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.
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS CAMARO ZL1 – POLE WINNER
THIS IS YOUR FIFTH POLE, YOUR FIRST AT BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY. TELL US ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING RUN
“I’ve been wanting a pole outside of Daytona and Talladega for quite some time now. I felt like I was able to deliver a pole to my team that really deserved it on way more than one occasion over the years and I felt like I haven’t done my part. So, it was nice to get my guys one, today. From that standpoint, I had a fast NAPA Chevy. I had a solid lap in that last run. I think Ryan (Blaney) probably threw me a bone like he messed up. Thought he had a pretty good lap going. We have some work to do tomorrow to be really good on Sunday. But, I think it’s do-able. The starting spot is great, but it’s also just a starting spot. I think the first pit box down there is probably a bit more important than anything. So, I’m looking forward to that. Our car has pace, so I think if we can get it driving good, we can hopefully give ourselves a chance.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THIS IS INDICATIVE OF THE RUN OF MOMENTUM THAT HENDRICK SEEMS TO BE SHOWING LATELY. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU GUYS ARE MAKING GAINS? THERE WAS A LOT OF FRUSTRATION OVER THE INCONSISTENCY OF THE TRACKBIKE COMPARED TO PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING. WHAT DID YOU EXPERIENCE?
“I definitely think when you run good or have good Fridays or good Sundays, I think that’s a product of hard work, regardless of how you get to that point. It doesn’t happen by slacking off and being lazy, that’s for sure. So, I think there’s a lot of hard work and effort going on at our shop at Hendrick Motorsports. This is a place where you get your car driving good, you can have a chance. It’s a great race track and a fun race track.
“As far as the grip-stuff goes, I feel like it was just like it’s been. It seems like it’s always taken some heat to get going. I don’t really feel like that’s anything new. The only difference was today everybody was in qualifying trim. We usually have two practices or a longer practice where guys run race trim and I think it gives it more of a chance. But for guys taped-up going out there running just a couple of laps this morning in practice, they’re not going to be willing to throw away their two or three laps before they get hot to make it good for everybody else. So, that’s just the way it goes.”
ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT SO MANY OF YOU SHOWED HESITATION DURING PRACTICE TO GO DOWN THERE?
“It wasn’t hesitation. It’s that it was really slick. And, you can only run a few handfuls of laps with being taped up solid running mock qualifying runs. So, it wasn’t that we didn’t want to go down there that we were super hesitant, you just couldn’t afford to throw away your laps for nothing, I guess, basically. So, you were better off moving up the track and at least getting a lap in and getting some sort of identifying what your car was going to drive like rather than throwing it away and running down there where it was still slick.”
FOR SUNDAY, HOW DO YOU FORECAST THE LENGTH OF TIME THE TRACKBITE WILL STAY THERE BEFORE EVERYONE MIGRATES TO THE TOP?
“I don’t know. I think it just depends. I don’t think it’ll take long. I think momentum tends to always win at the end of the day, and you sure get a lot of momentum running around the top here. So, I think it depends a little bit on the sunshine and whether it’s hot or overcast. I think that can either speed up that process or slow it down. But, the bottom has grip and whether or not they re-apply it after the Xfinity race, too. I’m sure it’s going to be fairly used up after tomorrow. My guess is that we’ll be up pretty quick.”
WITH THE RECENT SPEED THAT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS IS SHOWING, ARE YOU MORE EXCITED NOW THAT YOU’RE AT BRISTOL ON POLE? WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOU GUYS ON SUNDAY?
“Yeah, it’s definitely a great Friday, like I said. I haven’t had many good Fridays in my career. So, I certainly want to enjoy it and having that first pit box is always a big deal; probably as big of a deal here as anywhere we go. So, that’s huge. And like I said, it’s not something I’ve enjoyed a whole lot in my career. So, I would like to enjoy it some more and yeah, I hope we can keep it rolling. But we’ve got to focus on Bristol first and trying to get a win sooner than later. I think if you have your car doing well and do your job and execute, this is a place where you can make a difference and I think we can compete.”
YOU WERE EIGHTH IN PRACTICE. DID YOU THINK YOU HAD A GOOD SHOT AT THE POLE OR WAS IT THAT THE TRACK WAS CHANGING SO MUCH WAS IT REALLY NO CLUE?
“It was hard to say. To me, the biggest thing was just the fact that everyone was brought way closer together time-wise. I think you saw that with everyone moving to the bottom. I looked there one time and it was like a tenth and a half from first to 13th, which is very little. There was very little room for error. Obviously that grip strip can make up the difference for some balance issues sometimes, if you hit it right, and I think that’s why it brings everybody closer together. Alan (Gustafson) and the guys made some good adjustments to kind of be prepared for that happening. Luckily, like I said, I probably got a bone thrown from Ryan there on that last round like he messed up a little bit. And we just had a solid lap and luckily it was good enough. I’ve been on the other end of that. I’ve messed up and had a good lap going, too. So, it’s part of it and I’m happy to get one today.”
YOU MENTIONED GETTING A POLE OUTSIDE OF DAYTONA AND TALLADEGA. PRIOR TO THIS, THERE WERE SIX TIMES WHERE YOU QUALIFIED SECOND. DID IT FEEL LIKE GETTING THIS WAS SORT OF LIKE THE WAIT FOR THAT FIRST WIN?
“Yeah, it was awesome. We joke about it regularly. That’s why we were excited to get a pole. It’s one of those things. We’ve had some fast cars at the plate tracks. Obviously Alan (Gustafson) has had a lot of success there long before I came around. So, that was really no surprise, I felt like, to anybody who keeps up with this deal. But, to come to one of these places I feel like I contributed a little more than I do at Daytona and Talladega for qualifying. So, it’s certainly something I’ve been wanting to do for them for a while. Probably one of those six or two of those six, we had a car that was capable of being on the pole. And whether I messed it up or whatever didn’t do it. So, it’s just nice to get that done. I haven’t qualified first very much and it’s something I haven’t been able to enjoy much in my career. Hopefully we can do it some more.”
DO YOU DRIVE A DIFFERENT LINE THAN OTHER DRIVERS AROUND HERE? “I don’t know, I haven’t really looked. Whatever it was, it was a enough. That is what really matters to me.”
IS JIMMIE CRAZY TO RUN THE BOSTON MARATHON? WOULD YOU DO IT? “I don’t think he is crazy. He certainly enjoys fitness. I think everybody has their way of disconnecting and getting away. You live in this world, and you are traveling so much and it is just racing, racing, racing. I think that is his way of disconnecting and doing his own thing to clear his head. It is something he enjoys and just so happens to be good for him. Kudos to him. I’m not going to run the Boston Marathon for sure. But I think it is awesome, and it is something he enjoys and it is healthy. No, I don’t think it takes away from his efforts on track at all. There is enough time to disconnect and separate and go do something you like to do, and clear your head and still focus on the weekends. As you know, we do this a lot. I think it is good for him to get away and do his thing.”
CHEVY STILL DOESN’T HAVE A WIN THIS YEAR. IS THIS A CHEVY DISADVANTAGE, OR IS IT THE INDIVIDUAL TEAMS THE ONES THAT ARE BEHIND. “That’s a good question. I can’t speak for RCR or those guys, I really don’t know what they fight week-to-week. From our end, sure, we have work to do. I can’t say…I’ll put it to you like this. The grass is always greener on the other side until you get there, right? So, I think blaming the manufacturer is the wrong route to go, and certainly isn’t productive. I think the more you sit back, and do your job and make the most of whatever you have, the better results you are going to have. Outside of that, there really isn’t much I can do about it. So, we will keep working to improve and wherever that side of things goes, it goes. We’ll try and do our best to keep up with whoever is out front.“
ARE YOU CLOSE TO A WIN? “I’d like to think so. I certainly felt like we were close in Martinsville. We were in contention there which is great. Not as great as winning, or getting the job done. That was a good event. That was by far our best event of the year. Hopefully we can carry some of that here and give ourselves a chance on Sunday. It was 500 laps at Martinsville, and same here and its a long time and a lot can happen. If we execute and do our job tomorrow and get our job driving good, I think we can have a chance on Sunday and that is all I can ask for.”