|Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy|
Winner – Chase Elliott #9 Chevy
Winning Crew Chief – Alan Gustafson
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our race winner, Chase Elliott. Why don't you start off by running through your Allâ€'Star Race.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, just a special night. A special event. Any race is hard to win, but this is a special race to win, something that locks you in the Allâ€'Star Race for life. That's extremely special to join dad.
Winning this race means a lot to me as well. Just a big thanks to our partners, UniFirst, NAPA, Hooter's, Kelley Blue Book, Mountain Dew, Chevrolet, all our partners that make this go around. They stood by us through some notâ€'soâ€'spectacular years.
We've had a rough couple weeks. We ruined Mr. Hendrick's birthday on Sunday by running pathetic. It was really nice to slightly make up for that tonight.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
Q: You had a really good car back in May at Bristol. Was the car just as good tonight, better? How would you rate it?
CHASE ELLIOTT: To be honest, I think it was a little bit better. I think we improved our car at least for the short run. The race a few weeks ago I felt like consisted of more long runs than the short runs. The short run came down to the very end. That was our weak point in that event. We put a lot of emphasis on trying to be better in the short run. I thought we hit it really well tonight.
Q: In the last segment, are you looking in your mirror thinking when you were going to get bumped, somebody is going to try to wreck me for this thing?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I think you have to expect that in any event, especially this one. There's no points on the line or anything. The goal is to get far enough away where they don't have that option. Luckily it worked out that way tonight. Got a good restart there at the end, was able to put together a good 15 laps to seal the deal.
Q: How big is this win to you and why is it so big to you?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, to me this is one of those prestigious events that the Cup Series only has, right? This is a special race on the schedule every year. There's a lot of hype around it. The other thing about it is, you know, it's something you have to race your way into. Luckily we raced our way into this deal for life now. That means a lot.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]To me, it reminds me a lot of the Clash or something at the beginning of the year in some ways. I think this race is bigger than that because you're racing against the very best over recent times and anybody's career that have locked themselves into this event.
To beat the best I think is always special.
Q: The only other time this race was run away from Charlotte was Atlanta, your dad won it. What does it mean to have a victory in this race like your dad?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I didn't know that. I knew that, but I didn't really put it together until Winston told me that there on the front straightaway. Somebody told me upstairs a second ago I think the only other family duo to win the Allâ€'Star Race were the Earnhardt’s. Any time you can join them in anything racing is very special.
To join dad in winning this event, heck, I mean, that's not just special, that's a lot of years and a lot of history for everything to come full circle like that. It's pretty dang cool.
Q: Kevin Harvick talked about the challenges of the upper lane, raising the question about track prep. There was concern about track prep at Kentucky last week. How concerning has the track prep been the last two races? Is there a concern going into Texas?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, I don't think so. The track prep was no different today than it has been the past two or three years we've been coming here. The difference was the length of the event was not long enough for us to get the grip strip up off the bottom to where the momentum around the top became the dominating factor.
Look, at the end of the day, by the end of a 500â€'lap race, the top is the place to be. At the end of a hundred some odd lap race, the bottom is the place to be. There's still a place to be so I'm not really sure that it matters.
Q: You said in addressing the victory on television there's no feeling like watching those fans lose their minds after you've been successful. What's the difference from your perspective, from the athlete's perspective, having the adulation at the end of a night for you versus what you have experienced without anyone there?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, you know, to me tonight felt like an event again. I feel like we've been missing that piece for a couple months. It just felt really good to get NASCAR back. I mean, NASCAR is built on the fans. Once the race starts, it's hard to engage with them because you can't hear them. Before a race, the atmosphere was energetic again. I felt like the vibe was back.
I felt like that fire and intensity in me was back even more so than it has been, a piece that had been missing. I think that's driven by the people, the cars pulling in, the prerace parties and everything that you see.
I actually went up in the stands. I snuck up there with my mask on, watched the Open from the back straightaway. I'm looking around, seeing all these kids and families, people wearing their respective drivers, a lot of 9 gear. You don't realize how much impact you have on people you never met, you never will meet, who genuinely want to see me do well and they don't even know me. It's pretty dang cool to experience that.
I felt like I had a special night sitting up there with them watching that Open from the grandstands, really seeing and getting back to the roots of what this sport is built on. Then to engage with them after the race, to me it made it mean that much more.
Q: You said after the race you had struggled, had difficult races in the last several weeks. Did you feel as a collective unit at Hendrick that you were missing something the last several weeks or more individual circumstances of the races?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, a little bit of both. I felt like I was struggling. I wasn't doing a real good job, giving good feedback. To me good feedback is giving a direction on the car and coming in and doing that and going back out and being better. My direction has not been pointing us in a better direction in going faster these past couple weeks.
I feel like I needed to hit the reset button, not overthink things, do what I feel is right. That's a hard thing to do all the time. You try to get better, you try to learn. A lot of times you can take yourself down a road, this or that, that may not necessarily be benefitting you.
But we all want to improve. I certainly have room for improvement. Tonight was a great night for us, but I still think I can do better and there's areas I can improve on. I'm going to keep working on that.
Q: You must get an adrenaline rush in a race with fans. It must be something you can take forward for the rest of the season?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Absolutely. To me there is no more electric environment that we as NASCAR drivers can interact with and hear at Bristol. There's no other racetrack that's like this, that you're surrounded by the people watching all the way around the racetrack.
I don't think there's a better place to have people back for the first time than here. I know it was limited on how many people could come. Heck, it felt like they sure were making a lot of noise for only 30,000 people to be here, so that was pretty cool.
Q: What are you going to do with the money?
CHASE ELLIOTT: That's a great question. Blaney was giving me a hard time about Mountain Dew earlier today. I think I'm just going to send a truck to his house and they're going to unload about 14 pallets of Mountain Dew in his driveway this week, see what he does with that.
Q: Normally we don't race mid-July at Bristol. Did you notice anything different in the car than you would at Bristol normally?
CHASE ELLIOTT: To me it felt like normal Bristol. This racetrack I think is really consistent from the standpoint of just the overall feel, what it's like. I thought everything was really very Bristolâ€'esque.
Q: This being the first real marquee win of your career, you touched on the significance, but to have a marquee event on your résumé now, what kind of importance does that mean for you?
CHASE ELLIOTT: It means a lot. I think that's why the Cocaâ€'Cola 600 this year hurt so much. Those are big events. This race is a big event. The 600, the Daytona 500, the Brickyard, the Southern 500, all those races are just ones that I feel like when you get done racing, you can look back and say that you had won something like that. I think it's a special thing. That's why.
All wins are hard. I've never had an easy one. I can't say that any of them are any harder or easier than others. When I get done racing one day, to look back and say we won the Allâ€'Star Race I think will be a special thing.
Q: The under glow on the cars, what did it look like from your perspective? Did it change anything for you? Just weird to see?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I didn't think it did much of anything, to be honest with you. It sure didn't do anything for me.
Q: Can you hear the sirens going off in Dawsonville tonight? What does it mean to you to bring this back to Dawsonville, the fans that have followed you your whole career?
CHASE ELLIOTT: It's amazing. I can't wait to get home. It's late. I don't know what time it is. Probably not going to hear it tonight. Hopefully somebody took a good video of it I can see it. Such a special tradition, Gordon there at the poolroom has carried on for me, after doing it for my dad's career over the years.
Just proud that we were able to win, make it happen.
Q: How do you think the choose rule played out tonight?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I think the choose rule has been needed for a long time. I think it should be that way every week. I don't think there's really a reason to not have it. There's no reason to me why you shouldn't have the choice or you should be automatically told where you're going to line up when one lane has an obvious advantage just based on where you come off of pit road.
To me, life isn't fair, but it just makes way more sense to put it in our hands. It either works out for you or it doesn't. If it doesn't work out, it's your own fault, not the luck of the draw, where you come off of pit road.
Q: You jumped out front towards the final two stages. Once you took control of the race, never gave it up again. How important was getting out front?
|Elliott takes the checkered flag|
|Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy|
CHASE ELLIOTT: Luckily we were able to pass up through there. I think we had a really good UniFirst Camaro and we were able to make some passes there at the beginning of the race. My team did a really good job of hitting the setup really well for running the bottom. I don't know how it would have been if I ever had to move up.
Yeah, I just think the way it played out, we were fast around the bottom and we were able to get out front and control the race. That's nothing new. When somebody has a fast car and they get out front, it typically looks like that I feel like. I was just glad it was us this time.
Q: How much of tonight's race can you apply to the Playoff race in the fall? Was it maybe too small of a sample size?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I think Bristol is Bristol, like I said a minute ago. We'll for sure be thinking about what we had here a few weeks ago, what we had tonight, try to be better when we come back.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations and thanks for joining us.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Thank you. Have a good night.
ALAN GUSTAFSON, CREW CHIEF, NO. 9 UNIFIRST CAMARO ZL1 1LE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our raceâ€'winning crew chief, Alan Gustafson.
Why don't you just start off and quickly run through the race from the top of the pit box.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, we started 13th, so we knew we had to pass some cars pretty quickly. UniFirst Chevy was pretty fast. He made up some pretty quick ground there. I don't remember where we got to after the first 55. Certainly, somewhere in the top three.
We knew we were going to pit there and get a read on the tires, get an adjustment on the car. We did that. The next 35 went pretty well. He was able to get past Kevin and get the lead.
That was probably the toughest decision of the night. When you have the lead, you don't want to give it up here. Our plan had been to pit then and get tires. With the lead, it made it a little bit more difficult. We stuck to our guns there, pitted. Worked out there. I think Ryan was the only one that stayed out. Brad took two. Fortunately for us everything went smooth from there.
Having a tire advantage on those guys certainly paid off. Kyle was getting pretty good there where I could see him making some ground. Certainly, made a push there at the end to make it interesting.
Car was really good. Happy. Pit stops were great. Just about as smooth of a night as you could ask for.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go to questions.
Q: You get there today and see pretty heavy application of the PJ1 on the bottom groove, a 20â€'car race, are you thinking this is going to be a bottom feeder race?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, you know, my experience with the grooves here is you don't really run the top in until you have to start lapping traffic significantly, right? That's when you start running the top in, is when you have to lap cars. The leaders get strung out, you have no option. The faster cars will ultimately start running the top because they have to get through lappers.
With it being as short as it is, knowing it's a short field, the chance of lapping cars… We had planned on the bottom, really having our car get on the bottom and having good short run speed.
Q: Looked like you had Chase turn off the under glow lights for the pit stop. If you did, was that so your crew guys could see better or something you were concerned about?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: That's a secret. I can't tell you that (laughter). No, I'm kidding.
Yeah, we hadn't done it before. I didn't want to take a chance and have the lights â€'â€' we didn't get the lights until pretty late in the game. We hadn't had experience doing it. I don't think it would be a problem ultimately. Certainly, we weren't going to take that chance.
Q: What does this win do for your team?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: It puts a million bucks in our bank account, that's always a good thing. Certainly, happy for Chevrolet and UniFirst. Everybody at HMS works really hard. A win will certainly lift everybody's spirits and give you some momentum.
Yeah, I certainly wish this was a points race. We got to get back on track. We've had a couple races, a stretch, that haven't been the greatest for us. I think we've had some pretty decent performance in our cars.
That's the way it goes sometimes, you just don't get the finishes that you feel like you deserve. That's certainly the case at Indianapolis and Kentucky and the first Pocono.
Yeah, we're going to work hard. This doesn't hurt. Bristol has been a good track for us. This was an opportunity for us to work on a few things that we struggled with in the spring to be prepared when we come back here when it really matters.
Q: For some of the races coming up, do you feel you have a pretty good string of strong tracks, this can help you gain some momentum in the official points races?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: We have some points to make up. We've slid a few spots. It's pretty close from second to fourth where we're at.
To be honest with you, Texas and Loudon aren't two of our better tracks. Those tracks we've circled to work hard on and try to improve. I feel like we can. I think we learned some things from Kentucky we can take to Texas. We're looking forward to putting that to use. Loudon is a place we need to work on. We've had some decent runs there. I wouldn't say we've got that one circled as one of our favorites.
Yeah, look, any time you can win, it's better. I don't know that it's going to be a huge step forward. This track is so unique, I can't say that what we've done here is going to help Texas.
Q: You only have to bring one racecar to the racetrack each and every weekend. Does that change how you prepare in the shop? Do you have to focus on specific cars?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: To be honest with you, I don't think if we had backup cars weekly we could do it with the schedule we've had. The way we're working split shifts, trying to keep the road crew away from the shop crew as much as possible. Man, it would be just a monumental task to do that with backup cars.
I think it's been a must. I wouldn't say that it's put us in a better position to focus on the primary car. It's just kept that status quo or the way it was. I don't think us or any other team could keep their head above water in this kind of COVID era, the schedule we've run with having to do two cars every weekend.
Q: A stretch of four races in 11 days. Certainly, you did this earlier in May. Those were only at two tracks. Four different tracks, four different locations. What are the challenges in this stretch, how you're getting things prepared?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, it's a tougher swing for sure with a Wednesday night race, then a Sunday race in Texas, then back to Kansas on Thursday. That's tough. Then we've got some doubleheaders coming down the road. Certainly, have to get those cars prepared.
We're full gas. It's a lot of hours. It's a lot of prep. It's not going to be easy. It's one of those situations, I think I talked about this before, it's one of those situations where you're just trying to keep the quality up and keep the cars as good as you can and try to find a way to improve throughout all that, which is difficult to do.
It's going to be a tough stretch. I think it will be an opportunity to make some ground on some people if you get it right.
Q: It's about a month away, you'll be racing on the Daytona road course. You haven't done that before. The challenges in getting ready for that? Is that simple for you guys, you just bring out your Roval winning car and run it there?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: It's not simple. It's going to be difficult for everybody. You're not going to have any references really. Certainly there are some characteristics of the Roval, but it's obviously a bigger oval and the speeds are going to be higher. The infield is pretty unique. In my experience, a million years ago road racing there, it's a track that's hard to get ahold of.
That infield is not the easiest to navigate and get the car hooked up on. It's going to present some unique challenges. Certainly the speed of the banking, it's a pretty dedicated true chicane unlike what we've run at the Roval. That will be different I think for everybody to get ahold of. We'll have to manage the speeds, too.
It will be a very, very unique experience. But I'm looking forward to it. It will be a fun challenge. I really like that road course. I hope the cars race well there. I think they will. I hope it all goes well obviously for us.
Q: The significance to you of helping Chase get his first marquee win?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: To win at Bristol is cool no matter when you do it. The first Allâ€'Star Race, pretty unique circumstances, something we haven't done before. Any time you can be the first at something, you feel like you've done a good job.
Yeah, I mean, it's very satisfying for all of us. Certainly I think Chase is the best out there, so any time we can help give him a car like we did tonight to showcase his talents, it's very gratifying.
Q: How did the choose rule play out from your perspective? What kind of communication did you have with Chase about which lane to take?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: That's a great question. We had some statistical analysis of that and the effectiveness of the lane. We talked about it beforehand. I think he used that information every time but once. He kind of went against the grain. We certainly leave that up to him. He knows what the car is driving like, what the opportunities are.
I don't think it's an absolute monumental change to the sport. I've been in this situation a lot of times where it's just really frustrating when you get taken out of an opportunity to race for a win because of a lane.
There are some tracks, this is one of them, that the lanes can get a huge amount of disparity. It kind of sucks when you're second or third and get stuck on the bottom, end up seventh or eighth, don't get a chance to race for the win.
I think it gives it an opportunity to make it a little bit more fair for the competitors. I don't think it's going to be a monumental shift. It's probably going to affect a row or two like what you saw tonight.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for joining us. Congratulations on the win. Good luck in Texas.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate it.