Q. How many times have you watched the Ross Chastain pass?
CHASE ELLIOTT: No, I saw it firsthand. I didn’t really need to.
Q. What were your thoughts on it?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, I think there’s certainly two sides of it, right? I think from a global perspective of our sport, it is kind of embarrassing in some ways just from an integrity standpoint of what we do week to week.
From a standpoint of a guy doing what he needed to do to get the job done, yeah, I think you can have respect for that for sure. But you’re not allowed to cut courses, road courses, and things like that.
I just think from a global perspective, for the integrity of what we do, it’s not a great look, in my opinion. What do you do?
Q. When you talk about the integrity…
CHASE ELLIOTT: You think about this, right? We as a sport, NASCAR has gone through leaps and bounds to make these cars equal, right? Crew chiefs are getting suspended for a month because a piece of tape is in the wrong place.
All of a sudden a guy runs two seconds faster in the field.
You tell me, right?
I get it. For those of you that just walked up, I totally get it. I think there’s admiration for a guy doing what he had to do to get it done, right? I think we can all respect that.
The aspect that I’m trying to explain to you in another way is certainly relevant.
Q. You wouldn’t do that move, or would you? If the rules are the same at Martinsville come next, you need spots to advance, would you try it?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I would just like to be in a position to not have to I think would be best (smiling).
Q. How many times can people execute that and do what he did?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Well, how many times can a car go by the crossover gate bridge and it not fly apart? You seriously hurt somebody on the other side of it and/or a driver or drivers on the track.
I don’t know how long that thing would stay together, right? That’s a tough one.
Q. How do you feel going in? You’ve been up and down, up and down. Do you feel up?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I feel fine. I mean, honestly, I feel like we have as good of an opportunity as anybody. Yes, our Playoffs has been up and down, probably more down than it has been up really for how we ran leading into it.
But when I sit back and I look at this weekend, the way this format is, the way the Final 4 works, if you’re in, you have a shot, number one. Number two, we haven’t wrote the ending yet, right? The narrative is there for you to make it whatever you want to and however you execute your day into being.
Q. When you look at Phoenix, the spring race, is there a lot you can pull from that?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, yeah, I think that’s the golden question, honestly, because a lot has changed since the spring. I felt like we were solid. I didn’t think we were spectacular, but we were solid.
But a lot has changed since then. I think setups have certainly migrated in different directions from where we were then. Everyone has gotten more similar as the year has progressed.
Yeah, I don’t really know. That’s honestly a question I’m kind of curious to see, like, were the people that were good here in the spring going to be good this weekend? I don’t really have a good answer for that till we go try.
Q. Do you have to be spectacular on Sunday? Sometimes this year somebody is just solid, you take four tires at the right time…
CHASE ELLIOTT: Sure. No, I think you bring up great points. Somebody could dominate a race and not end up winning the race or the championship.
No, I think it all has to go your way, right? Yes, you want to have pace. Having pace in your car and being fast gives you a lot of opportunities in different ways. But there are other ways to win, and there are other ways to lose, too.
I think it all has to go your way — good timing, good people. Not only in the sport, but everything I’ve ever seen.
Q. You’ve talked a lot recently about appreciating moments. I’m sure you’re hoping to have a lot of championship opportunities in your car. Is it kind of cool to have the chance to do this again when your previous one happened during the COVID season?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, winning a championship is winning a championship, in my opinion. When I get done racing, that box will still be checked in 2020, right? At the end of the day, does it really matter? No. To me, not really. Was it unfortunate circumstances? Absolutely. No one wanted to be in that situation as we went through those times in 2020 and beyond.
But I felt like we made the most out of a tough situation that the globe was in at that point in time, and we were able to get back and get on track. I’m super proud of NASCAR for the efforts that we had going on that year.
I don’t think it’s all negative from that standpoint. Certainly for us, it was a great year for us. You don’t want to let those things bring that down. It’s still a great accomplishment. I truthfully think it’s just as meaningful in 2020 as it has been this week leading in.
Still a great honor to be a part of the Final 4 and have a chance to go win a championship.
Q. What have you learned being in the race past years? Is there a difference in this race, how people race you?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I do think coming from somebody who has been on both ends of that. Definitely when I see — in years that I haven’t been a part of it and I see a guy coming along, he’s in the Final 4, like I’m not going to put up the fight that I probably would on another weekend just because I feel like there is a respect level for people who have earned the spot.
Being here is a very tough thing to do. It’s a great privilege to be a part of that Final 4. I think all the drivers and teams recognize that.
Yeah, so I know when I haven’t been in, I feel like I’ve always given a little more respect to the guys who were.
I feel like the last couple years I have received that same mentality and respect from my competitors, being a part of it, being fortunate enough to be one of the drivers.
Q. Last year’s race was decided on pit road. How big is pit road here?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, it wasn’t completely decided on pit road. Yes, the stop certainly helped them out, it was a great stop. They deserve a lot of credit for that. Kyle had to still go execute a good restart in the closing laps of the race. Wasn’t like the stop was over and the race was over, right? There was still a job to be done after that.
Like I said earlier, though, you have to have everything go your way. I look at that race last year, I felt like we were — just from my perspective, because I lived it firsthand, I feel like we had a really good car and we were in a good spot. We just got the lead there on that long green flag run. The caution cycle comes out right there as we were all in our pit exchange. The next thing you know, the whole complexion of the race changed.
That can happen at any point in time. It happened a couple weeks ago at Homestead. Caution comes out, we’re leaving pit road, next thing you know we’re down a lap and taking the wave-around. No one is immune to that. You hope you’re on the right side of those circumstances.
Q. What do you think is going to be the biggest obstacle for somebody?
CHASE ELLIOTT: We’ll see Sunday. Heck, I don’t know. I mean, I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know what the day is going to look like. I don’t know.
Until you get in the battle and start fighting, I have no idea what the biggest obstacle is going to be.
As you’re looking at it from afar, looking into the weekend to try to prep, the biggest obstacle is how you prepare and how well you execute your week leading in. That’s all we can control right now.
As a team and as a driver personally, I can look at my week and say, Okay, have I checked this box? Am I ready in this category? Am I understanding of each and every thing that I have available to look at? Just like I would any other weekend.
If we say yes to all those things, we’re as ready as we can be come practice on Friday, we’ve done all that we can do. You might not always make the right decisions, but I think you have to trust in the process and your decision-making when you do make those choices. I’ve certainly learned that over the years.
Q. How important is it to have the real practice session this Friday?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I would like to say it’s important, but I don’t know that it really matters. I think the same people run good whether you practice for four days or four minutes.
2020, I had always kind of thought that for a long time, but then 2020, us not having any practice, the same crowd is running good, I’m like, Man, does it even matter? Probably not.
Q. Do you wish is it the same group practice, or you don’t care?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I don’t have a preference.
Q. How much can you apply from the first race here in Phoenix?
CHASE ELLIOTT: They were asking that a few minutes ago. I think it’s a great question and honestly one that I don’t have an answer to because a lot has changed since March when we were here last.
The setups have changed. We’ve migrated in some different directions. But everyone has migrated closer together, I feel like. Does that mean the people who were good here in the spring are going to be good here this weekend? I don’t know. I don’t really have a good answer for you on that. That’s a question I’m honestly curious to kind of see myself. Hopefully it plays out all right for us.
Q. Do you feel like having been here in this situation before, having won a championship at this track, does that give you an edge over the years?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I would totally love to sit here and say yes, but I just feel like I would be lying, just from the standpoint of having experienced it firsthand, coming in here that first year, not knowing any better, us being able to win it, our first try. If they had done it out here, it only had been once, or maybe that year was the first year, I can’t remember.
So, yeah, I would love to say that it matters. When I think back through just that whole experience for myself and our team firsthand, I’m like, It doesn’t make a difference.
What makes a difference is how you prepare this week and how you look ahead to the weekend, the decision-making, what you want to bring setup-wise, how you execute your practice on Friday, how you do in qualifying Saturday, giving yourself a good or a bad pit selection for your event on Sunday, executing a good 312 laps. That’s what makes a difference, in my opinion.
Q. Has Ross’s move settled in at all?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, yeah, I guess. I guess. I mean, I saw it firsthand, so…
Q. If it comes down to it, would it work here? If you had to, would you give something like that a try?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I would just love to not be in a position to have to. Y’all’s expressions are saying it right now. I think there’s a few factors to that, in my opinion on it.
Certainly commendable for a guy to do what he had to do to get the job done. Totally respect that. I think that deserves some respect.
But from just a global landscape of our sport, when you kind of step back and look at it, I think it is a bit embarrassing really when you step back and look at it. It’s like cutting the track at a road course isn’t acceptable either.
NASCAR has put a lot of time and effort into making these cars equal. We’re suspending crew chiefs for weeks for pieces of vinyl being in the wrong place. You go break the track record, run two seconds faster than everybody. It’s just like from an integrity standpoint of what we do, is that proper? I don’t know. Maybe not for me to say.
It certainly is interesting, but at the end of the day I don’t really personally care. I just want to be in a position to try to be out front and be far enough away from everybody that it doesn’t matter.
Q. Do you think NASCAR should police something like that, or it’s not at that point yet?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Man, that’s a tough one, it really is. I think we have a lot of rules as it sits today. I’m certainly not an advocate for having more rules I don’t think.
I do think they ride a very fine line of entertainment value. I think the line of entertainment and integrity, that’s a really difficult one to balance. When retweets and likes and favorites on all the stuff they’ve gotten this week, unfortunately I think that has probably driven it a little bit too much.
Q. Drivers from other series have also promoted it.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Right. Whether people like it or not should never be involved in your decision-making process of what is right or wrong, in my opinion, for a governing body.
Q. Ahead of the 2020 season Rick was really clear, sick of losing, sick of not competing for championships. You delivered for him. Kyle made it back to back. Has his drive softened at all?
CHASE ELLIOTT: No.
Q. Is it, Chase, go win this?
CHASE ELLIOTT: No, his drive has never softened. I think that’s a super easy narrative to write and say because 2020 went good, then 2021 went good, right? If we had not won in 2020, Kyle hadn’t won last year, those two years didn’t happen…
That’s not what I’m getting at. His drive to win would still be just as fiery as it was before that. He entered this deal, when he started racing, to win. I understand that. I think everyone at his company understands that, too.
Whether we’re doing bad or whether we’re doing good, I want to do my job just as much on either one of those two days. I think for all of us involved, we’re all fired up and we all want to do our jobs. We all want to compete at a high level. I want to drive at a high level. I want to check every single box I can possibly check from the job that I am tasked with doing.
Certainly doing it for him is one of if not the top of my priority list because without him I wouldn’t have the opportunities I’ve had.
But I think I guess my point I’m getting at is, whether we had won the last two as a company or not, I think our drive and will and his fire to win would be just as high as it is the other way around.
Q. Internally has there been any talk or focus on the owner’s championship and the driver’s championship?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, we certainly understand it, right? So, yeah, it’s a super unique thing and a really weird thing, right? People are asking me about it. I’m like, you know, I drive the 9 car all year, I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the car all year, but I’m in one and not the other. People don’t understand that.
Q. Do you?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I don’t even know that I understand it, to be honest (laughter). Do all y’all?
I don’t know. It’s super confusing. It is kind of a behind-the-scenes type situation that I don’t really expect a lot of people to understand. That’s totally okay.
But, yeah, we get it. We understand the circumstance. I understand that we have an opportunity to win both. The best thing that could happen is one of us wins the race and the other one runs second. And then you check all boxes and we all go home happy. That would be choice number one for me. I think that’s very feasible.
Q. Does it seem like this championship is a little bit more wide open in that it’s four different organizations? I don’t know that anyone feels like there’s an odds-on favorite to win. Does it feel more open than some of the cases in the past?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, personally, being a part of it the last couple years, as this format has kind of progressed and changed, I think if you make it to that last race, I think you have a shot. I think if you’re in the Final 4 you have a chance.
We’ve seen this, you don’t have to dominate all day to win. Just like we see that with regular races that aren’t necessarily in the Playoffs, what Jimmie did there in 2016 is a great example of not necessarily being the best car all day, but when it came time to execute at the end of the day, put together some good restarts and pit stops, make it happen, they did.
That’s what I was talking about a few minutes ago. It’s like, yeah, our Playoffs hasn’t been great, but the way this format is, it really just doesn’t matter now. If you’re part of the show, you’re part of the show. If you have a shot this weekend, you have a shot to change the narrative and write the end of the story however you want.
Q. You throw the other nine races away. Doesn’t matter to you?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Why would it? Whoever finishes in front of the other three wins.
Q. Do you believe in momentum?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I believe in executing a good week of prep and a good weekend at the track. If you do those things, you’re going to hedge your bet of being happy.
Q. Talk about the regular season and winning that, the benefits that came with it, helped carry you all the way to Homestead?
CHASE ELLIOTT: It’s a great point. If we hadn’t had the regular season that we had, I wouldn’t be sitting here. So definitely it makes a huge difference. We’re fortunate to have been on the good end of that this year, being able to have a good regular season. Have never really had a regular season that good before, so that was great.
Super proud of our whole team for accomplishing some race wins and ultimately that regular season points deal. Those 15 points combined with the wins that we had were crucial.
Q. NASCAR said they are looking at improving the rules package on the short track package for next year. If they’re able to do that, combine that with what we’ve seen this year, could be spectacular 2023 season for the Next Gen car.
CHASE ELLIOTT: I hope so. I hope it’s better. I’ve told all y’all this a few times, but the more we make the cars the same, the harder it is to be different. The harder it is to be different, the more those — the time frame you spend from yellow line to yellow line on pit road is going to dictate races. And the restarts and the pushes you get, all those little details can make or break your day.
That’s just part of what it is. As you try to level the ‘playing field’, it’s hard to be different. The harder it is to be different, the more challenging it is to have comers and goers in your field, for the race to look like people think it should, right?
But motorsports has evolved. I mean, aerodynamics across all forms of motorsports has become king. Not just here in NASCAR, it’s something we see every week if you follow other forms of it.
That’s just what is. Sometimes you just decide whether or not you like it.
Q. It seems like the communication between the drivers and NASCAR has gotten better. Do you feel you can talk to them about anything?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I feel like that relationship and those conversations have certainly improved over time.
I think the drivers are just — when it comes to talking about some of those things, it can be a tough situation, right? The teams are the ones who build the cars. They have a lot of financial risk coming to the racetracks and things like that.
For me, like, I don’t want to make the rules. I don’t want to sit here and talk to y’all about the rules every week. I want to do my job and I want to try to perform at a high level. Do I want it to be better? Yes. Am I frustrated some days because we’re riding the line at Martinsville for 150 laps? Yes, of course.
I think sometimes that can get the better of you. But I don’t want to make the rules. There’s people in place to do that. If they want my input, I’m happy to give them my two cents. Whatever they take from that they can take it and that would be fine.
Q. What kind of team owner do you think Jimmie Johnson would make?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I just learned about that earlier. It’s pretty crazy. I never thought he would be part of the ownership side just from knowing him personally. Seems like he’s really enjoyed his time away from NASCAR.
I think he’d be a lot of fun to drive for. Jimmie is a great friend of mine. It’s difficult for me to say from that front. I don’t necessarily work with him. We were teammates, yes. But, like, I don’t work with him day to day. I never really have on business dealings.
I would have to imagine he would be a fun guy to drive for. Just being the kind of friend and leader he is, I don’t see how any of those things combined could be bad. Yeah, I expect they’ll have a lot of fun.
Q. (Question about driver/crew chief relationship.)
CHASE ELLIOTT: Good point. I didn’t know that.
I feel like we’ve always had a lot of respect for each other. When I came into the Cup Series, I really came into his team. It was his deal. He had it put together. It was his group of guys. It was his pit crew. I really just stepped into his team. I’ve always viewed it that way.
I’ve always just let him do his thing, respect him for that, and trust in what he thinks is the right decision. In turn, he’s always given me a lot of respect and let me do things kind of the way I want to do them sometimes.
We’re also very open and honest with each other. If we need to be better, we can totally have those tough conversations and nobody gets their feelings hurt. I think that’s crucial to improve and get better over time, too.
Q. How would a second championship be different or more meaningful or less meaningful than the first?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I don’t know. Never done it. I always feel like, it’s super popular, I understand you guys want to ask that, but that’s a super tough thing to answer because I’m just a strong believer that until you cross those certain bridges that are just milestone accomplishments in your life, that you know are my dream goals, right? Yes, we all know those things. Yes, I could sit here and give you some amazing word to describe it.
I just really believe until you achieve something of that magnitude, it’s really hard to put it into words and understand what that feeling is like or what it would be like in that moment.
So if we cross that bridge, I’ll let you know.
Q. Does it give you and Joey any advantage to have already crossed that bridge?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, I would love to say yes. Honestly, I would love to sit here and say yes. They were asking this a few minutes ago. When we came in here in 2020, and not having been in the Final 4, and going out there and executing a great race and winning the thing, it’s like does it really matter? No, probably not.
I think just putting together a good week and a good race on Sunday is going to lend itself to be more fruitful than just leaning on the fact that you’ve made the Final 4 before.
Q. If you could make one change to the Playoff format, what would you make?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Heck, I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it. I think it’s important for the championship race to keep moving. I think Phoenix has been a great stop for us, a great stop on the schedule. Homestead was a great stop. We’ve gotten super lucky to have some great tracks and facilities.
I certainly understand the time of year puts you in a bit of a bind with weather in certain areas. You don’t want to go somewhere super cold. But I think it’s important to keep moving the race around and give other tracks an opportunity.
There’s a lot of logistics in there, who owns the track, so on and so forth. This has been a great stop for us, though. I’ve enjoyed my time coming out here.
I think we should keep it moving.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports