Chase Elliott reflects on winning Daytona 500 pole, playgrounds and more
Chase Elliott will start from the pole for his second consecutive Daytona 500 this Sunday live on FOX at 2 p.m. ET.
This caused fellow NASCAR driver Elliott Sadler to note that the second-year driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet "is undefeated in Daytona 500 poles."
Elliott reflected on that and several other topics during Daytona 500 media day on Tuesday.
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On going south vs. north
Last year Elliott was unable to turn his pole-winning run into anything, wrecking out of the 500 on ... He intends to make this year different.
“I obviously hope the race goes better this time than it did last year," he said. As you go along, obviously last year going the way it did, having such a great beginning of Speedweeks, qualifying well, and getting to the XFINITY race and running good in it, things were just going really good, and as the Sunday rolled around, that just kind of went to prove how fast things can go south.
"They can go south a lot quicker than they can go north. Just keeping that perspective and knowing that ‑‑ I mean, heck, we didn't even make it to the first pit stop last year -- so all that stuff can just be all for naught if you don't do your job correctly and don't make sure that you're where you need to be mentally and with the car setup and the whole deal when it comes to race time, which is the day that counts, obviously.
"I had such a great Speedweeks and such a great qualifying run to running good in the XFINITY race to then to Sunday when my race ended a lot quicker than I would have liked. I think of that to keep this all in perspective.
“I don’t think we made it to the first pit stop last year. … I think I’m where I need to be mentally and I know (crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) and the guys will have the car where it needs to be.”
Peter CaseyPeter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Rain, rain go away?
Elliott is excited to see what he can do in the Can-Am Duels set for Thursday night, but he knows they may get rained out and postponed until Friday in the daylight. He's OK with that, too.
"I'm definitely excited to get to the Duels personally," he said. "We haven't drafted yet with our 500 car, which I think is going to be important.
"I was actually disappointed obviously that the (Clash exhibition) race got rained out (last) Saturday, but as we got through Saturday night and got the race on Sunday, I was actually kind of glad that we raced on Sunday. With the sunshine and the heat down here, I think it was good to kind of get some of that information and just see if the cars are going to start driving bad or not. I'm sure these guys will agree that I think handling is probably going to be a bit of an issue on Sunday, especially if it's warm and the sunshine is beating on the racetrack."
Jasen VinloveJasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
On turning Sunday frowns into high fives:
Asked how he is better prepared this year than he might have been a year ago to turn the pole into a quality 500 finish, Elliott replied: "I hope I've learned something in the past year. You'd like to think so, at least.
"I do feel like that from where we were at the spring race here, I actually thought our car when we came back in the July race was way better than our car was in the spring. We wrecked then, too, but it was better until we wrecked. I learned a lot from those two races, and then definitely the race(s) at Talladega.
"I think I've learned a lot from the drafting side. I don't think I have it perfected by any means, but I do think I've picked up on some things, which hopefully will help. One thing is you definitely want to try to put yourself in the best position you can to try to make it to the end of the race. Obviously that's much easier said than done, but trying to position yourself to do that is the most important thing. I've struggled with that down here, so hopefully we can correct that on Sunday.
Peter CaseyPeter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
On his crew chief:
Gustafson has now won three consecutive Daytona 500 poles, having also helped the No. 24 Chevy claim the 2015 pole in Jeff Gordon's final full-time season as a Cup Series driver.
So when Elliott was reminded of Sadler's remark that he is "undefeated in Daytona 500 poles," this was Elliott's response: “As far as the qualifying goes, it’s a privilege to be able to drive fast race cars. As Elliott knows, I have very, very little to do with qualifying here. You really just put your best foot forward and try to get through the gears. The rest of it really is up to the the Hendrick engine shop, the body shop and the 24 team to get everything balanced out.
“I really think the coolest part about that whole deal is Alan having won that pole three times in a row is the first time anybody has done that since Uncle Ernie and Dad did it in the 1980s. … That’s pretty special, I think.”
NASCAR via Getty ImagesRainier Ehrhardt
On 'the coolest playground:'
Elliott, 21, has been coming to Daytona since he was a small child -- when he would "watch" his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, drive. But he struggled when he was asked to name his first Daytona 500 memory.
"I don't remember a first trip in particular," he said. "I remember coming here. Unfortunately Dad always had really bad luck down here. It seemed like he never ran really well when we came down.
"I remember they were fast. I think he sat on the front row maybe at one point in the early 2000s. I think, if I'm remembering that right, with (car owner) Ray Evernham (which is correct as they won the pole in 2001). But they never seemed to have things go their way in the race. So on the racing side, I never really had anything special stick out there because he never won when I was little coming to the racetrack with him here.
"Honestly, the biggest thing I remember about Daytona is they had the coolest playground of all the racetracks we went to. That one always stood out to me. But aside from that, I don't really remember a whole lot."