I can remember, I remember that charity as a kid. I know he's changed a lot of lives. Hopefully we can help that cause as well. A really special piece of our car today, this is a big win. Looking forward to helping any way we can.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
Q. Do you have any sense of what's the right call to make there in those situations? When visibility was so bad on the backstretch, they were wrecking, they restart the race, it got somewhat better, then started raining heavy again. Where is the line for you guys?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day I'm not the one making the calls. I don't want to make the calls. I can sit there and look at it and have an opinion, but it's not my call. Like I say, I don't want it to be my call.
The track went through a bunch of different stages. The visibility further back in the pack, which I restarted back there on multiple occasions, it was super hard to see. That was really the case kind of all day long. I don't really know how you fix that with the spray coming off the cars.
I think where it got to there at the end was just there were puddles of standing water. I think that was where NASCAR got to and they're like, Hey, this is not good. Visibility is one thing, but when you hydroplane going however fast we're going, that's probably not good. I think that's kind of the situation we found ourselves in there at the end.
Obviously I was on the good end of the call, so I'm okay with the race ending. But actually I think a lot of guys would say the standing water was getting pretty serious. It might have gotten better, might have not. Who knows.
Q. If they restarted the race, would you have been more worried about running out of gas or conditions, just trying to get through the race?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, to me, obviously the fuel side of things was what it was. We needed some caution laps to get us to the end. The biggest thing I was thinking about for the restart was if I had a good restart, I was the first one to the back straightaway, that first guy back there was going to have a tough road ahead to make it down there without wrecking, in my opinion. I think it was going to be tough.
With those green flag conditions, seemed like cars were kind of spread out around the track. Seemed like there was always a little bit of a tire track to run in. When you have a caution like that, it's just building, building, building, we're all bunched up, guys aren't running around there keeping the water moving, that's when I feel like it gets worse.
As soon as the caution came out, it's just hard to stay ahead of it at that point. I think that's the situation we found ourselves in.
Q. Was there any point today where you felt like we shouldn't be out here, or you're a race car driver and do whatever NASCAR tells you to do?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, that's not my call. If they say race, we're going to go. If they make the call to say that it's not doable or not smart, that's what we'll do, too.
Look, it's not for me to say. It's not my call. I'm not the one in that position to have to make that call, and I don't want to be. I'll try to make the most of whatever it is, try to do my job the best I can.
Q. Any close calls for you where you felt like you almost came close to running into the back of somebody because of visibility?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, there were a lot of close calls for sure. I feel like there's close calls when it's 75 and sunny, too. Yeah, of course. There's close calls all the time.
The conditions were different, but I don't know what you do about it. When it's raining and the track is wet, there's going to be water coming off the back of the cars. If you can't see, slow down till you can see, I guess. I don't know. I don't know how you fix that.
Q. It's not like you've had a bad season this year, but certainly being the last of the four of the teammates to win, people mention you as one of guys that hasn't won with all your success last year. How did you handle that? Did that bother you? You seem like you're able to handle things that come your way. Did it just roll off your shoulders?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Like I said in the past, everyone is entitled to an opinion. That's great. That's what makes it exciting, right, to watch. Everybody can voice theirs, have something to say about it.
At the end of the day the only opinions that matter, that reflect our performance and what we do on track, is our team and what we believe internally. That's how we've always approached our racing at the 9 camp. That's how we'll always do it. We're just focused on the opinions and the people that matter to us, the people that can make a difference, make us either go fast on Sundays or not. Those of the rest of everybody else that have an opinion, they don't matter really at the end of the day.
Q. Mr. H was talking earlier about drivers being in a slump. It's been a while since you won. He said drivers will always still need that talking to, father-like figure to talk. Are there moments where you get into a slump where you feel like you need somebody to help you get out of it?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, for sure. There's going to be times in everybody's life where you need somebody to look up to or need somebody to talk to or whatever. Mr. Hendrick has always been that guy for me if I want him to be or if I want to talk to him about anything.
I feel like my relationship with him, the door's always open, and he's going to help me on any level that he can, whether it's as a person, as a race car driver, whatever it may be.
I mean, I couldn't ask for anything more with our relationship and everything he's offered me and been willing to help with.
Q. With today's race, you are obviously the first Cup winner at COTA. Is there something about having the first name on the trophy?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, just to have a name on the trophy is probably the most important thing. Yeah, super proud just of our whole group. I feel like we really kind of persevered through multiple challenges today. I didn't think we started the day off great, but we were able to kind of fight back, get to where we had a lot of pace there at the end. Really proud of that.
Like I said, first name on the trophy, last name, I don't know that it matters really. Just proud to have it on there.
Q. You grab your first win this weekend. How big is that for your confidence heading into the Coke 600?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, like I said, look, these races are too hard to win to really pick and choose, get picky on how. You want to win 'em normally, without rain or anything to change the normal distance. But, look, I mean, a win is a win. A big win today for our team, for Chevrolet, for Hendrick Motorsports as a whole. Certainly going back to Charlotte, which is HMS's home track. We love to go there and have another great run, be able to fight for another win.
Q. A lot of people like to call you the road course king. What does it mean to have that reputation and keep bolstering it?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I don't read into it much. Like I said a minute ago, everybody has an opinion, they're entitled to it. I'm happy for 'em. At the end of the day we've got to continue to push ourselves, try to be better, challenge ourselves to push forward at all the tracks, not just road courses.
A win is a win. Right turns, left turns, uphill, downhill, I really don't care. They're too hard to win. I'm going to enjoy it, enjoy 'em all.
THE MODERATOR: We have now also been joined by our race-winning crew chief, Alan Gustafson. He's available for questions, as well.
Q. Chase, I know he was there back in November, but what was it like to get the first win of the season with your father in attendance but on your radio as well?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Definitely always a special thing to have your dad a part of a good day. Obviously wish my mom had been here, too. Yeah, I mean, you have to appreciate those things. That's not something that a person should ever take for granted, to be able to enjoy those type of moments with your family.
I certainly will enjoy today just like I have tried to enjoy other moments throughout our time together. Today will be no different.
Q. Alan, they were talking a lot about the drivers having trouble with the spray. With the rear diffuser in the next-gen car, is that going to do anything? Can you put flaps on the back of the rear wheels or is it pretty much you have what you have?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: I don't know. We were just talking about that. That's a great question. I'm not sure. I'd be curious to know what another series would do and what they would have had for visibility in that situation.
The only thing that kind of comes to my mind, which is a bit unique for us, is we just run really, really close together. I think closer for longer periods of time than most other series do. That definitely makes it more difficult.
If the cars had more downforce and more stability, I mean, it would certainly help the car drive better, but certainly not help you see any better. Knowing you're going that fast, visibility is 30 feet in front of you, it's just a bad combination.
I don't know. It's a difficult thing to do. I don't necessarily see the next-gen car making a huge change when it comes to visibility in that situation. I can't say I wouldn't know what to do because there's just so much moisture in the air, it's like heavy fog. Visibility is really poor, you're going really fast. That's a combination that's not typically very good.
Q. Is there a win that you look back at Hendrick Motorsports that you feel epitomizes being able to tie the record?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: There's not really one that stands out to me. This one's pretty special. Certainly any of them you get are huge. To contribute to Mr. Hendrick's success is great, something I'm super proud of. I know the team is. We've been trying really hard to get him that record because we certainly think he's the best owner and he deserves it.
I think for me, it's just to be a part of it and to have contributed to a small percentage of the wins, it certainly makes me feel good.
Q. Chase, the race was rain affected. Do you think this was the most challenging race you've been to?
CHASE ELLIOTT: That's tough. I mean, it's tough to rank challenging races. I've had a lot of challenges races throughout my career, but challenging in different ways.
Today it was the weather, just the conditions were different. I feel like there's been times where I've had other really challenging days just in different ways. Kind of tough to put 'em in order I suppose.
Q. Chase, I believe this is your sixth win on a road course in your career, which puts you third or fourth on NASCAR's all-time wins list with road course victories. What does that mean to you to be a step or two below guys like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart?
CHASE ELLIOTT: To be real honest, I haven't spent a ton of time thinking about that and the stat book. I'm really just concerned with wanting to win that day, have success now. I think there's a time where you can look back and really enjoy and appreciate different things, things in your career, accomplishments, whatnot.
When you're fighting the fight, it's really hard to do that right now because as a team and me personally, I'm just consumed with wanting to do good. I don't think sitting there and daydreaming about that is helping me do good. So I choose not to.
Q. Chase, Mr. H said he felt like all four Hendrick teams could be in the Championship 4 race. I was curious if you and Alan agree?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, I don't see why not. Obviously a lot can happen in those last 10 races. I feel like as a company our cars and each team I feel like is performing at a high level. If we can all carry that throughout the whole season, I don't see why not.
You certainly are going to have to have some things go your way. There are a lot of great drivers and teams that we have to improve with throughout the year and keep up with.
THE MODERATOR: To Chase and Alan, congratulations again. Thank you for always spending some time with us following your race wins. We wish you the best of luck next weekend in Charlotte, as well.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports