Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.
During Daytona 500 Media Day, Chase Elliott had one of the more hard-hitting sessions. However, in typical Elliott style he faced all questions with a solid chin and delivered excellent answers.
At your age, for people to be questioning winning, do you feel maybe it was a little premature?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Not really. I’ve been racing for a long time. I feel like if you get to this point, you either know what you’re doing or you don’t.
Frankly, I want to earn my spot here. I don’t want to be given an opportunity, regardless of what my name is. I want to feel like I belong. I think that’s as important to me as anything.
I want to earn my right. I want to earn to be here. I want to establish myself as being a good driver and being a guy who belongs. I think regardless of my age at that point in time, I’d done a lot of racing to get to that point. I feel like you either know how to drive or you don’t.
Yeah, I think it was certainly a time where I needed to figure it out.
Were you getting impatient?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I wouldn’t say impatient. I wanted to win from the get-go. Lucky to have some wins over the years, Xfinity, Truck, to get to this point. You come along, I think you realize how difficult it is, racing against the best on Sundays. It’s not Friday, it’s certainly not Saturday. It’s the real deal.
They say winning can breed winning. You won once, then you won quickly after that. Is there something to that?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I think that’s a little bit of a myth. Everybody said that. I don’t think I believe in that a whole lot. I don’t know. I think it was a little more coincidence than it was anything. Everybody says once you win one, they get easier after that. I’m not sure that’s the case.
I think we had some upgrades and some performance things going on at that point in time. Because of that, that led to some good finishes more so than it was me doing anything different.
Alan Gustafson, talk about that relationship, how it’s grown. Did you sense a pressure for him to win like on yourself?
CHASE ELLIOTT: No, I feel like Alan has done a really good job of always having a level head. Through the downs and the ups last year, he’s done a pretty good job of keeping everybody on an even keel. I’ve come to appreciate him. I always appreciated him, always respected him. How he’s handled situations over the first three years, that guy is really good at what he does. I’m not sure that there’s anybody much better.
Not that he would put any pressure on you, but him being from Daytona…
CHASE ELLIOTT: He’s never won a 500 either.
What do you think if you could deliver that win to him?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I think it would be awesome. It’s funny. We talked about that the other day, how many opportunities he’s had to win it, how close he’s come before. Yeah, he’s never won a Daytona 500 or a championship. Would love to deliver both of those things to him. He certainly deserves both.
He’s probably built in the past 10 years, I would say, four or five of those years, I would say his car has probably been the fastest one down here. It’s pretty impressive how good he is at that. Unfortunate that none of those years have worked out. Hopefully we can get that done for him.
You talked about wanting to earn stuff. A lot of people said when you started in Cup that they expected you to win, you are most popular. Obviously, you have to earn it on the track, but is it somewhat of a compliment that people expect so much out of you?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, the expectations outside of our little circle, as much as you want me to say, want me to comment on it, really don’t matter. I know that’s such the boring answer. It’s so much of the truth.
That outside viewpoint and the folks that sit at home, have never driven a racecar before, telling you what’s right, what’s wrong, that is so tired, in my opinion, so wrong.
The fact that is even a topic of conversation is mind-boggling to me. I’m going to worry about me, worry about my team, we’re going to worry about each other and make each other better. Outside that, I really don’t care.
If you did, it would probably drive you nuts.
CHASE ELLIOTT: It probably could, yeah, I guess. I don’t know. There’s some interesting folks out there, man. It’s interesting. But nonetheless, whether they like me or hate me, I appreciate them either way. They’re not going to hurt my feelings whether they hate me or like me. Happy to have them.