THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our race-winning driver, Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Hooter’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.

We’ll take questions.

Q. It’s been almost 32 years since Hooter’s has been in Victory Lane. What does it mean for you, you have a lot of loyal business partners, to be able to break that Hooter’s curse, I guess you could say, get to Victory Lane again?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Honestly, one of the coolest parts of the post race for me, Hooter’s has been a great partner of ours for a number of years now, and it’s been a dream to pay respect to Alan Kulwicki, do a Polish victory lap in the Hooter’s colors. That’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and just have not had the opportunity to do that. Came close a few times.

Yeah, as soon as the race was over, I was like, Man, we finally got our opportunity to do it and pay respect to him and the partnership. Hooter’s has been around for a long time. Just kind of to see that whole deal come full circle with his championship run, outrunning my dad, they’re now a partner of mine, ended a long winless drought for them and myself, too, and our team.

Yeah, really special in a lot of ways. Pretty fitting when you kind of look at it.

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: I think just our performance over the last month or maybe two has done more than anything. I mean, I think obviously these races are hard to win. They seem like they get harder, at least for me. They continuously get harder over time.

One, I’ve just been really proud of our group for sticking together ’cause I’m sure a lot of you guys have been around the sport long enough to understand and know that when you have a couple bad years, a period of time that things aren’t going well, it is so easy to jump ship and to start bailing out on one another.

I think that the win’s great, all that stuff is fantastic, but I’m truthfully most proud of the journey and the group of people that we have climbed back up together with. We’ve made each other better. They push me to be a better driver and a better person.

I just feel like we’re all in a really good place, and we have been. It’s nice to see all the hard work pay off. Those guys really deserve to win. They’ve been busting it for a while, have been doing a really good job.

That’s what I’m most proud of, is the journey and all of us sticking together at the 9 team.

Q. You told us last week at Martinsville you thought you were close. The momentum seemed to be building for this team. Did you feel that, too?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Well, I felt like we’ve just been running better throughout not just the last few weeks. I mean, yes, we’ve had better finishes over the last few weeks. I feel like just generally speaking from a competitive standpoint we’ve been better to the competition throughout really most of the season, we just haven’t always had great finishes and great results.

But relative to the guys that have won a lot of these things over the last year or so, I felt like we’ve been closer to them. I still think we have a lot of work to do, for sure. A lot of things went our way today, I’m not naïve to that, for sure as well.

You have to be in the mix. You got to be up front to even have things go your way. We were close enough to do that. We still want to be better. I think we have room for improvement. Just proud of the way everything worked out. It’s a lot more fun when you’re fighting for wins and up front battling, whether it goes your way or doesn’t go your way. Just to have a shot is enjoyable.

Q. You have never received a top five with this car at an intermediate track. That seems so bizarre because we’re so used to you running up front. Alan was surprised at that stat. How satisfying is it to get a win here?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, like I said, I thought yesterday throughout practice, Texas is a place that your car has to have some comfort because it’s just really an uncomfortable racetrack, especially into turn one. The surface, the tire, all that stuff, it’s really hard to get ahold of. It’s really heat sensitive, all those things.

I just felt our car had more comfort than I remember it having on a practice day going into the weekend. I had obviously a terrible qualifying lap. Believe it or not, I was actually optimistic going into the day. I thought that our car was solid.

As I was kind of thinking about it yesterday, I’ve qualified that bad and not known why. So at least I had an understanding of what I did wrong. I think that that’s a step. You got to understand what the issue is before so you can fix it.

Q. You’ve been open about the journey with this car. How do you avoid letting self-doubt creep in, thinking maybe it’s you, not this car? How do you not let that seep in?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, it’s obviously very tough. I think the longer it goes, the more ways you find to either not run good or lose races, it can make it tougher.

To me, honestly, this journey and everything about today is really a credit to the guys that sit in our meetings on Monday mornings in the 9 room. That starts with Alan. As I mentioned a second ago, it’s really easy when things go bad to jump ship, go do something different, for those guys to go elsewhere. It just is. It happens a lot.

It’s been an extremely important thing to me, and fortunately to our entire group, to try to climb this mountain again together and try to get back to where we need to be as a group.

We’re not all together, but a lot of us are still there that have been on our team for most of my nine years. That’s pretty special.

I look at it as a credit to them because I think they’ve made me better and they’ve pushed me to be better, helped me identify some of my faults and some of my bad habits, and been patient with me as I’ve addressed them, or at least started to.

Again, as I referenced a second ago, I think I still have work to do, no doubt. We had a lot of stuff go our way today. But we’ve been back in the mix more often. That is certainly progress. I think that is worth being proud of.

Q. Who has been the most important person to you during this journey of trying to get back? Who has been that one person that made sure the days don’t get as down as you might let them?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I think really that starts with Alan and the people that ultimately have a role in how fast we go on the weekend sitting in our little meeting room on Mondays, the pit crew guys that work at the shop throughout the week, too.

Our little group that we travel with, we spend the most time with, they have a big impact on that process. We’re around each other all the time, right? We spend as much time with each other as we do with our families. It’s important to make sure we’re all pulling in the same direction.

I’m just very fortunate that I am surrounded by the type of people that we can all be open and honest with one another, push each other to be better. Even when it might be something that you don’t necessarily want to hear, it’s well-received. That’s growth. That’s improvement. That’s being mature adults.

I think we just have a special group. Everybody’s clicking and working for each other. I think that starts with Alan and his leadership. He’s been doing it a long time. I’ve been doing it a long time, but he’s been doing it a lot longer than me. It’s nice to have that experience to lean on. He’s pretty much seen it all throughout his career. That’s a nice thing to lean on.

Q. It’s been 10 years and 10 days when you got your first win back then Nationwide Series win here at Texas. You have said that Texas has been one of your worst tracks. Coming back here 10 years later, does that mean anything to you personally?

CHASE ELLIOTT: That’s been a long time, 10 years ago. I guess we’re all getting older (smiling). Yeah, it’s crazy just how fast time goes by. Honestly, that’s what it tells me more than anything, is how quick time goes.

Yeah, I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the last run of the race, moving up to the middle lane. Had no idea what I was doing, but it felt grippy. Next thing you know we’re passing Kevin and racing Kyle Busch for the win. Had absolutely no clue what was going on. Was running oftentimes better that way than when you try to think about it more.

Yeah, time flies. That was a special year. Really the success that year that started here probably led to some of the opportunities and partnerships that we had going into ’16 and beyond. It was certainly a big deal for everybody that was involved, a lot of the same folks today.

Q. The restart you took, final laps, Tyler Reddick, pushed him hard, got out front, a little loose, Denny went by you. You said you were a little tighter at that point. Can you take us through as we finally got the caution what your strategy was how to line up on each restart?

CHASE ELLIOTT: I thought the race was over. I got the lead. On the restart, Tyler kind of left the bottom open there. I was shocked that he did. I just kind of felt like I needed to take that opportunity and go with it. Fortunately that part worked out.

I was concerned about getting out front and being too free. I was on the free side of things prior to that. Yeah, got out front and got too loose and just couldn’t keep the right rear controlled. Next thing you know, I’m playing defense. I knew I was in a lot of trouble.

Denny passed me and he looked like he was very much the same. Man, maybe I can run behind him and get myself back tight again. This might be a good thing.

I was starting to creep up to him a little bit. Saw him making a couple mistakes similar to what I was doing. The cautions starting falling. We had another opportunity.

Certainly having things go our way with the caution, having the lead, the pushing and shoving that went on, was in our favor on the closing restart.

Yeah, it was fun to be a part of it. Like I said, you got to be in the mix to have a shot. You got to be in the mix to have things go your way. Nice to be in those front couple rows and be able to have a chance.

Q. (No microphone.)

CHASE ELLIOTT: About as much as it possibly could. I was, what, 20 or 21 when we started. Alan had been doing it for a long time at that point. He’s kind of watched me age and get older through an important part of your life, through your 20s.

Having that professional relationship with him, it’s been great because he’s just the kind of guy that he just keeps things right where they need to be. It’s very easy to get up and it is easy to get down. He just keeps things right where they need to be to all do our jobs and make sure we’re focused on the things we need to be focused on. Really appreciative of that. I’ve learned a lot from that approach.

We’ve gotten to know each other a lot better over the years. Certainly our personal relationship has grown quite a lot. Admire him and appreciate him sticking with me, being willing to fight through this journey and our struggles.

We can be open and honest and talk about why we were bad or what I did wrong or what he did wrong. We can look at each other and be like, All right, let’s go back to work. That’s just kind of how it is.

I’m thankful for that because that’s an important thing in this world to have when you’re in this competitive environment.

Q. Part of what got you back into the game after starting in the mid pack was running long, having the caution in the first stage. How important was it in terms of getting that track position? Was that the plan from the start or kind of a matter of we’re in the lead, we’re going to run as long as we can?

CHASE ELLIOTT: We were just buried. I had a bad qualifying lap yesterday, and we were just buried in traffic. The track hadn’t really come in good at that point in time. Traffic was even worse then at that point in the race than I think it was as the race went on.

Once people started peeling off to pit, really we actually ran our fastest laps of the race after everybody pit there, 50 some odd laps into the run. Right before the caution came out, we were running our best laps we had all day. Clean air was that big of a deal.

It got us into a position where we were making up a little bit of ground because of the pace. We were just trying to be different than everybody else. Fortunately it fell our way.

Q. Your thoughts on what we have here at Texas change now that you have this win?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Not really. I think the tire today was an improvement. It was fun because we actually had a little falloff. Tire sets meant a little something. I think that was why the race was as good as it was, was because we did have a little bit of falloff. It promoted you to want to come down pit road and put on tires. A little more than we had.

I’m not saying it was great, but it’s better than it has been, at least from my vantage point. I could be totally off base. When you watch something from the outside, it can look different. From where I was sitting, it seems like tires were a little more of a factor, and that’s a good thing.

Q. Feels probably pretty good to be here celebrating a win. After the race I saw William come over and talk to you a couple seconds. What was that conversation like? Was it just congratulations?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, just to say congrats. Obviously he’s had a great year. I’ve been on the other side of the coin where I’ve been having good years, and other guys on the team haven’t. You want to see your teammates get up in there and battle for wins and be in the fight. It’s a good thing.

I think he recognizes, because he sees it, how hard we’ve worked as a team to try to get better, whatnot, behind the scenes. I think it was that more than anything, just saying good job.

That’s obviously meaningful to me because we do work alongside each other. He’s been doing a great job.

Q. There was the point toward the end of the race where Alan said, Did you hear me? Did you feel like at that point it might have been costly to you?

CHASE ELLIOTT: For sure, things went right, no doubt. I thought I messed us up there. Thankfully John got a great plug and got it filled up more than a normal cadence of a stop would be. I think we had a little bit of a holdup on the stop, which kind of worked in our favor, too.

Yeah, it just worked out. Obviously the cautions, they’re a good thing until you go past scheduled distance. At that point we were fixing to be in trouble. I don’t know how many more green-white-checkereds we could have done.

I thought, Great, we’ll run out of gas here leading this thing. Glad we didn’t.

Q. What does it mean to you now being the third teammate at Hendrick Motorsports to win in Rick Hendrick’s 40th anniversary?

CHASE ELLIOTT: Just nice to contribute really more than anything. Nice to feel like you’re helping out. Not just winning, not just putting banners on the wall, but pushing the team and the company to be better.

The wins are nice. For sure you have to enjoy ’em because, man, they’re hard to get. Certainly made me enjoy these moments more, slow down and embrace it because it’s what you work for every week.

But from a team perspective and the 40th for Rick, just appreciative of him for sticking with me and continuing to believe in me, and to make sure that I know that. He does a great job of that. I’m grateful for it.

Just glad I can contribute and we can contribute as a team to the company as a whole. That’s a lot more fun when you’re doing that.

THE MODERATOR: Chase, congratulations on the triumph.