THE MODERATOR: This is Denny
Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for FedEx. Seven
wins on the season, and Denny, now making your third Championship 4
appearance. The first question I have for you is why is it going to be
different this year? Why will you come away as champion in 2020?
DENNY HAMLIN: No guarantees, so I
canít tell you why. But Iíll let you know after the race is over why we
won. But itís going to take execution and a fast car. Those are the
two things that youíre going to have to do to win. I think itís going
to ó will take a win to win it all.
You know, I thought I was in a good
position last year and things just didnít work out, right, so thereís no
givens. I donít think thereís any favorites. I view all my competition
equally, that theyíre all dangerous in their own different ways.
This one is a tough one to
handicap. From my perspective, Iím a numbers guy, I like the law of
averages. If I just keep putting myself in that Final Four, eventually
things will fall my way.
Q. Last year at Phoenix a lot was
made of your preparation. Iím curious, are you going to play tennis
until the wee hours of the morning just like you did last year?
DENNY HAMLIN: If I had a tennis
court, I would, but you know, thatís the thing, right; Iím different
when it comes to that. I look for distractions versus people trying to
avoid them. I tried to avoid them in 2010 and it was the worst mistake
I ever made was just not enjoying the weekend. It was my birthday
weekend, why wouldnít I celebrate that anyway.
Itís my personality. I make sure
that I spend the dedicated amount of time I need to do to prepare, and
beyond that I do my normal, everyday routine, which is just live life.
I was at a friendís daughterís birthday party a couple days ago, and
Iíll go golfing tomorrow for the next couple days, and Iím just ó Iím
happy with the result because I know that Iím going to be prepared when
I get in the car on Sunday to do the best job possible.
Q. Looking at this year through a
competition lens, do you look at it and say, man, it was a wild year in
the sense you missed races because of COVID, a lot of races without
qualifying and stuff, or has everything become so normal you look at it
and say this is the year where Harvick didnít make the Final Four even
though he won nine races?
DENNY HAMLIN: I think of it more
from just the general change of the sport this year and how nimble
NASCAR was to be able to get us back racing, be one of the first major
sports back after the pandemic hit, their willingness to be open to
changes, not necessarily saying this is the way weíve done it for a long
time, we have to have this to compete. They were willing to make
changes, and for me, that was a game changer for my perspective, and
certainly thereís some things that are going to linger on for years to
come because of what we have learned through this whole process.
Yeah, itís been a different year.
Thereís no doubt about it. This week in general is different. I mean,
I used to hate media days. It was so long and drug out and just such a
pain from a driverís perspective, but you know, as you get older you
start to understand and appreciate that these are the moments that
youíve really got to let sink in because this to me is ó this means you
had a successful year. Itís not whether you win this weekend or not;
your year is based off of ó the championship is not necessarily an
indicative measuring stick of your whole year. If you get to the Final
Four, that is a measuring stick that youíve had a successful year.
This is going to be a great weekend
that weíre going to live with the result no matter what it is, and I
just want to enjoy it and have fun with it.
Itís different, but weíve adapted
all year. It wonít hurt us to adapt for one more week.
Q. You said as soon as you got out
of the car the other day that you felt bad for Harvick. Iím wondering
now that youíve reflected on it, do you wish you were racing him Sunday
after the back and forth season youíve had, or are you glad to have him
out of the way?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I still think
Iím going to have to race him. Until someone proves otherwise that
theyíre going to win the race and not be part of the Final Four, Iím
going to assume you still have to beat all 38 guys to win, and Harvick
is one of them. I continued to have conversations with Kevin this week,
just talking about the season and kind of ó itís unfortunate that we
werenít able to go head to head and things like that, even though we
will, itís just different. Most of the year we kind of looked at itís
head to head, me and him, right. I think obviously in my mind he was
deserving of racing for a championship but didnít earn it because of the
system, right. He had a couple mediocre finishes, not races but just
finishes, and it didnít allow him to move on, even though heís put
together just an unbelievable season.
Weíve had those conversations, and
certainly Iím not going to view if we win it any different whether he
was in or out I guess you could say. I feel proud that we made it, and
this is a great accomplishment for our team, and weíre obviously very
worthy of the championship if we do get it done.
Q. Were those conversations with
Kevin, were those by text or phone, and how is he handling this?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, Iím sure heís
frustrated. I mean, who wouldnít be. I mean, Iíve talked to Rodney,
Iíve talked to Kevin, and yeah, I mean, I understand their pain. I
mean, it easily could have been the other way around, right, and theyíre
sitting there and theyíre talking to us about, man, it sucks, you guys
deserve it but youíre not there, right.
It could have went either way, but
luckily we were on the good end of it, but certainly I understand ó I
can understand the pain they probably feel.
I donít think that anyone ó it would
be hard for me to say, and you probably should ask them, but would they
take a three-win season and make it to the Final Four and not winning a
championship or nine wins and not making the Final Four? I wouldnít, I
would take the nine wins and move on. Itís been a great season.
Q. Dale Earnhardt Jr. said that the
mental part is the main part he sees because you guys are so evenly
matched, that somebody, some team will self-destruct or crumble. I know
you can identify with that on any team as you compete for the highest
level of the championship of the NASCAR Cup Series, but as the
quarterback of your team, how do you ó you talked about golf and being
loose and staying away from it; how do you help or do anything to
prevent that mental crumble, that mistake, that overthinking kind of
DENNY HAMLIN: I would say from my
perspective itís just focusing on what I can control and not anything
else. Itís not up to me to make the strategy call, itís not up to me to
prepare the race car, put the setup in it, itís up to me to drive it to
the best of my ability. Itís up to me to prepare for the weekend like
Iíve been preparing all year long. All I can do is control what I can
control, and Iíll live with the result no matter what that is.
Yeah, I mean, where things can get
sideways is when you start second-guessing yourself, and I certainly
think that ó I feel from my perspective I wonít second-guess any moves
that I make, and last year I had no regrets. Really the last two times
Iíve raced for championships Iíve had no regrets. I mean, our strategy
call in 2014, staying out with nine laps to go when we were running good
in the race anyway, we didnít need to, that wasnít my decision, but it
was our teamís decision. I did the best I could driving and it came up
short. And last year same thing, I did the best I could driving, and
our play didnít work.
Itís just I feel better about
knowing that what my capabilities are, I know what I know and I also
know what I donít know. And so what I donít know is that itís not up to
me to try to do other peopleís jobs and prevent them from making
mistakes. Let everyone do what they need to do.
Q. It seems like you have a healthy
attitude where youíre talking about, hey, getting to the Final Four is
the key thing, whatever happens then happens. Youíve been saying that
all along. But it doesnít sound like youíre just saying that, it does
not seem like youíre just saying that. In believing that, do you think
you take the stress away because youíre not putting too much stress on
yourself, but I donít think youíre faking it, I think youíre doing that
because you honestly believe it?
DENNY HAMLIN: I do believe it. I
believe it ó the reason I believe it this year is because I believed it
last year and I knew how I took last year. I moved on. Literally days
after, like I was over it. I was like, man, we didnít win. It sucks,
we still had an awesome year. It canít be overlooked, like this is two
years in a row weíve won the Daytona 500 and made it to the Final Four.
Itís just Iím happy with where weíre
at. We won one more race than we won last year at least; we win this
weekend we tie my career high. Weíre in a good place. Weíre not going
anywhere anytime soon, and weíre going to just ó listen, one quote is
that I have to live with the result, you know why, because I canít
change it. I have to live with it no matter what, and you canít harp on
Q. With all of your success at
Phoenix, and youíve done very, very well there in the past, what are the
new variables at Phoenix that kind of give you just a little bit of
pause maybe heading into this weekend, things that you canít account for
until you actually get in the car?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, you know,
thereís certainly some disadvantages. One of them is self-inflicted, is
that we didnít have the spring race to test. Where I think weíre really
good as a race team is adapting from one race early in the year to
adapting and making adjustments and being better at that race in the
second time around.
I got in a wreck so early in the
spring that I tore up the car and we didnít get any good data to base a
setup off of, so weíre going to have to go from scratch there, where my
competitors ran pretty much all the race and got some good information.
But hey, thatís what computers are for, right? I give my best shot and
best guess what we need to work on and learn from, and let the guys at
JGR figure out what they need to put under me.
Thatís one disadvantage. The other
is we canít lean on last yearís success. Last year the aerodynamic
package was completely different on the car, so you canít take any past
results and apply them to this weekend whatsoever in my mind. I think
itís just ó it would be naÔve to do that.
Q. When you win on Sunday, there are
a boatload of people up here that follow your every move and were there
when this all kicked off so many years ago. I know you donít want to be
superstitious, but plans to bring the trophy up here and celebrate with
a lot of those people if and when you are fortunate enough to finally
bring it home?
DENNY HAMLIN: Certainly. You know,
Iím one of those Stanley Cup guys where I donít like to touch the trophy
before you actually win it, so Iíve never actually touched a NASCAR Cup
Series championship trophy. I want to be able to touch it.
Q. Iím just curious with the finale
moving to a short track or shorter track and the potential for contact,
closer competition in one sense, what is a driverís discussion with the
devil about what theyíll do at the end of the race and with whatís at
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, I think
everyone ó I answered this question earlier, and I think that everyone
has got their own etiquette that they play by and their own internal
rules which they play by.
I think Iím probably a little more
of a purist than what some of the younger guys that come into the sport
now are. I mean, you see truck races and Xfinity races and guys just
kind of running all over each other. You know, and that might just be
the way racing is now. I donít know. But itís just not the way that I
saw it back in the day, and so I modeled myself after guys that really
kind of took care of their equipment and appreciated the purer side of
things. You work a guy over.
The art of working over a pass is
such a beautiful thing if you can get it done. And so nowadays itís
just like, you just get frustrated after two laps and you knock the guy
out of the way and move on and you donít even have to say sorry later.
It just becomes expected.
Certainly within this Final Four
everyone will have their own feelings about what they think is allowed
and what not, but weíve seen people within this group also make
aggressive moves and everyone else is there watching. So itís like,
well, you canít be mad if it comes back around to you because youíve
done it in the past.
So you kind of give that open
invitation when you see that.
Again, I wonít race any particular
person differently based off of any ethics that they have or lack of.
Iím just going to race the purest race I can run, and hopefully itís
enough to win.
Q. Also with this week having the
opportunity to have guests, Iím assuming will you have your daughters
with you this weekend? And if so, what will that be like to have them
there at the track for probably the first time for most of the year, and
also will Jordan be in Phoenix this weekend?
DENNY HAMLIN: I just talked to him,
and I donít think he has plans to come out here. I donít know. I mean,
he can do whatever he wants to do. But kids, yeah, the plan is to have
my kids out. Thatís going to be fantastic, if anything, just to spend
time with them.
One of the great things about our
schedule has been this year is weíve been able to fly in, fly out.
Weíve had more time at home to spend with family, so certainly got some
key people, family and friends, that are going to be here. You know, it
stinks that youíre kind of held to a certain limited number, but I kind
of understand how it all works, and certainly Iím just appreciative to
at least be able to bring some family.
Q. It seems like a lot of the end of
your stage wins this year youíll do something like either let a guy stay
on the lead lap, maybe let somebody back on the lead lap, so Iím
assuming youíre doing that for a reason to stack up those favors. Is
this now when you cash those in, or are you expecting to get more room
DENNY HAMLIN: I believe thereís
checks and balances. I believe that thereís ó thatís what me and my
friends call it, friendship bank. You have deposits and withdrawals.
We talked about this last year. Yeah, I mean, Iíve cut a lot of
competitors breaks, especially at the end of stages, letting guys stay
on the lead lap and things like that, and yeah, sure, you hope it comes
back around, but there are no practices of that. Drivers have really,
really short memories, depending on whether itís good or bad for them.
But I believe Iím in a very good
position with my competitors that Iíve cut breaks to. But not everyone
will see it that way. I mean, and thatís okay. Iím going to go out
there and try to earn it any way that I can, the easy way, the hard way,
but certainly I believe that when it comes down to the final race, and
Iíve seen it in the past, that if youíre typically a guy that carries
favors with people, Iíve noticed in the final race they cut you breaks.
I try to put as many deposits as I
can throughout the year when it really doesnít cost me much, but it
would be a benefit for them to hopefully get that in return. But if I
donít, I definitely donít hold any grudges whatsoever.
Q. Chris had said earlier this week
that this is kind of a good place for you guys to be in in the sense of
you had to go out and win this clutch race at Phoenix last year just to
get to Homestead. Do you agree that this is kind of a favorable
position, that it can kind of be a rallying cry for this team this
weekend, that you guys have done this before at this track?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, we have, and
listen, last year was way unexpected. I expected to go there and run
good, but not ó the race goes green, we had a realistic chance to lap
the entire field, and we were just so fast and the car was unbelievable
that I couldnít believe what I was driving.
I know that our team was capable of
it. It was like, wow, they needed to bring it and they brought it, and
I have no doubt that this weekend will be no different, that every
effort will be put on us as there was last year when we had to lock
Itís a little different this year in
the Final Four being that all the resources within JGR weíve got working
on our race car and focusing on our race car. Yeah, itís encouraging
for me to especially go to a track that we had to win last year and got
it done to again this year having to win to get it done.
Q. How will this be different
showing up and racing and not having to go through a weekend of nerves
with practice and qualifying and all the activities that normally
surround a championship weekend?
DENNY HAMLIN: Itís different. Itís
just different. Yeah, I donít know whether I like it better or worse,
but certainly to me thereís less pressure because you donít have ó
youíre not around all these people all the time asking you or saying
good luck or whatever. Just hanging out with friends and family and
whatnot and enjoying the weekend, enjoying the weather, and just for me,
just going to relax and have a great weekend.
Weíre going to have a great weekend
no matter what, and so I think that it certainly is different being able
to just kind of show up and race.
Now, things are a little different
because youíve got a few more media hits before the race starts where
typically on race day this year itís been just show up and get in the
car and go, but yeah, weíll still have that weird feeling of is this
really the big moment or not.
Q. You mentioned the friendship
bank, and youíve mentioned that you talked to Kevin Harvick, so Iím
curious if you think that ó how he races this weekend, does the
friendship bank sort of apply to him, or because of the situation, do
you expect him to be running like heís running for a championship, or do
you think heís going to still give you guys some room?
DENNY HAMLIN: I think Kevin has
always been really fair as far as being fair to the competitors and
being respectful when itís either his day or not his day. I suspect,
and I would think, that they probably come loaded and ready to go out
and show that they should be champions, right, and I donít expect him to
waffle around and just kind of let all four of us go race for it. My
guess, if I had to predict, it would be that those guys are going to
feel vindictive and want to go out there and beat up on everybody.
I donít expect any favors from
anyone, like I said, but certainly I think if I had to guess from their
perspective, itís going to be letís show this group that weíre really
Q. You talked about mid-season sort
of racing smarter and you felt like that was something that had changed
this year versus seasons past. Iím curious if you still feel like
thatís continued through this playoffs and if you feel like thatíll be a
difference maker in potentially winning a championship.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, I think
the mental side of things is a big part of winning. You know, thereís a
reason why the winners and the champions of this sport are aged.
I just think that thereís ó with
everything so close, whether it be the equipment, the cars, the pit
crews, everyone is so close that as a driver, you have to find an edge
anywhere you can, and if itís on the mental side, thatís the biggest gap
that you can make up is going out there and getting a mental advantage
or being smarter than your competition.
I donít claim to be smarter than
them, but I just want to work hard and make sure that Iím as informed as
I possibly can be, be prepared for anything that gets thrown my way, and
as you get older, you learn to identify mistakes that you made in the
past that you now need to account for when you are working towards being
Like I said, Iíve had so many
failures that itís created a logbook of things that I need to be aware
of this time around. Certainly I believe that thereís something to
being older and the mental side of things and having that advantage.
Q. Heading into the weekend,
everyone is talking about Chase maybe getting his first trophy, talking
about Brad and Joey getting their second. The only time theyíre really
talking about you is to talk about how your team has struggled a bit
during the playoffs. Does this give you an underdog mentality, and do
you think you can sneak up on some people now?
DENNY HAMLIN: Not really. I donít
think that our competition underestimates us at all. I think that our
results havenít been very good over the last 10 weeks, but I think our
performance has been good. They are not mutually exclusive. I think
when you have so many elements that goes into your finishing position,
you have to have all of them aligned for it all to come together to
But I think our on-track performance
has been ó I think through the playoffs, weíve led as many laps as ó we
average it all out, weíve led as many laps and won as many races ó maybe
not won as many races but been in contention to win as many as we have
all year. I donít think anyone kind of ó I think itís unlikely anyone
considers us an underdog, especially our competition.
Q. You touched on it early on, but
getting here to the Final Four is a successful season in your mind; can
you expand on that a little bit for me, and do you think in this
specific era, Championship 4 appearances may mean more than the titles
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I think the
titles will always mean more because itís, okay, not only did you get to
the Final Four, you also beat your competition, so it will always hold a
little bit higher regard. But certainly I believe that thereís validity
in saying that a Championship 4 appearance is a successful season.
I know that itís our goal for our 11
car when we put on the chalkboard of what we need to get done this year,
itís always make it to the Final Four. Itís never win a championship.
It used to be win a championship because you had to put all those other
pieces of the puzzle together to win a championship because it was a
35-, 36-week body of work.
When you get to the Final Four, it
means, okay, youíre in the top 16, youíve made it through the rounds,
and youíve put yourself ó itís more of, to me, an idea of your season
and how itís gone. When I look at the Final Four, every one of these
guys are worthy. I donít think anyone faked their way through these
playoffs when it comes to the competition that weíre going to be up
against. Itís a very worthy four, but certainly I think that our goal
is always to make the Final Four. Itís never to actually win the
championship. Thatís just a very hard goal, considering itís just one
race and thereís so many X factors that ó you can be perfect. Usually
when youíre perfect, you determine your own outcome, but in racing you
can be perfect and there can be a crash in front of you, and youíre
done. It wasnít your fault, your team did everything perfectly, so you
have to kind of gauge ó you canít just put all your eggs in a last-race
championship basket of whether your season was a success or not.
Q. Thereís a very legitimate
argument to be made that youíre the greatest active driver without a
championship, and whenever we talk about greatest driver to never win a
championship, we usually talk about Mark Martin. Do you think itís
unfair for that to be out there or for you to be compared to Mark Martin
in that sense, or considering the career that youíve had to date, is it
almost a compliment to be compared to a Hall of Famer like Mark?
DENNY HAMLIN: Iíve said for a year
now that I never would consider any comparison to Mark Martin an
insult. Iíll take those comparisons all day because the guy is a badass
race car driver that nobody wanted to face week in and week out,
nobody. Not Dale Earnhardt, nobody wanted to face Mark Martin.
I think that championships ó I get
it, itís very, very important. Itís where Iím at the sportís highest
level, most people gauge your success level or how good you are off of
championships, but I also know that my competitors will probably say
that Iím one of the toughest competitors and toughest guys to beat and
thatís all I really care about is having the respect of them and knowing
that week in and week out I can go and compete for race wins, and
knowing that over the last two years, ainít nobody won any more. I like
where Iím at.
THE MODERATOR: Iíll end it by
letting you know, Denny, that Steve Letarte is staying at a house that
has a tennis court, so if you find yourself in a jam and need a
late-night game, Letarte is your man.
DENNY HAMLIN: I like that. Thanks.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you so much
for your time, Denny. Best of luck on Sunday. Thanks to everyone for
THE MODERATOR: Weíre joined
obviously by the driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford Brad Keselowski.
Congratulations on making the Championship 4. You sort of talked about
a mantra at the start of the playoffs. You said, ďwhy not us?Ē I want
to know if thatís still sort of your teamís mantra, and if so, Iím going
to flip it and say, why should it be you? Why will you guys win the
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Sure. This is my
lead-off. Itís a two-part question. Iíve got to process it because my
memory is not that great and Iíll forget it halfway through.
The first part, yes, why not us. I
think like any team, you go through ups and downs throughout a year and
weíve had some great ups. Weíve won four races. Before the playoffs
had started weíd won three. Were we as dominant as we want to be? No,
we werenít. You look at the things that Kevin Harvick did mid-season
they were pretty phenomenal. He deserves a lot of credit for it.
I think there were a lot of people
at that point in the season ready to start engraving the trophy, and as
you can tell, the way things ended up playing out, itís not that simple.
You know, the way the playoff format
is designed, itís meant to not give any free passes, even though there
are teams that have performed really well for the majority of the
With that said, our team is
motivated. Theyíre hungry. Iím looking at a group of people, and I
think Iím the only one thatís ever won a Cup championship on the entire
team lineup. Three of my guys that go over the wall come from my truck
team, and Iím super excited for them. Iíve been with them and helped
them from kind of day one when they had never pitted a race car before
and now here they are competing for a Cup championship. That just gives
me butterflies deep down inside.
Iím super pumped for Jeremy Bullins,
and he came through the Xfinity team and how heís grown and just keeps
getting better. Our communication is rock solid, on point, whatever you
want to call it.
I just feel really good about it. I
want to win a championship, of course, for myself, but as much as I want
to win it for myself, I want to see the people around get that
opportunity like I had before to enjoy it, to celebrate it.
Theyíre encouraged. Theyíre
motivated and in a great spot. Iím happy for them. So itís good to see
us fight through the adversity you know youíre going to have in these
playoffs. Weíve gone through nine races. A few of them have gone
really well. A few went really bad and a lot went right in between and
weíve overcome adversity and got this far. Iím ready to finish it off.
I think our team is, too.
We know Sunday is not going to be
easy. We donít know whatís going to get thrown at us, but Iím sure
something will get thrown at us, and when it comes at us Iím going to do
the best I can and Iím confident my team will, too, to brush it aside
and move on and keep our head down on the goal to win the race and
ultimately the championship.
Q. Looking at this year through a
competition lens, do you look at it as the year that you had nine weeks
where you didnít race and you didnít have practice or qualifying or has
it become so normal that you look back and say, oh, thatís the year
where Harvick won nine races and didnít make the Final Four?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I think come
July or August there we reached a level of normalcy pretty quick. All
right, this is the new norm. It took a month or two to get established,
Iím not going to say anything differently than that. But I think now
itís almost going to be hard to go back to the way it was, to be quite
I donít enjoy seeing people in
pain. I know that at the very root cause of what weíve done to the
schedule and why we are where weíre at is a fair amount of pain for
different people, and I donít enjoy that at all and donít want anyone to
misconstrue anything I say to that point.
But conversely, Iíve really enjoyed
this year, enjoyed the schedule, enjoyed the chance to show up at the
racetrack on any given weekend, have great wins, go out and win and not
be sitting in your bus for three days but just go hard and go compete.
I enjoyed the Wednesday races and running two, three times a week it
felt like at times. It was a really good feeling to get to do those
things, and then also have some kind of normalcy to a life with my
family, my wife and two daughters.
I hope that answers your question.
Thatís how I felt.
Q. Brad, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said
that you guys are all so evenly matched that what will determine the
championship is the mental part; somebody will self-destruct or crumble
during the process, and that will be the deciding factor. Do you agree
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, itís hard to
pick what the deciding factor is going to be, but I wouldnít doubt what
Dale said. You know, thereís going to be something that happens, and
someone is going to recover and someone is not. I donít know what it
is, but thatís the reality. Iíd say thatís a pretty astute analysis.
Q. He also said he thought Joey
Logano had the lead on the mental side, but I wonder where you think you
stack up there because truly we talk so much about performance and
execution, but thereís a lot of it right up here.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, no doubt. A
large part of being a race car driver is mental. Itís the approach, the
preparation, itís the resiliency. Those are mental things that manifest
themselves into physical results.
Itís hard for me to comment on any
other driverís preparation. Iíve got enough to prepare myself, let
alone to critique against anyone elseís preparation, but I know that I
feel good about it.
Q. You were pretty quick to call the
election the other night; Iím wondering if thatís at all the same way
people called Harvick an automatic finalist.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You could draw
some parallels. You could draw some parallels. But hey, we donít know
what we donít know, right, and thereís the old saying that tell God your
plans and heíll get a good chuckle.
Anyway, yeah, I guess probably the
same could be said for this weekend for sure. You know, itís
interesting, I read Bob Pockrassís article where he picked me. Thanks,
Bob, I appreciate that. Dale Jr., thanks; Joey Logano, thatís news to
me, thatís fine.
Maybe weíre all wrong. Who knows
whatís going to happen. Thatís why we all race, right. Thatís why we
donít run the race on paper, we run it on the racetrack because things
happen and none of us really know whatís going to happen. All we can
really guarantee is our preparation and our effort.
Q. Can you sympathize for Harvick or
are you glad you donít have to face him Sunday?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I mean, I
think it would probably be a little bit of both. I said this to
someone, and forgive me, I donít know who it was, it might have been
someone in this room. But one of the all-time lows of my career was
winning six races, the most races of anyone in 2014, and not being
eligible for the Championship 4. I had gone to Martinsville and broke a
gear, still donít know why it broke, bad part, I donít know, broke a
gear and didnít have enough points to transfer. Almost won Texas and we
know how that one played out, and boom, next thing I know, Iím out of
the Final Four after winning the most races.
Itís a helpless feeling. Itís a
frustrating feeling. But itís what the format is. Itís what we all
signed up for.
So I do feel those sympathies for
him. In a selfish way Iím glad that I wonít have to compete against him
this Sunday in the sense of for the championship, but certainly for the
race win I expect him to be a large factor.
Q. Are you going to be cashing in
favors on Sunday? Do you expect to be given more room as a championship
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I donít know if
cashing in is the right word. I donít know if I have many of those in
the bank. Hopefully you donít need them. You know, if you just go out
there and execute, if the team brings a great car, driver does a great
job, pit crew executes, we wonít need any favors. I canít say Iíve been
really thinking about that too much.
Q. Brad, Iím curious, can you give
me a sense of what the discussion is like with the devil this week going
to a short track race ó
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Discussion with
Q. How does a driver have a
discussion with the devil in the sense of this is a short track race,
thereís a little bit more potential to do something maybe more so than
at Homestead, and how a driver ó again, I know when youíre in the moment
it just happens, but how a driver assesses and thinks about if theyíre
in that position what theyíre going to do and how far that draw that
discussion with the devil on it.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, you know,
Phoenix is interesting because certainly itís not a mile-and-a-half, but
I know a lot of us lump it into the short track category. I donít know,
itís certainly not Martinsville or Bristol. So itís somewhere in
between those two, no doubt.
I would suspect that there will be
some kind of moment, to your point, where there will be a little
fender-bender. How much? I donít know. A lot of reasons to question
that with the PJ1 and everything going on. I havenít put too much
thought into that. Again, my focus is really on just getting in the
lead and driving away. I hope we can do that and not have to worry
about those things.
Q. Also, obviously itís been
well-documented youíve won the last two races with this tire compound
and done it in very dominant fashion, and I know you were certainly
excited going into Richmond and felt very confident. I guess two
things: Do you share that confidence that you had going into Richmond
this weekend, and what happened at Richmond and New Hampshire, does that
really matter at this point?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I would say
I feel pretty darned good, yeah. You know, Iíve had different
conversations internally this week than I had the last time I was in the
Championship 4, that at their most basic level come from a high level of
confidence. Thereís nothing guaranteed, but Iím very confident weíre
going to go there and be very competitive and have a great shot to win
Thatís what I can guarantee is that
weíll be there, weíll be focused, my team is going to bring a great car,
and the chips will fall where they will from there, but our preparation
and all that will ó itís already at a very high level, and I feel good
Q. Two things: First off, is it
going to be any kind of a curve ball, even though youíve been to the
Championship 4 before, so how different or any type of a curve ball will
it be to go in now without practice and qualifying, without going in a
weekend through nerves and just showing up and racing?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I think kind
of back to what I was saying before, Iím kind of looking forward to it.
Weíve been so good with it the rest of the season that itís become the
new normal, and Iím cool with that. Iím just ready to go. It feels so
old school to me. It feels like when we just started racing and you
would just show up at your local short track Saturday at lunchtime and
there would be a race at 5:00 or 7:00 at night or heat race and then a
feature race and that was it, and then you loaded up and you were home
by 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. Itís so much like that now.
Itís never, in my years of Cup, been
anything like that. In a lot of ways itís refreshing because not just
the family time but because you donít have three days of sweating over
every little detail of all right, I need three hours to prepare for
qualifying and after that I need an hour of studying and then Iíve got
to go wake up at 7:00 in the morning and have an 8:00 a.m. practice
session and the track is nowhere near the right condition, do we want to
change the car setup, I donít know, I donít know, so-and-so is faster
than us, yeah, but the track is not right. All these kind of mindless
debates that you would have are kind of gone with this setting. I donít
know if there was a lot of value in those that really communicated
themselves to our fans or communicated themselves to our fan base to
where they generated some excitement out of it. But theyíre certainly
gone. Itís a little bit different. Iím not complaining. Iím glad to
get to race.
Q. Secondly, you mentioned your team
maybe not being here before, you might be the only one whoís been in
this environment. How much of a leader will you have to be the rest of
this week and certainly going into Sunday to maybe prepare them, keep
them focused and not let the moment get to them?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I definitely
feel the weight on my shoulders as far as leading the team, being the
sole member thatís won a Cup championship before. Thereís also a great
sense of pride I take in that, and I think mutual respect that we all
have for each other as a team accordingly, and thatís okay. Iím really
relishing the position I have within my team right now.
Q. Despite the noise around the
predictions of whoís the favorite and whoís going to win, do you
personally feel like youíre a favorite to win this race?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I donít know
about the word ďfavorite.Ē I think that means different things to
different people. You know, I always think of it more from a sense of a
gambling connotation, but maybe other people think of it differently.
So I really hesitate to use that
word because Iím not a sports gambler, and thatís what I hear when
people say that.
But thereís things I feel great
about, like I feel great about the tire, I feel great about the car
weíre bringing. This car and this tire combination weíve won the last
two races. Thereís some differences between Richmond, Loudon and
Phoenix that maybe negate some of those advantages, but thatís okay. My
team has worked really hard, and Iíve prepared extra hard to be ready
for the moment. Time will tell.
Q. Do any of the predictions that
youíve seen before leading up to this race, does that serve to motivate
you at all?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I donít really
need external motivation, to be honest, and I really donít feed off of
it. I enjoy when people have confidence in me. Certainly thatís a
pleasurable thing to experience, but itís not motivating to me. Whatís
motivating to me is usually, like I said, looking at my familyís faces
and knowing how excited they are to get to go to Phoenix, and thatís
motivating to me. My team and seeing them work so hard and knowing that
their heart is in a great place, thatís motivating to me. I think
thatís probably where I take the motivation from.
Q. Given how abnormal 2020 has been,
would winning a championship, I donít want to say mean more but feel
different? Should there be an asterisk next to it?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, you know, I
think each champion has their own asterisk next to them. You know, each
championship is won in its own unique way. Itís hard to say which ones
mean more and which ones mean less. You know, you can argue the formats
play into that. You can argue external circumstances like COVID-19 play
into that. You can certainly argue that rules packages on the cars play
into that. Itís really hard, I think, to quantify championships and
maybe their difficult level or their earned level with everything that
goes on over the course of a year or season.
Itís hard for me to say that a
champion this year would be any less deserving than any other
championship. I donít know if I see that. I do think there are years
that the champion is more deserving than others. I think that most
people would probably agree with that. But the reality is the
championship is just that; itís a culmination of work and effort thatís
led up to an overall title, and in that sense, I donít want to undermine
Q. Youíve previously talked about
how youíre snake bitten at Phoenix but youíre heading there with a car
thatís won two races and it has the opportunity to be the fastest on the
track. Is that the anti-venom you need, and will it be extra special to
hoist the trophy at a track that youíve struggled with historically?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, it would.
Itís one of the tracks on the circuit I have never won at. I had a
great shot at winning last spring. We got wrecked early, still managed
to recover and lead a bunch of laps, win a stage, and the yellows didnít
fall our way towards the end. There was the yellow that came out I
think with 60 or 70 to go and we had pitted 15, 20 laps earlier and
didnít really feel like it was a smart move to pit right there because
we only had one set of tires left, and the way the yellows played out,
we never got a chance to really take advantage of the set of tires we
had left in the pits, and I ended up getting passed for the lead by cars
that had tires. That was frustrating for sure. I felt like that one
kind of slipped through our hands but not necessarily because of
anything we did wrong.
We had an opportunity, I think, to
win there in the fall of í18 and I made a small little mistake getting
through traffic, and we finished second. We had an opportunity to win
there in 2012, and early in the race, thatís the year we won the
championship a week later, but we had a terrible pit stop and came out
towards the middle of the field and didnít have enough time to recover.
So I feel like I probably had two or
three opportunities to win there and have been snake bit.
But the reality is overall I feel
like if you keep putting yourself in position that eventually itíll
happen. Iíve been in position at Phoenix a number of times. Some of
them Iíve messed up, to be quite honest. I feel like weíre due. I feel
due to win at Phoenix. Certainly this year represents one of the best
Q. Last year there was some
conversation regarding Championship 4 appearances possibly being weighed
more valuable in this specific era than championships themselves. I was
curious where you stand on that and how valuable the appearances are
versus the titles themselves.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, the
appearances are pretty big, no doubt about that. I think ó I donít want
to undermine winning the championship, but just to make it to the Final
Four nowadays is a huge accomplishment. Itís very difficult to do. So
I would say that, like anything ó Iíve got to be careful how I word
this. People always ask me how important is the driver, and the easiest
thing I can say to that is the team owners have already answered it. If
you look at their annual budgets and how much they allocate
percentage-wise to their drivers, there you go. Thatís how important
your driver is, and generally a driver makes 30 to 45 percent of a
teamís annual budget. So thatís how important a driver is.
If you quantify how important the
Final Four is, using that same analogy, you kind of follow the money and
almost all the major team owners have lent credence to that in the
driver contracts, whether that be bonus structures or whatever it might
be. I think thatís really intentional. I think the car owners are
answering that for us. And the car owners kind of roll downhill from
the sponsors. So the sponsors are answering as well. And the sponsors
of course play off of ratings and attendance and things of that nature,
specifically what kind of ROI theyíre seeing in their media numbers, so
the media kind of has answered that question.
And as you guys know as members of
the media, based off your own metrics that you have, the fans react
pretty strongly to it, thatís why thereís such a great turnout here on
sessions like this, because everyone is looking for great content to
share with those fans because itís probably going to be consumed at a
fairly high level.
Long story short, I think we all
have our own sense of how important it is to make the Final Four and how
significant it is to our sport across the different stakeholders, and
Iím right in line with that.
Q. The Round of 12 didnít go you
guysí way but you followed it up with a stellar Round of 8, two
fourth-place finishes and a sixth. What did you learn about your team
during that process, and how can you carry over the momentum to this
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think probably
the biggest thing I took out of the last round was from Martinsville
itself. I tried my best to treat Martinsville as though it was
Phoenix. In that sense, it was a cutoff race, points were really
close. I think I was only a few points behind Denny Hamlin, and I knew
if I beat Denny Hamlin in points I would be okay to move on to next
week, which was ultimately going to come down to stage points and the
finish where this week is just the finish. Ultimately I treated the
race weekend as though I was in Phoenix competing for the championship.
It felt a little bit like a dress
rehearsal, and certainly learned a few things about me. I learned
probably be careful on pit road towards the end of the race and donít
let your aggressiveness get to you, and beyond that, the resiliency that
this team has to keep pushing when it counts.
Q. Youíre not a team owner anymore,
but put on your team owner hat and think about this for a second: With
the no practice and no qualifying, is that very financially advantageous
to a team? Is that something that can be a really cost-saving measure,
something that NASCAR has been trying to do for years? And would you
like to see that continued on a consistent basis as we move forward?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, absolutely
itís a huge cost saver. Itís probably 20 to 30 percent of an annual
team budget, savings, which is significant. Itís hard to say where the
future will go there, but I would say thereís probably some key lessons
learned there that will be applied to the future, and I think weíre just
learning ways to operate more efficiently, and I think thatís a good
There was a second part to that
question that I didnít hear.
Q. No, thatís exactly what I said.
Theyíre going to do it some next year, but as NASCAR talks about the
cost savings that theyíre trying for teams, the next-gen car and all
that junk, this is kind of something thatís a little unexpected because
obviously Iím sure no practice, no qualifying wasnít factored into that
until all of a sudden it had to be done and now NASCAR and you guys
could look at this and say this is actually working and itís saving us
money. Is that something youíd like to see moving forward?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, absolutely I
want to see more of it going forward. I think itís been great for
everyone. Like you said, we were practicing at 9:00 in the morning I
think it was in Michigan for the last 10 years of my career. The track
is a balmy 42 degrees and the race conditions are going to be 80. The
speeds were 10 miles an hour faster than anything weíd see in the race,
and we were just burning tires, burning engines, burning everything.
I would look at my team and say,
what are we doing, letís just keep this thing parked in the garage, and
they would look at me like I was crazy, we canít do that, weíve got a
new widget to put on the car and we need to see how it performs and you
need to get on board with this. Okay. There I am at 9:00 a.m. in the
morning, running 215 into the corner, and just praying the right front
tire stays on it, nowhere near the race conditions, and just burning
gas, burning tires, burning engines and probably even making a few fans
mad because they had a good night in Michigan the night before, if you
know what I mean, and didnít want to hear loud noises that early in the
Yeah, I think that needed to go.
That was a good move. Thatís one I hope we keep. Everybody won on that
So I think the key is to find the
scenarios where everybody wins. Certainly thereís other scenarios where
it doesnít work out, doesnít make sense, whether thatís new tracks we
never ran at before or some kind of unique scenario like the dirt track
at Bristol. Yeah, probably need a little practice for that. But in
totality I think itís been really good for the sport.
THE MODERATOR: If you win the
championship, are we going to see a glass the size of Rattlesnake Hill
with some chugging and beer inside? That was pre-marriage and pre-kids
is why I ask.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: My wife has told
me that she will prepare the glass as long as I promise to drink
responsibly. Thereís a little backstory to it. Those people that know
me know that I like to leave things as they were, meaning that we
located the glass from 2012. It still had beer in it a little bit on
the bottom. Needless to say that was not a pleasant sight, but it was
authentic, so my wife is cleaning it as we speak, sheís going to wrap it
up, put it in a nice bubble wrapped box, and hopefully weíll be getting
it out Sunday night.
THE MODERATOR: Best of luck to you,
Brad, this Sunday.
MODERATOR: Chase, thanks for taking the
Four wins on the season, including
the must-win race a week ago at Martinsville. For the first time in
your career you are through to the Championship 4. What does it mean to
break through to the next level and be one race away from a
CHASE ELLIOTT: For sure, great
opportunity for us, much like you mentioned, I think you might have said
this before, just an area that we havenít been to yet. The Round of 8
had kind of been that stopping point for us over the last few years. It
feels really nice to move on, go and perform at the level I really feel
confident we can do consistently this past weekend at Martinsville.
Great, great weekend, great team
win, a big win and a timely win. Itís a great opportunity ahead. Just
trying to do all the right things this week to be as prepared as
possible for Sunday.
THE MODERATOR: Weíll start with
Q. With this being your first time
in the four, have you talked to anybody? If so, who, for any advice?
CHASE ELLIOTT: For me, Iím very
lucky. My dad obviously has had great success over the years, has been
around this deal for a long time. Obviously Jimmie is a great one to
lean on, too.
For me, the big thing from talking
to dad that I feel like heís kind of mentioned is just enjoy these
moments because these arenít things you can take for granted. You donít
know when your last race win is. You donít what tomorrow brings.
Nothingís guaranteed, right?
I think just enjoying these moments,
trying to embrace them, especially after a race like Sunday, you wish
you could just slow down time and enjoy that moment and make it last a
little longer, but you canít. You just have to enjoy íem as much as you
can, put emphasis on that.
I feel like thatís where Iím at
right now, is not taking the situation for granted, knowing itís not an
easy thing, knowing itís not something that comes every day, try to make
the most of a great opportunity.
Q. If you look back on this year
from a competition lens, not necessarily your own, would you look back
on it and say, Man, it was an abnormal year with nine weeks off, no
practice, no qualifying, or normal enough that you say, Man, that was a
year that Kevin Harvick won nine races and didnít make the Final 4?
CHASE ELLIOTT: It kind of goes to
show you nothingís guaranteed in this deal. Just the way the points
format and things are, it lends opportunity for winning races at the
right time. Fortunate for us, we were able to do that.
I think the big one I take away is,
especially after a year like Kevin had, nothingís guaranteed. You
really have to put emphasis on trying to perform at the right time and
hoping that you can put all the pieces together.
Iím certainly not taking it for
granted. Itís a big deal, a great opportunity for us. To have won four
races this season I think is something weíve never done before. Thatís
also a great achievement for us. Hopefully we can try to get one more
before itís over with.
Q. Let me ask you, Joey Logano said
Iím going to race for many more years, there will be many
opportunities. He had a perspective similar to you about enjoy the
moment, but this is definitely not your last race, not your last shot at
a championship. Does that take the pressure off of you because you are
so young, even though you drive yourself really hard?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Well, I mean, we
like to think those things, right? But you donít know. Hell, I donít
know what tomorrow is. I donít think anybody does.
To sit here and promise myself
things that I canít promise myself, I donít know. I donít have a
crystal ball, right? I do know this is a moment you have to enjoy
because you donít know with your last race win is, you donít know when
your last day is, when the last Championship 4 is for you, all of the
Iím just trying to enjoy the whole
moment and make the most of whatever Sunday brings, put all the emphasis
and preparation in the things that are going to give us the best chance
on Sunday. To me thatís my preparation for certain situations and
probably most importantly the right decisions on the car to get our car
balance as close as we can to start the race. All my emphasis is there,
and just trying to enjoy and embrace this time, make the most of it.
Q. I know youíve talked about what
last weekís win meant. How does it change who you are or what you do a
week later? Youíve had success, youíve done great things. Just because
you won last week at Martinsville, how does that change what you might
or might not do at Phoenix this weekend in this situation?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Well, I donít think
it changes our approach any, for sure. I think weíd be foolish to
change how we do things now as we go into the last race of the year.
Martinsville was a great win, great team win, timely win. Couldnít have
asked for a better time to go out there and perform really well.
I donít think we change anything as
far as how we get ready for the race weekend. I think that our prep and
our process that we go through as the 9 team is good enough to compete
when we do all the right things and make all the right decisions. I
donít think thereís any reason for us to go about anything differently
this week than we have in the past.
Q. I understand every experience can
be a learning experience. Because this is a little more of a short
track, potential mentality, your experience at Bristol earlier this year
late in the race, it not working out, what kind of a learning experience
is that in case youíre put in a similar situation late in the race at
Phoenix this weekend?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, I donít
know. You get in situations, and you donít have weeks to sit there and
think about what the decision is. You have to make a decision, go with
it and live with it.
For me, I feel like when you get put
in situations, you have to make a decision, go on down the road whether
it works out or doesnít work out.
Itís so hard to prepare for all of
them because you donít know whatís going to be thrown at you. What
point in the race are you going to have a challenge, something not go
your way, whatever. Itís so hard to simulate some of that because you
donít know till you get faced with it.
Just try to rely on past situations,
past experience, use those little pieces of learning experiences to make
a better decision next time. Thatís all we can do.
You have to make them very fast.
Sometimes theyíre going to work out, sometimes theyíre not. Youíre
going to try to make the one thatís going to better your result.
Q. Are you glad that Harvick is not
in the final or are you able to have any sympathy for him not making it?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I donít know. I
donít really think thatís for me to say. Certainly I commend them for
winning nine races. I mean, thatís a major feat, for sure. So I think
you have to respect that. But Iím not sure itís for me to say or
comment really past that.
I think for us to sit here and talk
about others or the other three guys in it or whoís not in it, who
somebody thinks the favorite is or isnít, whatever, is just very
unproductive in my eyes.
Iím just really thinking about us,
being selfish in a lot of ways this week, trying to put emphasis on the
things that are going to make us go fast. Me ranking Kevinís season is
not one of them.
Q. Youíre the first Hendrick and
Chevy guy in there since 2016. Jeff Andrews said Mr. H was texting him
at 2 in the morning. Did you feel any pressure internally from Chevy or
Mr. H to get into this finale?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Certainly we all
want to do good, right? I would be lying if I said that there was any
outside emphasis or pressure that made us want to be a part of this
Championship 4 any more than we already did as a team, any more than I
As much as I know that our partners,
Mr. Hendrick, everybody wants us to do really well, I want to do good.
I want to do good anyway. Our team wants to do good. We want to
perform, we want to win, too. Iím talking about just the guys that are
on track and fighting the fight. Thereís nothing outside of that that
is going to make us want to go and perform any more than we already do.
Q. First Championship 4 appearance.
You mentioned people youíve talked to, tried to lean on. Is it going to
be an advantage or disadvantage that you wonít have to go through a
weekend full of nerves in terms of each practice and qualifying, but
instead you get to show up and race?
CHASE ELLIOTT: It certainly takes a
bunch, I guess, I donít want to say complications out of it, but I guess
just that time on track. It takes a lot of pieces away from the puzzle,
I donít know that itís good or bad.
I mean, if you start the race on Sunday and your carís off, Dang, I wish
we had some practice. I wish we could have fixed this on Friday or
Saturday. If you start the race on Sunday, your car is driving good,
then no, youíre probably not happy with not having any.
I think it comes down to whether or
not you hit your balance close to the race. If you do, youíre happy
about it. If you donít, you wish you had some more time.
Everybody is faced with the same
rules and the same weekend schedule. We all kind of have the same
opportunity, in my opinion. Kind of all depends on how you start the
Q. Do you know what car youíll have
this weekend? Will it have any significance? Has it run before or not?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I have no idea. I
have no idea what car weíre taking this weekend. They all look the
exact same from where I sit unless I look over and see which number is
says on the roll bar. I couldnít tell you. Whatever car Alan chooses,
is the best choice, Iíll have confidence in that decision and Iíll live
with it either way.
Q. After kind of breaking through
the Round of 8 barrier, how did you celebrate?
CHASE ELLIOTT: To be real honest, I
came home and went to bed, just to be real clear on that. I would have
loved to come home, had a few beers, whatever, hung out. Just kind of
the way it worked out.
We had meetings Monday morning,
obviously a big week of prep going into this last event. Really just
kind of after the race tried to enjoy the moment, embrace it, recognize
that situations and moments like that donít happen every day. Really
enjoy that. At the same time just get ready and think about Monday and
what weíre going to talk about in our meetings looking ahead to Phoenix.
Q. I donít know at your young age if
you think much about legacy building. Toward that, how important do you
think winning a championship is?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, itís a
popular question, right? I donít know because Iíve never done it. I
hate to say that, but I just donít. I think itís one of those things
where you donít know. I donít know what it feels like or the emotions
of it or what it would bring or wouldnít bring or whatever because Iíve
never achieved that before.
I just think to be thinking about
those things and not the things that are going to make our car go fast
on Sunday is just the wrong, in my opinion, my approach right now, is
the wrong thing.
Iím just all eyes. My mindset and
focus is what is going to make you go fast. That is what matters on
Sunday. That is going to be the thing that either gives you a chance or
doesnít. The rest of it right now just doesnít matter. Thatís where
Q. Certainly youíve raced before in
these finales not being part of it. Youíve had to race the championship
drivers with respect, give them room. Are you expecting to get that
back now? Are you anticipating that other drivers who arenít in the
championship will give you some more room than they might usually?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Thatís a great
question. I feel like the ones Iíve been a part of, I feel like Iíve
really tried to let those guys fight it out, especially if those cars
are good, which it seems like they have been in the fast, up front
battling. Iíve tried to do that for sure.
I will say that I do feel like as
the years have gone on, seems like the first year of this Final 4 thing,
at least the first year I was a part of it, they didnít want anything to
do with those guys. Then it seems like as the years have gone on,
people are just kind of running their race a little more.
I do think the respect is still
there, but I do think there is a little bit more of a sense of those
guys, the people that are not a part of the Final 4, running their event
You hope you get some respect. You
hope those guys will give you that. Whether they will or wonít, I donít
know. Never done it. But weíll find out. I do think the dynamic has
changed a little bit as time has gone on. Hopefully weíre fast enough
where it doesnít matter.
Q. You mentioned you werenít
interested in thinking about the favorites for this race. With where
you stack up, some could argue youíre an underdog coming into this
without a Championship 4 appearance before. Do you feel like that or
not really coming off the momentum of your most recent win?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, like I
said, I just think itís unproductive, right? What good does it do
anybody to sit down and rank who they thinkÖ I guess if youíre in
Vegas, it does those people some good, right? For me, Iím not betting
this week in Vegas. Iím not laying any money down on trying to win or
I donít care who the favorite is or
who the underdog is. I just want to go, have a good run, try to win,
achieve our goals.
Q. Why do you think you could be
this yearís champion?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Well, I mean, I
think for us, I feel like when weíve been at our best, I feel like weíve
competed with the best in the series. I think if we do the right
things, make the right calls throughout the week, the right adjustments
and tweaks on the car from that first race, thereís no reason why I
donít think we can go and have a shot.
Q. What sort of advice, if any, has
Jimmie Johnson provided to you about this weekend? What will the time
you spent together at Hendrick Motorsport mean to you?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, Jimmie has
been such a great friend for me, a great role model I think for just not
me. The guy I feel like is a great example in a lot of different ways.
I think his message throughout the
week is just do the things that kind of make you you. Now is not the
time to try to reinvent the wheel or do things different, change who you
are. Just go about your thing has you always have. Thatís the kind of
process that has led us to this point. Thereís no need in changing who
you are now. Itís one of those things that probably arenít going to do
you any good.
Q. What has your time with Jimmie
CHASE ELLIOTT: Jimmie, like I said,
such a great individual, person. But heís a great guy. Heís a champion
on the track and off the track. I think heís made that very apparent
over the years.
Iíve been very lucky and fortunate
to call him a friend, have him to lean on in certain times. Yeah, Iím
certainly going to miss him being around, being a part of our team all
Q. Last year there was some
conversation regarding Championship 4 appearances being weighted as
potentially more valuable in this specific era than championships
themselves. Where do you stand on that in how valuable the appearances
are versus the titles themselves?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, Iím not sure
on that. I havenít really thought about that a ton. One thing I know
for sure is you canít win a championship unless youíre part of the Final
4. Thatís my response to that.
I donít know what the correct answer
is on the weight of it. I know with the way the rules are, the way this
deal is, youíre not going to win one unless youíre part of the Final 4.
That I know for a fact.
Q. Would you consider your season a
success in making the Championship 4 or is it title or bust?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Our season is not
over, so weíll find out Sunday.
Q. What do you think is holding you
back at Phoenix? What is it going to take for you to finally get over
the hump there and claim the title on Sunday?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I think for
us, that was a great win at Martinsville, a very timely win as I
mentioned. It was a big deal, for sure. I think we all recognize that
as a team.
Looking to Phoenix, I think what is
going to make the difference out there is a good week of preparation, a
good week of making the right decisions on the car, taking what we had
there in the spring and tweaking on it, making it better. Youíre not
going to go back there with what we had in the spring and be good.
Everybody is always getting better, always improving.
We want to do some of that and
hopefully we can improve and be better than the rest.
Q. Pit crew, talk about their
performance all year, especially in the crucial moment at Martinsville,
jackman comes out, avoided the penalty. How crucial was that?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, T.JÖ
Obviously you want to eliminate those mistakes in general. Thatís
number one, right? Nobody wants to make any mistakes. If you do make a
mistake, to have the awareness, to be able to do it that quick to be
able to say, okay, hey, if I go reset myself, weíre going to avoid this
penalty, that was huge. Iím not sure what clicked in his head to go do
Iím coming to the pit box. Heís
trying to make his mind up whether he wants to go back. Iím about to
run him over. He had to make that pretty quick and he had to execute it
quick because I was coming in there not slow. Just one of those things
to have to really commend his preparation and the coaches for teaching
that, knowing what to do in that situation.
Q. Back to a posting on Instagram
where you said you were taking a break from social media. Do you think
that played a role in getting over the hump in advancing to the
CHASE ELLIOTT: Iím not sure that it
played a role in advancing to the Final 4 or not. It was just really
one of those things where I think I, like a lot of the world nowadays,
we spend any split second of downtime looking at our phones, scrolling,
seeing what Twitter has to offer, what Joe Blow and John Smith are doing
in the middle of their day.
At the end of the day I just kind of
felt like it might be good to give that a rest, just not care as much
about what everybody else is doing, just be more productive and focus on
more things that matter in your present life more so than on the phone.
Thatís kind of really where that came from.
It really didnít have as much to do
with the on-track stuff as it did just me personally thinking that it
would be a good change for a little while.
Q. Dawsonville has been a good part
of your life since your dad was racing. I want to be a little lighter
here and talk about your memories there. Were you ever there and got to
hear the siren when your dad won? What would it be like to have them
sounding that siren, trying to break the thing Sunday night if you win?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Iíve never been
around for it. Iíve seen videos and stuff. Itís a really cool
tradition. Gordon Pirkle is the guy that has owned the poolroom.
Thatís kind of been his thing. I think itís cool of him to carry that
tradition on, be able to still do that. Iím grateful for that. I think
itís a cool thing.
I would love for it to go off on
Sunday. I certainly hope thatís the case. But, yeah, itís a cool
tradition. Fortunate that Iíve been lucky enough that they wanted to
carry it on and want to keep doing it.
Q. Iíve noticed some irony here
going back to 1988 where the teams in baseball and basketball, the
Dodgers and Lakers, have won titles in 2020. Back in 1988, I believe
your dad Bill won a championship then. How cool would it be to be back
in his footprints and go for a championship this year?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, thatís a cool
thing. I didnít know that, for sure.
People ask that a lot, right? I
feel like itís so hard. I just remember getting the question of, What
is it going to feel like when you win that first race? What is that
going to be like? How cool is that going to be to you?
I always had a really hard time
answering that because Iíd never done it before. So I donít know. I
think thatís the same answer now. Until you achieve a moment like that,
that obviously is very meaningful to you, I think itís really hard to
put a stamp of what it means or how it feels or the emotions that come
with it. I think Iíd be speaking out of turn to really give you an
answer because I donít know. I donít know.
I hope that one day I can figure it
out, but right now I donít know. Weíll give it our best shot to find
THE MODERATOR: Thatís all the time
we have for Chase. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer
question. Good luck this weekend.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Cool, yeah. Thanks.
MODERATOR: We are joined by the driver of
the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, Joey Logano.
Before we open it up to questions,
Joey, this is your fourth Championship 4 appearance. That is
incredible. Each year has a different story, a different feel. What is
your story this year as you go into Phoenix for the championship race?
How would you define or describe you and your team this year?
JOEY LOGANO: I think every year has
its own personality that it takes on. Honestly I feel like this year
feels a lot like 2018. Itís actually kind of funny because I think
about 2018 where we had not the best summer months, then we kind of
picked it up as the Playoffs started. Won Martinsville, the first race
of the third round, which set us up to race for a championship in Miami
Itís funny, I brought this up to my
guys, I donít know, a month and a half or so before the Playoffs
started. I said, Hey, you never know, you got to keep fighting. You
never know when the tides are going to turn, the next thing you know
youíre up there in contention to win every week, also race for a
We went from in the summer months
searching for a direction to make our car faster, to being in contention
to win. Now in my eyes, like I said in 2018, feeling like youíre the
favorites by winning the first race in the third round. I honestly feel
that way again.
Interesting how itís kind of lining
up to be the same. Hopefully it lines up to be the same all the way to
the end. A lot of things can happen between now and then. I like our
chances. I like where weíre at. Weíll go out there to Phoenix and give
it a shot.
Like I said, feels a lot like 2018
THE MODERATOR: Weíll open it up for
Q. When you look back on this year
from a competition lens, will you look back and say, Man, this is a year
that a guy with nine wins didnít make the Championship 4, or will you
look back and say, It was an abnormal year with nine weeks off, no
practice, no qualifying, just racing?
JOEY LOGANO: Nothing is normal this
year. Thatís whatís presented so much opportunity at the same time to
try to overcome the adversity that weíre faced with. Whether that means
itís no practice, like you said, having nine weeks off, sitting around
wondering if weíre going to go back racing again, what is the schedule
going to look like. So many questions.
Like you said, you have the favorite
to win the championship, one we all thought was a lock to be in the
Championship 4, not make it. Just an interesting year from that
standpoint all the way through, right?
Thatís for us in the racing world.
Imagine what it is for everybody. Everybody has a weird story this year
that probably everyone is ready to get to next year.
Q. A lot of other sports, they had
to change their seasons a little bit more than NASCAR. Do you feel this
champion is a very legitimate champion, no matter who wins?
JOEY LOGANO: Of course. We all
have the same opportunities. The rules are the same for everybody.
Itís an equal playing field. Thereís a trophy at the end of the day.
We all had to go to the same amount of races, we all had the same
opportunity to score the same amount of points and wins.
The rules didnít change in the
middle of the year. You know what I mean? Maybe our schedule changed,
the way we go about it. Itís the same for everybody.
Honestly, yes, a championship is a
championship. Doesnít matter if you won it in 2020 when you had no
practice or you won it in 2019 or 2021. Doesnít matter, itís a
Q. Youíre not a worrier, at least on
the outside. Seems like you have this all in perspective. When you do
think about four drivers, all evenly matched, racing to the finish for a
championship, do you worry? If you do, what do you worry about?
JOEY LOGANO: No worry. I think a
lot, though (smiling). Thereís plenty to think about, scenarios to run
I think when you look at the
strategy of this race, what it can be, if you look back at the spring
race, tires mean something, but also track position means something.
Thereís opportunities to change up strategy compared to the cars youíre
When you think of Miami in years
past, you run (indiscernible) laps, youíre putting tires on. A
no-brainer. The pit calls were simple. A lot of times the fastest car
was up front, the fastest car won the race.
I canít say that may be the case or
not when we go to Phoenix. Like I said, you can drive through the pack
if your car is really good. But the question is, when you have 15, 20
laps on your tires, what are you going to do? Are you putting tires on,
doing two, staying out? What are your competitors doing?
Those are the things I think Phoenix
is really changing up for this championship race, this battle ahead of
us. It being a short track obviously changes a lot, as well. A lot of
interesting scenarios that can happen. We just need to be prepared for
every one of them.
Q. You said you think a lot. How do
you not overthink it? Do you have to turn the Joey brain off and say
stop thinking about it?
JOEY LOGANO: I stay busy, thatís
what I do. Iím pretty good at staying busy in my life. Especially with
the kids running around, everything that life kind of throws at you, it
keeps you busy.
I kind of categorize what I do.
When Iím working on racing, Iím all in on that. I shut that off, itís
off, Iíll go on to the next thing. That to me helps me kind of go
through the day. Obviously it kind of helps me sleep at night.
Q. Obviously you have a reputation
for being a hard racer. You ruffle feathers at times. Are you
concerned at all that some guys will race you harder than theyíll race
some of the other championship contenders? Sometimes we see in the
championship race a guy not necessarily pull over, but donít put up a
fight. Are you worried theyíll be putting up a fight when you try to
pass on Sunday?
JOEY LOGANO: I got to just run my
race. You know what I mean? You have to continue doing what youíve
done to get to this point, whatís been successful for myself as a race
car driver, the way we race. We need to continue doing that. Thatís
what weíll continue doing.
Q. Obviously with this moving to a
short track, it opens up the game to what more the athletes can do.
Weíve seen things happen at Martinsville. How much of a temptation, how
great is the temptation with being more aggressive, making more contact
at Phoenix as opposed to what the mindset might have been at Homestead?
JOEY LOGANO: Very well it can
happen a lot easier. You seen what happened at Martinsville last week.
Shoot, I was running fifth or so in the beginning of the race. Theyíre
rooting and gauging each other out 20, 30 laps into the race, running
into each other. Oh, boy, this is going to get crazy. That was just to
get into the Championship 4. Imagine what itís going to be to win the
championship itself in Phoenix.
I donít know what that looks like.
Obviously the opportunity for contact is up compared to what it was at
Miami because cars can get to each other easier here. I think the line
itself is also running higher on the racetrack. Presents more
opportunity for cars to go in low and try to pull a slide job or do
whatever. Who knows.
Iíd say youíre never safe. So you
just got to expect the unexpected and try to adapt to the situation
around you, be aware of whatís going on around you. Like I said, also
stay focused on what makes you you, right? What makes your team good,
stay focused on those things more than anything.
Q. Is there a line at this point or
at the end of the day itís a championship? I know a lot of drivers have
talked about the goal is to get to the Championship 4. This can be the
gravy because the way this format is. Is there a line in what you do or
donít do because thereís so much at stake come Sunday?
JOEY LOGANO: Weíll just have to
wait and see. It depends on how things go during the race, where youíre
at, what strategy. Like I said, thereís so many different scenarios
that can be played out. Who knows?
Like I said, you just got to focus
in on you and running your race and being aware of whatís going on
around you. Will there be contact for a championship? Probably, most
likely something like that will happen. Is there a line? Of course,
thereís a line.
Itís not the last race we ever run,
right? Iíll be here for a long time. The drivers that are in this are
also going to be in this for a long time. This is not like my farewell
tour, Iím going to be done racing after that, not have to worry about
things after this. Itís not like that.
You still have to race with the
future in mind, as well.
Q. You and Paul are the only former
champions racing this weekend. Youíve won championships, heís won a
championship with Brad. Does that give you an advantage between the two
of you going in?
JOEY LOGANO: For sure. I think any
time youíve been in these situations before, you know how to prepare for
them. Like you said earlier, been in the Championship 4, itís my fourth
time, I know whatís coming my way.
Yes, itís at a new track, but I know
what the week is like going into it, I know how to prepare for it. Same
thing for Paul, right? Paul has been in the Championship 4 before.
Heís won a championship with the other Playoff format. But heís been
there in high-pressure moments. He knows how to prepare for it.
Like I said, weíve had three weeks
to think about it, be ready for it. With those things I feel more
confident than ever. I always go back to think about my first
Championship 4 round back in 2014. I remember crapping my pants about
how nervous I was. If Iím being honest, I was very nervous. I had
everything on the line for the first time. I didnít know if Iíd ever
get back into the Championship 4 again. You didnít want to blow the
opportunity, right? You just wanted to make sure you made the most of
Now going through it before, knowing
how to prepare for whatís coming ahead of you, that battle ahead of you,
knowing you succeeded before in the championship round, it really gives
you some confidence to go out there and do your job.
Q. When the season started, I wonít
say we questioned Rogerís decision to move you guys all around, but now
having had an entire season, just about to get acclimated to Paul,
figure out the personalities, dynamics of the team, how would you I hate
to say grade yourself, but where do you think that relationship is? You
had such a solid relationship in the past with your team. How would you
rate this relationship with Paul?
JOEY LOGANO: I would say weíve come
a long way and we have a long ways to go. That makes me excited about
what the future is. When I think about where we started the season when
we had practice, we came out of the gates, won a couple races, won a
Duel. Life is great, this is good.
COVID comes along. We start going
through quite the lull. Weíre trying to figure out a direction of what
we need to do with our race car to be faster. Donít have practice to
figure that out. It became a struggle and challenge to find out where
we needed to be.
Practice is not just practice
working on the car. It strikes so many very good conversations that
need to happen, to get to know each other, to know what I want in the
car. Team dinners, team outings, those are so important for me to get
to know my team, know the guys that are working on my car.
Thatís one of the things thatís
frustrated me about this whole thing, is that you feel like your hands
are tied. You canít do the things that made me very successful in the
past, especially with a new team. That made it even harder.
I feel like over time weíve really
connected. Being able to, like I said, go through the trench a little
bit in the summer months, now making that climb to try to get to the top
of the mountain, getting pretty close to it, makes me feel very
confident about where we are.
Iím probably even more excited about
2021 than what weíve done so far. I feel like weíve got a long road
ahead of us being able to become more and more successful as we keep
getting to know each other, seeing the growth weíve had towards the end
of the season.
Q. The win at Phoenix in March, does
that seem like 10 years ago? Does anything from that time translate, if
you can use anything from back then?
JOEY LOGANO: Can definitely use a
lot. It does feel like a long time ago when we were out there. So many
things have happened since then, I think thatís why.
Thereís definitely things you can go
back on. Thatís really all we have, to be honest with you. We donít
have the opportunity to try many new things without practice, right?
You donít want to go too far outside of the box. You know what worked
for you in the spring. We had a very fast car, overcame a lot of
adversity, still won the race. It just shows that we had a very good
We can make some tweaks here and
there to the setup probably, some things that we feel very confident in
will be better, but weíre not going to step way outside the box. Itís
just kind of what we got. Even though it feels like a year and a half
ago when we were out there, thatís really what we have to go back on, is
our notes from that race.
Q. I donít know how to phrase this.
Do you have any sympathy for Harvick not being in the finale after the
season he had?
JOEY LOGANO: I tell you, as a
competitor youíre so focused on you, right? I honestly as a competitor
donít have many feelings for others. I donít mean that in a mean way or
anything like that. I do outside of the car. But when Iím competing,
itís about my team.
Iíve talked to you guys about
sports. But my team is about winning for me, my sponsors, the hundreds
of thousands of people that have an impact on making our car go fast one
way or another. Thatís what itís about to me.
Yeah, I mean, obviously you can put
yourself in his shoes and say you won this many races, not being in it
is surprising. I can only imagine the frustration of that situation.
But it is the Playoffs, it is what it is at this point.
Yeah, I would be disappointed if I
was him. But I think at the same time you got to look at the season he
had. You canít be too disappointed with that many wins. Geez, so many
wins that he was able to collect this year, being the fastest car for
the majority of the season.
But the Playoffs are a different
game sometimes. When you have a couple not-as-good races, it changes
the dynamics of the Playoffs.
Q. You mentioned feeling confident
now, being nervous during your first appearance. How important is
confidence to winning a championship?
JOEY LOGANO: Everything. Believing
in yourself, right, our tagline the whole time since this Playoff
startedÖ I came up with a list of six or seven things I thought was the
most important things for a team to be able to rally behind. I brought
that list to Paul. I said, ĎWhat is the most important thing on this
list to you that makes a great team?í These are the things we had to do
to try to become a stronger team.
He saw the word Ďbelieveí. He said
thatís the biggest thing. We got to believe in each other, we got to
believe in ourselves, we got to believe we can win, weíve got to believe
weíre the best. Be humble to work and find gains, but believe in us.
That was the word that we all
rallied behind. Iíve been wearing the mask all Playoff season long.
That to me is what has been able to really been that thing that kind of
powers us forward. Believing is confidence, right? Itís the same
Q. Do you feel like youíre a
favorite to win this weekend?
JOEY LOGANO: Uh-huh, I do.
Q. Going back to what you said about
knowing how to prepare having been here before. How much of a curve
ball do you think it will be that none of these four teams are going to
show up and have a weekend to work through, build up to the championship
race? Now itís fly in and itís go time.
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, the practice was
always nice because you got out there, you got to tune in on or your
car, you made a couple long runs, kind of got to know what youíre going
to have for the race. You could really build your strategy on what you
have for the race, right? If you know youíre a fifth-place car, you can
build your strategy around that. If youíre the fastest car out there,
you know you have that, that will change your strategy.
We donít know until the race
starts. Weíve been racing this way since we got back. Makes it a
little different when you go to the championship round. How are you
going to be? I donít know.
I know every single time we get to
the final race of the year, the Championship 4, the fastest four cars,
Iím almost certainly one of them is going to win. I know itís a
different track. Every single time you have to win to win the
championship. I donít see that being different on Sunday.
Like I said, different racetracks, a
lot of different things can play out. Like I said, strategy can be
different, just everything that Phoenix brings. It can be different.
But I can promise you all four of us are going to be pretty good and
probably have to be around each other quite a bit during the race.
Q. Last year there was some
conversation regarding Championship 4 appearances being weighted
potentially more valuable in this specific era than championships
themselves. Where do you stand on that, how valuable title appearances
are versus titles themselves?
JOEY LOGANO: I think titles are the
most important thing. Any sport you look at, the question is, How many
championships do you have? Not how many times have you made it to the
I take some pride in saying we made
it to the Championship 4 this many times. Thatís great. It shows a
body of work throughout the year. I know it comes down to one race,
itís all or nothing. I get that. But the trophy is what itís about.
I ask this question all the time:
Anyone remember who finished second last year? I donít. I honestly
have no clue who finished second last year, or third or fourth, or even
who was it in. I know I wasnít in it, thatís what I know.
When I look at it that way, itís
about the championship. Itís about the big trophy. Thatís all anybody
remembers. Everybody remembers Kyle Busch won, thatís all I remember.
Q. You had that stretch during the
summer where it was from I want to say Homestead till about Texas where
you guys had some tough luck, then you got back into it. What was the
message to the team back then? How important was it that you guys had
that message that you talked about of Ďbelieveí? How did it power you
through that tough stretch and eventually work your way into a lucrative
JOEY LOGANO: Mainly the biggest
thing was, hey, this is what we got, this is who we are, we will figure
this out. The message was weíve all been successful, right? Weíve all
won races, maybe not together as much as they have in the past. Iíve
won races. All of them have won races and won championships. We know
what weíre doing.
We just have to find the magic
formula that makes it work together. That was the biggest piece.
Obviously we know the word Ďbelieveí is what we rally behind. Behind
that as well, like I said, believe in each other in that way.
The message was at that moment that
we know how to do this, we just got to stay confident in ourselves,
which is hard to do at times. Donít get me wrong, I know I say Iím a
confident person, I really am, Iím a silver linings person. Iím also a
realist at times.
That bottom line is the result you
get on Sunday. We get that every week on how we did. We know exactly
where we stand. Hard to sugarcoat that sometimes. We needed to stick
together and find what we can do to be better. I feel like weíve done a
good job at doing that, having those hard conversations, asking the
tough questions. Those things is what pulls you out of it.
Q. Youíre fighting for a title with
your teammate Brad this week. Ryan Blaney has been running really
well. Austin Cindric will be joining the fold. How excited are you
about the present and future at Penske Racing?
JOEY LOGANO: For me Team Penske,
itís my home. Iíve been there for a long time now. Being able to have
a leadership role in the company really makes me take a lot of pride in
the fact that, hey, we got a 50% chance of winning a championship this
I think the guys in the shop take a
lot of pride in that, and they should. Austin in the Xfinity
championship. Thatís a really big accomplishment to be able to
achieve. Weíve never done that before.
Any way it ends, no matter what,
itís been a successful season to put ourselves in position to try to
win. So Iím proud of that. A lot of adversity we all had to overcome
to get to this point.
Yeah, Iím excited about that and
excited what can be coming our way next year, like I said earlier.
Q. You said earlier you feel you are
the favorite. Why is that? Is it because youíve won at this track?
Because you have the experience, experienced crew chief? Because of
your speed all season? Chase has the momentum.
JOEY LOGANO: You said it. You
answered the question for me. I donít even have to say anything to that
I think the experience is there, the
speed is there. I think the mentality of the way we race is there. I
truly believe that weíre the favorites to win this thing. Like I said,
thatís important to me to feel that way. I feel like I have real things
to back that up, which is good.
Yeah, you kind of answered the
question for me as you were talking (smiling).
Q. Team Penske has been the class of
the field at these flat, one-mile, low-downforce tracks. What makes you
so good at this kind of laps? Would you be surprised if a Penske car
wasnít in Victory Lane Sunday?
JOEY LOGANO: I donít know how to
answer that one, exactly what it is. Itís a package that you have to
put everything together to be successful at a certain type of
racetrack. It could be setup, it could be body builds, car builds,
chassis builds, everything that goes into engine packages, tire
pressures. It goes down to the little things, right? Itís not like
itís one thing that stands out. To say thatís why weíre good at flat,
one-mile racetracks, itís not there. Thereís a hundred different things
that can play into that.
I also think the 11, the 9 are going
to be fast as well. I donít think itís going to be like someone is
going to get out there, check out, drive away. I think everyone is
going to be fast, everyone is going to be there, no matter what.
Itís happened every year, the top
four cars in that championship round are probably going to be the top
four cars on the racetrack. I donít see that changing even though this
has been kind of our bread and butter type of racetrack. I donít think
itís going to be something thatís handed to us.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you so much
for taking the time with us. Best of luck to you on Sunday.
JOEY LOGANO: Thanks, everyone.
Have a good off-season if I donít see you.