Chase Elliott adjusts to Cup and sometimes ending up ‘out in left field’

By most objective accounts, it was a successful rookie season in NASCAR’s top series for Chase Elliott in 2016.

Elliott made the Chase playoffs in his first full Cup Series season and ended up finishing 10th in the final points standings. He was named Sunoco Rookie of the Year after totaling 10 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes in 36 starts. He also earned two poles, but failed to win a race.

So when FOX Sports reporter Alan Cavanna recently caught up with Elliott for an interview, Elliott admitted that there were some things about last year that caught him by surprise. Among them: the difference in the amount of time he spent at the race track compared to the lower NASCAR series he had run in.

Elliott said that sometimes makes it “difficult to stay true to what you have the most confidence in” and that there is so much practice time in what is now the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series that it’s “a lot of time to mess yourself up.”

“You can end up pretty far out in the left field,” Elliott told Cavanna.

Elliott also talked about the recent tire test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and how it felt good to climb back into his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy after taking some time off.

“I felt rusty and was raring to get going again,” he said.

And finally, Elliott weighed in on Hendrick teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s pending return to the race track after missing the last half of 2016 because of a concussion. Earnhardt says he’s ready to go for the season-opening Daytona 500 Feb. 26 on FOX, and Elliott said he’s glad to have his teammate back in the fold.

“I’m excited to have him back … not just for what he brings on the race track, but just the person and what he brings to our Tuesday meetings,” Elliott said.

Check out the complete interview in the video above.