CHEVROLET NCS AT DAYTONA 500 MEDIA DAY – Chase Elliott Media Availability Quotes

Last year was tough, physically, and some disappointments along the way. Were you 100% after that?

“Yeah, I was fine. My injuries were not why we struggled, for sure.”

Can you pinpoint some reasons and some things from the offseason you looked into to move past that?

“I just think I have some bad habits that this car doesn’t like, and I have to address it ultimately.”

As in…

“Things we talk about behind closed doors.”

In the Duels tomorrow night, do you expect some to step over the line? If Fords are coming up behind you, are you expecting when pushed by a Ford or Toyota, do you know what the new car is going to do?

“I don’t think so. Both of the noses they have designed are pretty flat. Our back bumpers are pretty flat, so I don’t think it’ll be anything super out of the ordinary, so we’ll see. I don’t think people will push too hard tomorrow night, but we’ll see.”

Is that something where you expect those teams (Ford, Toyota) to practice?

“I don’t know. I’m on Team Chevy. We’ll worry about Team Chevy.”

It’s been 20 years since the inception of the Playoffs. From your point of view, do you think it’s the best way to find out who has been the best driver all year?

“I think 2014 was when we started having the rounds, right? That, to me, is when things really changed because at least with the other way, you had 10 weeks and I feel like it all kind of came out in the wash in those 10 weeks, really. I’m not sure at the end of those 10 weeks if it would have looked a ton different versus a full season. Seemingly, the guys that ran good all year over the course of 10 weeks, that amount of races inside the Playoffs gave it enough time for things to come out in the wash. The people that belonged up front stayed up front. They got there. One bad race didn’t take someone out of ruining a really good year. That’s the only bad thing I see with the way we have it is, you know, whether it’s me or someone else. I’d just hate for somebody to win 10 races and not win the championship. To me, that would be a little bit of a black eye for the integrity of our sport.”

Would you put wins above championships at this point?

“No. I think at this point, when you get a number of championships, it’s going to trump that. Certainly, winning more is going to mean you had probably more fun over the course of the entirety of your career. It means you had some good weeks. More often, having good weeks is a good thing.”

What’s one of your fondest memories here?

“We ran second here one time, so that was kind of cool, I guess. I would have liked to have won, but that was a decent finish. The rest of them we’ve pretty much crashed, so there hasn’t been really a lot of good outside of that day, unfortunately.”

How do you feel about the changes that have been made to your home track of Atlanta?

“Heck, we’ve had two years of what it is now. I don’t think it’s going to change much from what it’s been to what you’ve seen. I do think it’s going to age a bit at some point. It’s hot summers and can be kind of cold in the winter, so that’s typically tough on a track surface. I think the track aging is a good thing, and we’ll just see what happens when it does.”

How have you adapted to changes to the track (Atlanta) over the past few years?

“I’m in the middle of the road. I understand why they did it. The old track had a lot of character, and it was a lot of fun from a drivers’ perspective. I think it was time for a change. We had rode that horse for a long time, and sold the narrative with how hard it was to drive and people weren’t just on board with it anymore. They wanted to try something else and I applaud them for trying it. It’s got a new look. It’s produced some pretty good racing. People that have gone down there that I’ve talked to personally, spectators really enjoy it and they really enjoy the drafting aspect of Atlanta. If they’re having fun with it at the end of the day, that’s kind of all that matters, truthfully. Folks that come and support us and support this sport are what drives it.”

Do you like this style of racing that it is now?

“I don’t love… I think we really had a good speedway package with the old car, kind of worked out towards the end where you could have some big runs. It seemed like there was more energy transfer, and the cars weren’t so draggy as to what the cars are now. I just think we had a pretty good situation going on. It has changed quite a lot, and I think you’ve guy have seen the way races look, it’s changed a lot. They’re always adjusting little things here and there, getting back to what it was. It might take some time. Things certainly don’t happen overnight. Some stuff takes a little effort to get it perfect.”  

Winning the Daytona 500 is a huge accomplishment regardless of the year, but especially this year being Hendrick Motorsports’ 40th anniversary. What’s the mindset coming in here?

“Obviously, it’s a big year, a 40th year for HMS is a big deal. I’m super proud to be a very small piece of that puzzle. I think it’s a great honor. Look, (Mr. Hendrick) always wants to win. I don’t think it would matter if it were the second anniversary or whatever. He wants to win, and we do too. I don’t necessarily think just because it’s the 40th year of HMS, that doesn’t make me want to win the race any more. I wanted to win it pretty bad before. I don’t think it changes it from that standpoint.”

Did you and Ryan (Blaney) come up in the garage growing up?

“We did. Ryan’s kind of a few years older than me. I saw him around the garage as a kid. We never really hung out when we were super young, like that age when our dads were racing. We both took a similar path through grass roots short-track racing. So, we started seeing more of each other then. That’s when we became good friends.”

Regarding Ryan (Blaney), winning the championship, it’s an opportunity to have their voice amplified. When you won the championship, what were the opportunities the things you could do or opportunities presented to you?

“I can’t really think off the top of my head. There are certain traditions that come with winning a championship that I think are really cool – the champions’ book, all of those things that last forever. That is what makes it really special, the tradition, and that it lives on forever. I think that it should at least earn you an opportunity to be heard a little more behind closed doors by people who make decisions. I do think that does earn you that right slightly a little more than it would otherwise. There is also guys who haven’t won a championship that I feel have been around long enough and enough success to have that type of voice, too.”

Do you spend more time at the shop in the offseason to try to “rally the troops” before coming down here to Daytona?

“I spent a good bit of time at the shop. Obviously, we had a lot of prep and whatnot before the Clash, too. I feel like our team is in a good place. When you have a year like last year, it is really easy for a team to blow up from the inside. Really easy. You don’t know how easy. When I look at where our team is at mentally, our drive and our will, and our willingness to fight and not quit, I think it’s at an all-time high to be honest with you. My relationship with Alan (Gustafson) is as good as it’s ever been. I’m just super proud of those things regardless of how the season goes, because I work with a group of guys who don’t want to give up on me. I don’t want to give up on them. That, to me, means a lot when you go to war every week that have no desire to quit. It speaks volumes. That, in my opinion, is a huge hurdle in trying to get back to where we think we can be and where I feel where we belong.”

Do you feel you’ve grown more into the role of cheerleader or the quarterback?

“I definitely think as I’ve gotten older, Alan (Gustafson) and I share more of that. I think when I started, he probably had most of that role, because I kind of stepped into his team. I do think as I’ve got older, there is a responsibility there to at least try and make our team better through the experiences that I’ve had.”

When you were going through that, did you truly fear it would blow up?

“No, I truly didn’t. I’ve just watched enough of that happen over the years, and people jump ship on each other, and think the grass is greener elsewhere, I’ve seen enough of that to know how it works. But, no, that was not the case for us and has not been through the winter.”

“We always want to do good. Our fire shouldn’t be in question. We might be frustrated or in a bad mood some days, but it’s because we want to do well, not for another reason.”

What responsibilities did you feel as champion in the 2021 season after winning in 2020?

“Mine had such a different feel because it was COVID year. We didn’t do a banquet and some of those traditional things that the champion would typically do. It just had a little bit different of a vibe. When we fired off in 2021, everybody had kind of regrouped, and all the win stickers were off the car, and they were making a trophy for that year. You’ve just got to reset and get ready to go again, that’s how I looked at it.”

LA was kind of a weather nightmare, and this weekend looks to be a high chance of rain. What does that do to your psyche?

“it doesn’t do anything to my psyche. I don’t know what it does to anybody else’s other than just being here for another day or two. It’s Wednesday, and we’re in Florida. So, I think, the biggest things it changes are the spectators based on who wants to come and whether or not they want to sit in the rain. For me, I don’t think it changes a whole lot, really at all. I’m here until we get this thing done whenever that is.”

All four Hendrick drivers have won the pole at least once for this race. How do you balance, and has that balance changed in the NextGen with the race and how it takes to be successful tonight compared to Sunday?

“I don’t think so. I think that’s a pretty similar approach than with the old car too.”

Do you feel you have to give something up for the race in order to qualify for the pole here in Daytona?

“No, because you have practice after the Duels, so you can adjust after that.”

But how much pride is there in qualifying on the front row for the Daytona 500?

“To me, it’s a testament to the guys at the shop in the engine department, and to all of the staff for the work put in more so than what the drivers are doing. We’re not really doing a whole lot to contribute to that. That, to me, is where the recognition deserves to be, and that’s where I’ve always tried to lead it when it was me that had won a couple of poles. But listen, I want to win the race. Poles are great, but I want to be good on Sunday. I think we can do both.”

Are you surprised it’s been 10 years since a Hendrick car won this race?

“Nope. I’m not surprised by a whole lot. To be candid, that’s just the way it goes sometimes. It’s a hard race to win. You have to quite a few things go your way. Unfortunately for HMS, it’s just been a while, but I think it’ll come back around.”

With Fords and Toyotas having new bodies, do you expect anyone to be any more aggressive to figure out if a move works or how it reacts?

“The races have been so calm the last couple of years, I just don’t see that changing a whole lot. I think everybody wants to race the car that they unload with down here on Sunday. So, no. You might get a little pushing here or there, but it’s not to the level it’ll be on Sunday.”

You’ve got Trey (Poole) coming in now as your spotter, and you race together in Legends cars. When you made the decision to go with him, what was that process and what type of comfort level does it give you?

“I haven’t been missing any comfort, so I don’t want that narrative to get misunderstood. When we were looking at doing something different, Trey has been around our team, and he understands how we operate. He’s spotted at the Cup level for me before. He’s spotted quite a bit of short track racing events for me before, so we felt like it was the right fit. At the end of the day, you just want a team that has performance at the top of mind all the time, and genuinely wants what’s best for us. Trey is that way, just like Eddie (D’Hondt) was. I don’t want that to be misunderstood either. It was just the right fit for our group, and a guy I know very well, and someone I think will contribute at a high level.”

Now that we’re in February, how does it feel that now you’ve been able to reset after last year?

“There is a sense of a new opportunity and I’m appreciative of that. There’s also realistic understanding that your problems don’t disappear because of the calendar change from ’23 to ’24. We know that we need to be better, and I need to be better, and intend on continuing to build on what we were working on at the end of last year, and just keep our heads down and keep pushing.”

Are you a guy who looks through a bunch of analytics and data? What works for you?

“I look at a little bit of everything. It’s probably not as much data for speedways as I would for a downforce track. Certainly, tendencies, watching old races in the past, a little bit of everything.”

When you say tendencies, what do you mean?

“A little bit of (other drivers’ tendencies) or how a late-race restart might unfold, which lane might be the better lane to be in, who gave a good push when. Was there a third lane involved? Why was there a third lane involved? Was it two lanes? Did people who rode around in the back have good finishes? All of the above, we’re thinking of all of it.”