Chase Elliott spoke with media via teleconference to discuss NASCAR’s return to racing at Darlington Raceway, looking towards returning to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600, and more.
WHEN YOU WERE GESTURING TO KYLE BUSCH AND THERE WERE NO FANS, COULD YOU ALMOST HEAR FANS CHEERING FROM HOME?
"No, I couldn’t. It was more just how I was feeling at the time. Really, it didn’t involve anyone else but he and I."
IT LOOKED LIKE DENNY (HAMLIN) GOT A LITTLE SEPARATION AWAY FROM YOU RIGHT BEFORE YOU GOT HIT BY KYLE (BUSCH). I WAS CURIOUS, DID YOU HAVE TO LIFT AT ALL BEFORE GETTING HIT BY KYLE OR WERE YOU TRYING TO SETUP A MOVE GOING INTO TURN ONE?
"No, I didn’t lift. We were all wide open."
KYLE (BUSCH) SAID YOU GUYS HAD A GOOD CONVERSATION AND HE SAID YOU WERE A CLASSY INDIVIDUAL. CAN YOU SAY FROM YOUR END HOW THAT CONVERSATION WENT BETWEEN YOU GUYS?
"Yeah, we talked about it. Like I told him, I don’t think he wrecked me on purpose. I think that he was trying to make a spot that wasn’t there. And, much like I told him, I get that mistakes happens, that’s part of life and I get it. He’s just not a guy that makes many mistakes, so for me to be on the poor end of a rare mistake on his end is, at the end of the day, unfortunate for me and my team."
OBVIOUSLY, FANS LOVE THE DRAMA AND THEY LOVE TO SEE A RIVALRY AND A FEUD. IS THAT A COMFORTABLE SPOT FOR YOU TO BE IN?
"At the end of the day, obviously I hate that it was me that got wrecked. But I want nothing more than to go win and try to do my part for my team. That’s completely up to the people. I know it’s gained a lot of traction and there’s a lot of people talking about it, so that was ultimately a win for the sport. It was a loss for me and my team. But like you said, people love drama, they love talking about that stuff and they’ve been doing a lot of it. So, at the end of the day, there’s nothing we can do about it. But I really don’t care to answer your original question – it’s kind of up to whatever people want to make of it."
IS IT OVER NOW OR IS IT SOMETHING THAT STICKS WITH YOU? DO YOU HAVE TO RETALIATE?
"For me, I just want to go win. I thought we had a really nice opportunity to try and grab a win there on Wednesday. So, that’s my goal. I want nothing more than to just go run well and try to put ourselves in position to win a lot of races, and we’ve been lucky to have been in a few positions this year. We’re fast enough to win, just hasn’t worked out. I’m hopeful that our day will come."
I DON’T SEE YOU COMING BACK TO TAKE HIM OUT OR ANYTHING, AND DENNY HAMLIN SAYS IT NEVER WORKS TO DO THAT. I’M WONDERING IF NOW YOU HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO RACE HIM HARDER THAT SHOULD YOU MAKE A MISTAKE OR SOMETHING, THAT HE OWES YOU A LITTLE FORGIVENESS.
"I don’t know. Like I said, who knows the situations or the circumstances that you’ll be presented with down the road. But at the end of the day, the whole reason Wednesday was as unfortunate as it was because we were battling for a win. So, I guess the bottom line is to try and put ourselves in position to win more, and that’s a good problem to have. That’s my goal. Who knows the circumstances? Nobody’s perfect – I get that, everybody makes mistakes. I’m sure I’ll make plenty of mistakes as time goes on. I get it, I just hate I was on the wrong end of a rare one on his end."
LIKE YOU SAID, EVERYBODY CAN MAKE MISTAKES. DO YOU FEEL LIKE THAT’S WHAT MADE YOU SO MAD INITIALLY OR DO YOU FEE LIKE REALLY A GUY IS SO GOOD THAT THINGS LIKE THAT DON’T HAPPEN?
"A guy that’s that talented and does that good of a job, you certainly don’t see him make many mistakes. He kind of did the same thing to Martin I think at Bristol a couple of years ago and it was kind of the same situation. Like I said, I get it. I’ve never had a problem with Kyle and I don’t think he’s ever had a problem with me. Like I said, I don’t think he did it on purpose. Again, I hate that I was on the wrong end of a rare mistake on his end and for a guy that doesn’t make many, I hate that it was me."
I’M WONDERING IF THE TRUCK SERIES BOUNTY IS STILL ON BETWEEN THE DRIVERS AND IF YOU HAVE ANY PLANS TO RACE IN ANY OF THOSE UPCOMING TRUCK RACES?
"Yeah, as far as I know, it’s still on. That’s not my department to be real honest with you; that was Kevin (Harvick) and his people that put that up. I’m still planning on racing – planning on still running and trying to go beat Kyle (Busch), ironically enough after Wednesday. Yeah, still have full plans to run and as far as the bounty deal goes, I’m not real sure. I’m going to run whether they are still putting up the money or not."
DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE NEXT TRUCK RACE IS THAT YOUR ENTERING?
"Yeah – Tuesday at Charlotte."
OBVIOUSLY, THIS IS ALL WEATHER PERMITTING FOR SUNDAY HAVING QUALIFYING FOR THE FIRST TIME, I’M CURIOUS WHAT YOU THINK WHAT DIFFERENCE THAT MIGHT MAKE FOR YOU GUYS BECAUSE YOU’VE RUN TWO RACES NOW WITH YOU GUYS JUST JUMPING IN THE CAR AND GOING.
"I think much like the last two races, I really don’t think it matters. I think the guys that are good and the teams that make good adjustments throughout the race are still going to win and still going to do really well, as they always do. So, I don’t really think it matters. I think the biggest thing I wish was different about the qualifying is I wish we got to pick pits off of where we qualified. I think the pit selection is probably a bigger motivator for qualifying than the actual starting spot. I wish that was the case, but it’s not. I think it’ll be really similar – I still think the guys that are good in the race will run well whether they start last or first."
WHEN I HEARD OVER THE RADIO THAT THE TEAM WAS GOING DOWN AND WAITING AT THE 18 AFTER THE RACE, I WAS LIKE HOW ARE THEY GOING TO DO THAT IN THE ERA OF SOCIAL DISTANCING. WAS THERE ANY CONCERN?
"Yeah, it’d be kind of hard to fight when you have to stay six-feet apart. My arms aren’t long enough (laughs)."
THE FACT THAT YOU CARRY AROUND THE TITLE OF ‘MOST POPULAR DRIVER’, IT JUST SEEMS LIKE THE LAST TWO ‘RIVALRIES’ HAVE NOW BEEN BETWEEN YOU AND KYLE (BUSCH) AND, BEFORE, YOU AND DENNY (HAMLIN). DO YOU THINK BEING THE MOST POPULAR DRIVER KIND OF MAKES YOU A TARGET FOR STUFF LIKE THAT?
"I don’t know – I don’t know that I would call them rivalries. I got crashed on both occasions, so at the end of the day, it’s just unfortunate for me. And my team too, they deserve better and they deserve to run really well. I don’t know if it does or not, that’s just kind of the way it’s worked out. Two moments that were in closing laps and battling for a win like that I think certainly adds to the spotlight more so than the names."
WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE TO SHOW UP AT THESE RACES AND NOT PRACTICE? HAS IT CHANGED THE WEEKEND AT ALL FOR YOU AND THE TEAM?
"It’s made it really exciting for me. It’s added an element that I think NASCAR has been missing for a long time. I think we’re learning as an industry and I think the fans are also learning too, that we don’t need to practice for three days before a Sunday event and we can still put on a really good show. I hope as time goes on, we can race more and practice less. Maximize the time that the teams are at the race track and, two, with that being said, we can put on a full day of activities and events, and still maximize the fans’ time at the race track with the Xfinity Series and the Truck Series. I think we can have just as much racing for the people there, whenever they can come back and watch, as what we’ve had in the past, we’re just maximizing the time that the teams and drivers are there when we go. I hope we can learn from this and I think NASCAR has been in a unique situation with this situation to try different things, and that being one of them. So, I’m looking forward to seeing how things change as time goes and, like I said, I hope it does a little bit because I think this has been a really nice learning experience and I think it’s been a home run so far."
IN DRIVER CODE, WITH THE COMMUNITY THAT YOU GUYS HAVE TOGETHER THAT WE DON’T LIVE IN THAT WORLD, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT OR WHAT’S THE IMPACT OF ACTUALLY HEARING A DRIVER SAY ‘THAT ONE’S ON ME’ TO YOU, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT ON THE TAPE THAT IT’S THEIR FAULT. HOW BADLY DO YOU NEED THAT MOMENT WHERE THEY GO ‘THAT ONE’S ON ME’, WHAT’S THAT IMPACT?
"I really think it depends on the person and how much respect you either had or didn’t have for that person prior to the moment. From Kyle (Busch)’s situation, Kyle and I have gotten along for many years. I feel like I’ve raced him with a lot of respect because I respect him. I think he’s really good, and he is. A two-time champion should be respected, in my opinion. I think he’s earned that right. The respect from my end was there prior to the event, so to hear that from a champion and a guy that we’ve raced really hard and clean together over the years, I think goes further than someone who I don’t care for as much, or somebody I don’t get along with as well, or somebody that doesn’t race with that kind of respect or that kind of integrity on the track. I think it really depends on the person, but good question."
WHAT DOES IT TELL YOU ABOUT HIM THAT HE DID IT? WHAT’D YOU LEARN ABOUT HIM?
"I learned that he made a mistake and I was on the wrong end of it. But he apologized to me. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the result, so at the end of the day, it still cost us a shot at a win. And at the end of the day, that’s really the bulk of what matters to me and my team because we’re in the business to perform more than anything."
— Team Chevy —