Friday, November 3, 2017

Chase Elliott focusing on future, fueled by frustration

Chase Elliott sporting a Hooters cap at Texas Motor Speedway
photo: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs
by Lisa Janine Cloud
If you’re wondering whether Chase Elliott has put last week’s disappointment at Martinsville behind him, the answer is ... sort of.

The young Georgia native faced the media Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, where his face is emblazoned on posters everywhere touting him as “The People’s Champion,” a designation he didn’t seem particularly comfortable claiming.

When asked if he agreed with the sentiment, he demurred. “I don’t know. It’s not for me to say. I’m in the position and I’m not A. the track promoter and I’m not the people, B. in this situation, so I can’t answer that.”

Elliott did admit that he is still upset about being wrecked by Denny Hamlin on Lap 499 of the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

“You know, as far as last week goes, I don’t know that my thoughts today are a whole lot different than they were then,” Elliott said. “I am still pretty frustrated about it and you know, as long as the week has gone along, it has given me a lot of time to think about how close we were to going to Homestead. I think if anything else, that will drive you up the wall more if you think about it.”

So he and the team are leaning more toward using the incident as motivation, rather than obsessing about what might have been.

“For us to go to a place last week where I have typically struggled at and haven’t had many good days … to go and to lead laps and actually have a shot to win at Martinsville … if you had told me that last year, I would have told you you were crazy,” Elliott said. “But yes, I think it all fuels you. I think it all has to fuel you. I think it has to fuel our team, our road crew guys, our pit crew guys, and myself. I think it has to, I think it does, I think it is. I think that all those things are going to have to be in place and we are going to have to bring some fire the next two weeks to be a part of the show in Miami.”

Sunday’s race at the Great American Speedway has the potential to make a big difference for Elliott in his playoff hopes. In his three Cup races, he has a fifth, fourth, and ninth place for an average finish of sixth. He earned his first career Xfinity Series victory at Texas, carrying an average finish of fifth in that series. Although he sits eighth in points right now, he’s not counting the team out yet.

photo: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs

“For us, we are in a position where we are not completely out from points. You could have some really solid weeks and get stage points and those guys don’t, and potentially get yourself back in it without winning,” he said. “It’s going to be really hard to do, and I think you are going to have to be in contention to winning these next two weeks, if not winning an event.”

Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 could be that event.

“This place is certainly different now with the repave, but we feel pretty good about it and feel good about our car. I think we are at a place where if we just can put together a solid weekend, we can try and give ourselves a chance to win which is pretty important for us at this point,” Elliott said. “We’ll see.”

As openly as Elliott described his feelings about the Martinsville incident and the hype that followed, he flat-out refused to discuss retribution for Hamlin.

“But no, I am not going to answer your questions about whether I am going to get him back or not,” he said firmly. “Don’t even ask, because you are not going to hear it from me. Just don’t go there.”

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