KURT BUSCH, NO. 1 CHIP GANASSI RACING CAMARO ZL1 1LE, Teleconference Transcript:--WHAT WAS THE TURNING POINT FOR YOUR TEAM THIS YEAR THAT REALLY GOT YOU GOING AND INTO THE PLAYOFFS?--“For us, on the No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet race team, we had a really weird beginning of the season where points were a struggle and finishing races with oddball things happening. It was weird. We weren’t slow, it was just weird. At the (Coke-Cola) 600, we had an engine failure.  And it was like, ‘this hast to be about it’, for strange things happening. Since June 1st, we have really put in a good run of consistency and the finishes really started to help our starting position build back up.  The win at Atlanta, that really just spring boarded us right back to where we needed to be as a Playoff contender.”   THIS IS YOUR LAST PLAYOFF RUN WITH CHIP GANASSI. IS THERE ANY FAVORITE MEMORY OF YOURS WITH CGR AND DOES ANYTHING TOP WINNING AT VEGAS LAST YEAR? “Vegas was a special win, but we have had some great memories all the way through like the win at Kentucky (Speedway) in the first time that the No. 1 car had been back to Victory Lane in so many years. Atlanta was one of those dominating cars and with GearWrench, a sponsor that has been with Chip Ganassi Racing for I believe six years – it was great to deliver that moment. The drafting at the superspeedways, there was a wreck at one of the short tracks where Chip was all over me, so, it’s been neat to have all these different emotions with such a cool, legendary owner in NASCAR.”   WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE NEW SURFACE IN AREAS AT DARLINGTON AND THE EFFECT ON THIS FIRST PLAYOFF RACE? “Yeah, it has really going to improve the lap times with the grip level. Turn two is where your lap time is made and if you get through there good, its really going to help with that. Now with the extra grip, there is going to be a ton of speed down the back straightaway, into turn three, and there could be a question if we are up against the rev chip. So, you might have to back off the throttle to preserve the engine.  With this being the second longest race of the year, that could be a huge factor at the end of the race as far as durability.”   WHAT ABOUT SLICKNESS IN THE TRACK? “I think the tire is made for the older asphalt, so to me the fresher asphalt will be free grip. It’s a matter of slip sliding into the asphalt, grabbing it, and then having the car straight launch out of the asphalt and back onto the older stuff. A lot of eyeballs will be watching the preliminary races, because we will have no practice and we will just have to go for it.”   PAST EXPERIENCE IN THE PLAYOFFS. DOES IT MEAN ANYTHING AND IF SO, WHAT DOES IT MEAN? “It just means staying calm, staying cool and knowing how to use your points cushion. Where if you are behind, knowing how to get points over the other guys. It's just where the driver and the crew chief, if they have been together for a while, they will know exactly what to do without saying a word and execute. It all comes down to teamwork, preparation, and staying a step ahead.”   IT SEEMS LIKE SONOMA MIGHT HAVE BEEN A TURNING POINT IN THE YEAR FOR YOU. WHAT CHANGED AFTER THAT RACE? “This might be a pretty lame answer, but our luck changed. Things just started to happen in a normal fashion. Where at the beginning of the year, we had all these crazy things from all different directions and I feel like since the first of June, things have been on a nice, steady top 10-type effort. Then when you finish well, it helps with your starting position for the next week because we are not qualifying as much, so it just started to trend all in the right direction for us.”   REGARDING THE STATISTIC THAT YOU SHARE THE MOST PLAYOFF STARTS AS OTHER DRIVERS “I just learned about that today and I didn’t know about it. It hasn’t really necessarily been a focus for me other than it is what I love to do. And that is to race, go after wins, and to be Playoff eligible. I start every year going to Daytona focused on that. I have been with some great teams, and we have made some big runs at the Playoffs to get to the Championship Four and winning it in the first year. Maybe my time in the sport has helped me add up to those 15.”   TALK ABOUT YOUR SUCCESS AT BRISTOL AND IT BEING A CUTOFF RACE AND IF IT COULD FORCE DRIVERS TO TAKE CHANCES THEY WOULDN’T NORMALLY TAKE THERE? “Yeah, I think if you find yourself on the bubble and you need a spot or two, yeah things could get big. And that is for that 11th or 12th place guy in points. Most of the guys will be locked in and some will know they just don’t have a chance at it, and so it just comes down to that bubble opportunity. And Bristol is one of those short tracks where you can find somebody’s bumper real quick.”   DOES HAVING YOUR FUTURE SET IN THE SPORT HELP YOU RELAX FOR THIS PLAYOFF RUN? “That is what I was hopeful for. It’s been one of those years that ebbs and flows with the emotions, the trajectory of the team, with Chip selling, with my sponsorship with Monster Energy, and how we can all make the future work together. So, really happy and grateful that the announcement has come out and now we can kind of close it and work for these ten weeks with a clear mind and a clear focus on a championship run.”

THE MODERATOR: We will get right into questions for Chase Elliott.

Q. A little bit off the beaten path, but this year is the 20th anniversary of the HANS device becoming mandatory equipment in NASCAR. It helped to usher in a period of incredible safety. I want to ask your opinion about what has that device meant to the sport, back to your dad's era, what has it meant? Can you imagine racing without one?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I feel like it changed racing across the world. And, no, I don't know that I would ever get in a car without one, to be honest. That's an absolute must-have, a piece of safety innovation that, like I said, I think it changed really the world, to be honest.

Q. Since Kansas you finished eighth or better in 12 of 16 races, including two wins. From you and your team's perspective, has this run been as steady as the box scores say and how much confidence does that run give you going deep again in the Playoffs?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Man, so hard to say. It's really difficult to put a lot of emphasis on past races and expect that to equal future results.
But Kansas has been a solid track, a place we've been able to win at, a place we've had some really strong runs. I look forward to going out there. You just hope that your past history will translate, and you can have a good run.
I feel like we're very capable of that. We just have to go put it all together.

Q. Now that you've got a championship under your belt, do you enter the Playoffs feeling less pressure, more relaxed, or because you are defending your title, do you feel more pressure?
CHASE ELLIOTT: To be real honest with you, I don't really feel any different than I did going in last year. I mean, it's nice to have seen some of those circumstances and to have gone through some of those things that you're faced with mentally, just some of those challenges, as you step through that last round and get to Phoenix.
But to me the message is really no different than it was last year. To me it's just about enjoying those big moments. If you don't enjoy them, you're never going to thrive in them. A big moment typically means it means something to you and it typically means there's opportunity for something big at the end of it.
You have to like it. I mean, that's to me the biggest piece of the whole puzzle. I don't think that message will ever change whether you have zero championships, or you have 15. I feel like that's the single most important piece of how this Playoff format works. It promotes winning, and winning in big situations.

Q. Your biggest competition for a championship may, indeed, be a teammate who you sit across from in team meetings. So few sportsfans or other athletes understand that. What is that like from a competitor's standpoint?
CHASE ELLIOTT: It's definitely unique, for sure. But I think we've all -- a lot of us have been around racing long enough, have been doing it long enough, to kind of understand how that dynamic works.
At the end of the day, I feel like for Mr. Hendrick especially, he's done a lot for the sport, he's changed a lot of people's lives in the sport, mine included. If his cars are racing against each other for a championship, I think he deserves that. I think at the end of the day it's a good thing.
I'm for it. And it really doesn't matter who you're racing against, you just hope you're around at the end of this thing and have a shot.

Q. Is it hard to support and root against a friend/teammate?
CHASE ELLIOTT: No, man, it's just how it works. I feel like it's easy to go down that road. The media likes to talk about it and stuff. It's just how it works, man.
Like a lot of these teams have four cars. If you're at a solid organization, there's a good chance you're going to be racing against your teammates for big moments, big opportunities. Ultimately, I think it's a good thing. It means we're at a great organization and you have a chance to win and have won some races.

Q. What are the biggest things that you feel like you learned about how to race in these Playoffs last year en route to the championship as well as what you learned about yourself in the midst of that run?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I honestly don't feel like I did anything different last year than I had been doing the years before. But just taking some of those experiences and really, like I said a second ago, just enjoying those bigger moments more. I think that's something I did a poor job of in the past, kind of letting those moments be bigger than what they should have been. I feel like last year we really just tried to boil things down to just the nuts and bolts of what mattered.
Ultimately as you go through these rounds, if it's not going to make us go faster, I really don't care about it. In doing that, I think it makes you enjoy those bigger moments more because you're more focused on things that can make a difference at the end of the day and the results you get.
That's where my head's at again. I'm looking forward to getting going.

Q. Let's move ahead to Bristol for a moment. Other than the obvious, how different will it be racing on the concrete for you guys since it's the first time this year?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, kind of odd to be going there for the first time this year. The Bristol night race is always one of my favorite events. It's an event that I will tell a close friend to go see, like you have to go see this race before I don't have a chance to be there anymore or whatever. Even if I'm not there, go, enjoy a race.
But just a great event. A lot of energy. I'm glad it's in the Playoffs. I'm glad it's a cutoff race. Just glad to go to eastern Tennessee and enjoy hopefully a dry Saturday night in Bristol.

Q. Some stick-and-ball sports you have a regular season, a post-season, two different seasons. Intensity, aggression, things are different in the Playoffs. What is your philosophy in racing? Do you change your approach, or do you stick with what got you here, keep it through the final 10 races?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, it's a fine line, right? I feel like you always want to grab that extra gear if you have it to pull. A lot of times you don't. I think you can very easily reach too far and get yourself in more trouble than what you would if you really executed what you had to work with.
I think it's recognizing those things. Hey, can we be better? Do we have that gear to pull? Can we step it up a notch? If the answer is yes, Okay, let's do it somehow, some way.
If not, I do think it's important not to reach too far and reach outside of what your reality is, where you are. If you start this thing and you're an eighth-place car, that's just where you're at. You're better off having a solid day and finishing eighth or maybe doing a really good job and finishing sixth than you are trying to reach for a win. I just think you can get yourself in a lot of trouble doing that. I've done that in the past.
I think you have to really, number one, recognize where you're at, then adjust your expectations a little bit to buy you some more time because you never know. I mean, you could get hot in the last three weeks and have a shot to win, but you have to get there first. It's a unique balance.

Ron Fleshman

RIS NASCAR Editor.  Has been with RIS since the middle 90's. Writes on each of the three main series of NASCAR.

Read More on Cup / XFINITY / Truck press releases
Volume 2021, Issue 8, Posted 11:18 PM, 09.02.2021