|Race winner Chase Elliott|
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our race-winning crew chief and team owner for the No. 88. First we'll start off with David Elenz. Talk about being on the box there for Chase's win at Daytona.
DAVID ELENZ: It was obviously a really exciting win. We had a little bit of misfortune at the start of the race that we had to work through. We were actually 30th with half the race left. Chase did a phenomenal job just working his way up through there, reading the pack right, staying on the bottom line, getting back up there. Had a couple lucky pit calls to get us in the front at the end, just enough fuel to make it to the end.
THE MODERATOR: We are also joined by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
You had a pretty good day today, also bringing in Elliott Sadler as the leading points contender.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: All the cars really did a great job today. Obviously happy for Rick and Kelley, who are also part of the ownership on the cars. TaxSlayer, too. I didn't do a good job representing them in the Unlimited. So Chase here saved my butt this week.
We really enjoyed having an opportunity to run in this series. The fact that we brang four cars here really I think is a good example, shows how much we appreciate being a part of the series, how much we are excited about our upcoming season.
Dave did a great job putting this car together all season. You saw the speed on all the cars. So the guys really worked hard in the shop, worked together to be able to come out here and have good speed across the board.
All the drivers drove real smart. Chase obviously did what he had to do there at the end of the race. I thought that was very gutsy to be able to really put such an aggressive block on the 22. He did what he had to do. Could have turned him into the wall. Joey might have saved both of them from doing all that.
He did what he had to do to keep the guy behind him. It won him the race. So I'm proud of Chase. Such a cool thing to be part of his career. He's going to do some amazing stuff in his career. It's awesome to be a little part of it.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for Dave and Dale.
Dale, you've obviously been in that chair a lot, driving, being a car owner. What is the level of satisfaction? What does it feel like winning as a car owner compared to winning as a driver?
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Winning as a driver is a lot different than winning as an owner. But I'll tell you this, it's harder. It's a lot more work goes into being an owner. There's a lot more people involved.
You get a better scope of the whole company really working together and understanding how that happens. Before I owned a team, I really took for granted how that happened and who was involved and who influenced the performance of the car, from the sponsors, the people that don't come to the track that work on the car at the shop.
Every bit of that I really began to appreciate more as an owner, to see how hard it is to compete and win. Just to get to the track is a real challenge. This sport is so cut-throat and so challenging. These guys work real hard to stay competitive. So you get a real appreciation, satisfaction.
When you win as a driver, it's just pure excitement and elation. When you win as an owner, it's total satisfaction. A lot of pride goes into that.
Dale, I want to ask you about Elliott. Obviously he's got a ton of experience. He's a past winner. He's also a close friend of yours. What does it mean to have a guy on your team who is such a close friend?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: We got two Elliotts today.
I was happy for him because I thought he ran a smart race. He ran a race that put himself in position to win today. He had a bit of a hard luck go the last several years since he left RCR. He was kind of doing well with them. The last couple years have been a little challenging for him.
I'm hoping that we give him a great foundation and a lot of support to be able to be competitive this year, get back to Victory Lane. We got a great crew chief working with him, as well. Our crew chief lineup is very strong. That's going to carry our team, our whole company this year.
You always think about trying to get the best driver you can in the seat, but, boy, I've learned over the last five years how important that crew chief is. We've got, I think, the best guys in the garage on all three cars.
We brought four cars today and Ryan filled in. He does a great job of that. Our three crew chiefs know each other well. They know what they got to do. They do it really well together. So I'm excited about the teamwork between the three teams, what they can all do. That's going to really help Elliott, that he's got that support system around him.
I expect the teams to have a unique season because of the crew chiefs and the lineup that we have there.
Dale, the consensus out there among the Cup drivers is these cars race so different that you don't learn a whole lot. What can be gained for Chase for driving with his mirrors and also working with Eddie for a whole race?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I think he certainly can gain a lot of confidence. Confidence is such a big factor out there, believing in yourself, believing in the car, working with the car together. When you don't believe in the car, you don't make as many moves, take as many risks, or take opportunities and runs that develop. You tend to second-guess some of the things you're doing.
I mean, you go out there and win these races, you feel like, Hey, I'm getting somewhere. You're starting to learn, starting to build some confidence.
Working with the spotter, the spotter is so important here, more so than I think a lot of other racetracks.
I was so happy for him. He's got a lot of things on his plate. So for him to go out there, he's got the Cup season looming over his head, got a lot of things going on. He's had a very busy off-season preparing and doing all the responsibilities outside of the car. He's had a lot going on. For him to come in here and focus and get the win today was real impressive.
Dale, are there super powers in the No. 88? It seems to be the kryptonite to stop Joey Logano from repeating.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: We've been talked up quite a bit this week. I just hope people don't underestimate the level of competition we've got out there tomorrow and the talent in the field. We got a lot of cars that are very fast, very capable of winning. Certainly got some drivers out there that know how to do it. It's going to be a very tough job tomorrow.
We have an awesome racecar. We're ready. We're prepared. We're going to go in with all the confidence in the world. But it's not by any means a done deal. Anything can happen.
The Daytona 500 is certainly unlike any other event. We'll fight all day long to try to give ourselves an opportunity to win. But, man, there's a very strong field for this race.
Dale, on Tuesday at Media Day you spoke a lot about Chase Elliott, the perceptions. I know you singled out one in particular, about will Chase live up to the hype. Does a day like today help in terms of him handling those perceptions or does it raise the expectations and increase that hype going into tomorrow?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: No, I don't think it really raises the expectations. I think it sort of confirms what everybody assumed about Chase and his ability. I also think that for him personally, it makes all the hard work that he's been doing this off-season worth it.
He's coming into a Cup program where the responsibilities outside the car triple, maybe quadruple. The things he's going to be asked to do for our partners, HMS's partners, are going to occupy a lot of the time he's had for himself.
You do a lot of work, you do a lot of things outside the car preparing for the year. This is going to be a long season for him. You mentally adjust over time and get sort of used to it.
But the wins, getting to Victory Lane, makes it worth it.
Could you size up the Gibbs cars for tomorrow and how strong you think they are. Is there one in particular that stands out?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Gibbs? Denny's car is fast, he's smart. The 18, obviously he won the Duel. He's a hell of a racecar driver. Matt's won a couple Daytona 500s. I don't care if he's in a backup, that's still a good racecar. And the 19.
There's 25 cars can win this race, maybe more. I mean, you got to do the right things and be smart, but they're going to be up there. It ain't going to be easy.
THE MODERATOR: All right, David and Dale, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck tomorrow, Dale.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the winner of our race, Chase Elliott.
Chase, you've had a pretty impressive Speedweeks so far. Add another one to the record book as you become the youngest winner at Daytona in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. This is also your fifth victory in the XFINITY Series, your first victory here at Daytona. Talk about that for us here.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"] CHASE ELLIOTT: Just a fantastic Saturday to start the weekend of the Daytona 500. What a great day. Fast racecar. Big thanks to TaxSlayer and everybody at JR Motorsports for letting me drive.
I didn't get a chance to say this on TV, I thought I was going to get another question, and I didn't. I'm not sure if it was my fault there with Bobby and some of those guys on the backstretch. If it was my fault, I need to take full credit for that.
I don't really know what happened. We got stacked up. I got in back of him. I was being pushed. Regardless, if it was my fault, I apologize now. I didn't get a chance to on TV.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Chase.
Chase, you look a lot more comfortable in this XFINITY Series draft so far than in the Cup Series. What sort of things do the cars do in this series that make you feel more comfortable?
CHASE ELLIOTT: There's such a different style of drafting. These cars are all about the pusher and really getting on a guy and pushing that limit of the rule of not locking bumpers. It seems like if you have a guy behind you that's really good at that, isn't going to get you in trouble, usually that lane moves forward.
Whereas the Cup cars, they get spread out and have big runs, you get these big shoves, the cars will get pushed way out.
Very different style of racing. I've had a chance to do this three, four times the past couple years. I think having a chance to do this, the rules haven't changed much on the XFINITY side, I think that probably has just been helpful there.
How important was it to get another 120 laps working with Eddie? Also do you know whether you're starting on the outside or inside tomorrow?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I'm not sure on the top or bottom yet. I would assume probably bottom because that would line up Dale behind me. I think from a team perspective, that would probably be the best move for the start of the race. Obviously beyond the fact of we're teammates, he's been really fast. I think he would be a good pusher.
We haven't decided 100% yet on that.
It has been good working with Eddie for a week now. We had a good conversation this afternoon as to some of the things that we wanted different from the Duels to Sunday. I thought today was a good opportunity to practice some of those things. He did a great job of giving me the information I needed.
Both Elliott and Joey Logano said they had kind of the same strategy coming out of four for that final lap for you. When you moved up the track, had you planned how far maybe you were going to move up, or once the contact happened, that stalled how you were going to move up?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, so he was pushing me really hard. I couldn't see Elliott, where the rest of everybody else was. I feel like we had gotten away from everybody by a few car lengths.
I knew he was going to make some type of move. He faked me to the bottom. I wasn't sure, I went down there a little bit. I saw him go back to the top. I tried to follow him back up. I didn't get up soon enough to, you know, get in front of his nose. He already had a nose there. I was kind of committed to already coming up.
We hit. I thought we were wrecked, which fortunately we didn't. I didn't know if we were going to make it across the line or what was going to happen. Once I realized his momentum stopped, I tried to get away from him to keep the draft from pulling me back anymore.
Just fortunate and got lucky with how it worked out. He did a good job setting me up. It was just a tick too far behind to get in front of his nose.
Do you have a prerace night-before ritual that you do? Have you thought about what you're going to do tonight?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I don't really have a thing that I do consistently I guess. Just kind of play it by ear as it comes. I don't really have anything consistent that I've come up with yet.
Talk about the contact with Bobby Labonte to spark that first crash, if that had any effect on your car?
CHASE ELLIOTT: For sure, like I said, I don't really know exactly what happened. I know everybody checked up really hard in front of me. I tried to get stopped and got into Bobby. He got loose.
If that was my fault, I take full credit for it. I need to look at it and kind of see what happened. I know we all checked up hard. I felt like I was kind of at the point of the slinky that I couldn't get whoa'd down in time from hitting him really hard.
Like I said, if that was on me, I'll take credit.
How hard were you having to saw on the wheel when Joey was on your quarter panel?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I was just trying not to wreck. He was moving around on the bumper pretty hard. Like I said, he kind of faked to the bottom. As we came back across, we were somewhat touching. During that whole sequence, it was I guess a little hairy. We were fortunate to not wreck. I was thinking we were going to.
What does today's win do for your confidence for tomorrow's race?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Well, the races are so different, I think it's hard to really take a whole lot. I think the success of today does not have any guarantee, there's no guarantee tomorrow's going to go good.
I think probably the most valuable piece of it was working with Eddie, getting on pit road, just getting a chance to go through some of those things that we haven't had a chance to do yet coming into a new season.
Like I said, the drafting in these two cars are very, very different. It's just a very different style. It's hard to compare a whole lot. These bumpers on the XFINITY cars line up really well. They're flat. You can really give the guy ahead of you a real good shove pretty much anywhere around the racetrack, if you hit him in the right spot.
The Cup cars are curved. You can't really do that as well.
Like I said, it's really different.
Another restrictor plate race in the series, more complaints over the radio of calls not being made on this locking bumper rule. Is this necessary for the series, or should NASCAR just let you race at this point?
CHASE ELLIOTT: It's a safety rule. It's not up to me, so it really doesn't matter what I think is the way I see it. The rule is the same for everybody. However hard you want to push is up to you.
Nobody's ever going to be happy. I don't care what rule it is.
Dale Jr. when he was in here said the best thing today did for you was confidence in yourself and car. Any thoughts on that?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, we had a fast racecar today. Really, just fortunate the way the pit sequence worked out and the way we ended up on that restart, having a good push from Daniel Suarez and whoever was behind him.
Our lane got formed up really good. And for whatever reason, the top just didn't. I don't know who all was in the top lane. I think they got just a little bit strung apart and didn't get going exactly like they needed to.
I think that was the biggest thing. Looking at Eddie and him and I getting to work together for a day, I think that is a big probably just trust-building day for me and him. I think that's probably the biggest thing from the confidence side.
Like I said, the races are going to be so different, it's hard to gain a ton of confidence for something that's going to be completely different tomorrow.
Are you more confident than you were four hours ago?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, yeah, I suppose. It's been a good day. Sure. Like I said, tomorrow's a new day and very different.
After you were stopped on the finish line and couldn't go anywhere, what was that like without anyone there to immediately celebrate with? What were you thinking about?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I just tried to enjoy it. I think Victory Lane often gets rushed through. That's something that shouldn't get rushed, in my opinion. That's something that is hard to get. You should enjoy them because you don't know if you're ever going to get another one of them.
For me, I was standing out there in the middle of the front straightaway at Daytona with a checkered flag in front of me, with a bunch of people in front of me, a speedway with a lot of history all around. I tried to take it in and enjoy that moment.
You've been on the national stage here for a couple years. You're a champion in the XFINITY Series. The way the dynamics have played out with so many Cup guys running in XFINITY the last couple years, do you think that has helped them gain confidence in your abilities that will ultimate pay off tomorrow?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I could be wrong, I'm not a veteran, but the biggest thing is if you're in a position, a guy behind you thinks that him going with you is going to better his position, he's going to go with you. I don't care who it is. That's just the way racing is. If you can do something that's going to help yourself, they're going to help whoever is in front of them.
If I'm lucky enough for that to be me, great. If not, we'll address it then.
What is it like for you to feel so many people pulling for you? You may not even be aware. Everyone I talk to has really been pulling for you. It's unusual for a rookie to come in with quite that amount of acclaim and support behind them. How aware of it are you?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I'm just very fortunate to have a lot of great supporters. The fans have been great to me. They've given me an opportunity to go and try to do my job. That's all I can ask for.
You should never force anybody to pull for you or support you. If somebody wants to support myself or my team, that's great. I want them to do it because they want to and no other reason.
Hopefully we can gain that support, and most importantly, that respect.
In Victory Lane what did your mom and dad have to say to you?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I think they were both excited. My mom handed me the phone. Mr. Hendrick called her. Got a chance to talk to him for a second. That was pretty special.
They were just both excited. Dad and I talked before the race just about how aggressive this race gets, guys pushing, just trying to be smart and get to the end is what him and I talked about was most important.
Fortunately got to the end and had a shot.
THE MODERATOR: Chase, thanks for joining us this evening. Congratulations on the win. Good luck tomorrow.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Thanks, guys.
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