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Chase Elliott A Fan Of Dirt Racing, Will Give Lucas Oil Chili Bowl A Go

Jan 8, 2021

A fan of the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl, NASCAR Cup Series Champion Chase Elliott will make his debut in a dirt midget in Tulsa!


Tyler (00:00):

Welcome back to episode 18 of the Loudpedal Podcast. We're now joined by the reigning Cup Series Champion, and also a guy who's going to run in the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl this year, Chase Elliott. Chase, what's up, man? Thanks for joining the show.

Chase Elliott (00:33):

Yeah, thanks for having me.

Dillon (00:35):

So the Chili Bowl, you ran Millbridge obviously, but why the Chili Bowl? What about this race has perked your interest enough to want to run it?

Chase Elliott (00:45):

I really enjoyed this race. I've been a fan of the event for probably like five, six years or so. I've paid pretty close attention to it over the past five, six years. I just think it's a really cool event for one, but not just the Chili Bowl, I think midget racing, dirt racing, sprint car racing, I've really always had a respect for that. I grew up a big Tony Stewart fan, so obviously he kind of wanted me to do that stuff I feel like as a kid. He always kind of was joking with dad about getting me in midget and Quarter Midgets and stuff when I was little. He actually gave me a Quarter Midget when I was little that never got used. So I kind of grew up with a lot of interest in it.

Chase Elliott (01:31):

Then as time has gone on, Kasey Kahne being involved and being around Kasey a lot, I've always kind of seen it and respected it, but just never been close enough to it or grew up around it to really get involved. So for me, I just felt like I... Still in my 20s and I feel like as you get older, it gets harder to learn new disciplines. I didn't grow up doing that kind of thing, but I just felt like if I was going to step out and try something new, I needed to do it before you get too old and gets harder to learn things when you get older, for sure. So I just felt like the opportunities were right, and fortunately this was the time to go give it a shot. So I'm looking forward to it. My expectations are low for sure, but I'm excited to go try to learn and honestly, to try to learn the right way. I mean, I think it's a very different thing and I'm excited to go, and like I said, give it a shot.

Tyler (02:22):

The kind of the ESPN Thunder series was a big popularity in the cup series garage back in the day. You hear Earnhardt talk about stories of watching the Midget racers and even the car owners were watching. Was that your fandom towards Tony Stewart? Was that because your dad was such a fan of watching that?

Chase Elliott (02:40):

No. It was really more just Tony always was just really kind to me as a kid. He was that other driver that would always take it two seconds out of his grid walk to stop by and pick me up or try to tickle you or whatever as a kid. When you're a little kid, that's a big deal, right? Obviously my dad was a star at the time, but you're always looking outside of that too. Outside of him and Tony was having a lot of success and he was just really kind to me and I knew he was really involved. I think he would send me little die-cast sprint cars and stuff at Christmas. Daniel Lasoski, I think was his driver at the time, I remember he would send me t-shirts and stuff of all of his dirt guys. That was really the big thing. I just felt like he was kinder than most for whatever reason and I respected that.

Dillon (03:40):

Does winning the cup championship, and I ask this because you ran the Snowball, which I know you've obviously competed in before, but you're racing the Chili Bowl, you're going to run the Rolex. Does winning the cup championship kind of ease or validate these decisions to kind of do some more unique stuff in the off season and kind of branch out and try different stuff?

Chase Elliott (04:00):

I would like to say yes, but honestly I had all this stuff planned before the end of the NASCAR season so I was fully planning on going to do the Rolex and the Chili Bowl and the Snowball Derby all before I had the NASCAR year and obviously, I didn't know how it was going to end, much like anybody else. So no. I was planning on doing anyway and luckily things kind of worked out the way they did and obviously very glad they did, but I was just as excited then as I am now to go and try new stuff as far as the Chili Bowl and the Rolex. Then also I was excited to kind of go back and run the Snowball Derby again, which I haven't done in a number of years so it's been a lot of fun.

Chase Elliott (04:41):

Racing outside of NASCAR, I feel like it's something that I've kind of lost touch with since I've been in Cup, just haven't done a lot of it. As much as I enjoy racing and as much as I still paid attention to all that stuff and watched these different types of racing, I just felt like I needed to put effort into trying to go do it because my interest was there and I always made a point to watch all this stuff. I'm just like, what are you doing? If you have the opportunity to go do it, let's go do it instead of sitting at home watching. So here we are, we're giving it a shot and see how it goes.

Tyler (05:11):

That's a great question, Dillon, because I kind of wanted to know if the pressure of winning a championship let you do this, but that's cool to see that you had this plan going into it because when I was with NASCAR and covered it, it just always seemed like you were really hard on yourself and I never understood why, because you're such a good race car driver. I feel like winning one of those championships, now you can just go chase more and it feels like you don't really have that pressure on you anymore. It seems like.

Chase Elliott (05:41):

Yeah. I don't know. I mean, I still want to perform today just as much as I did in October on the cup side and be successful there, but I did put a lot of emphasis in just enjoying those moments and enjoying the run to the championship. That was probably the thing I said the most between Martinsville and Phoenix was just trying to enjoy being there. It's a great opportunity, and unless you enjoy those big moments, man, that's going to be hard. It's going be a hard road if you don't like being there and like having that opportunity and things went our way. Yeah, and I get it. It has to go your way to win a cup title now, especially with the way the point system is, but man, if you don't enjoy being there, you're going to have a hard time. I felt like could I still be better? Absolutely. Did I enjoy that moment more than I would have two or three years ago? 100%. I did.

Chase Elliott (06:37):

Am I still going to be pissed off, mad at myself if I make a mistake and throw a race away as much as I was in 2016? 100%. Absolutely I will, but I've really tried to enjoy those moments and I felt like we did a really good job of that as a team at Phoenix.

Dillon (06:56):

Back to the dirt stuff, you raced at Millbridge whatever it was a month or so ago now, I guess, what was the biggest thing that surprised you about the racing?

Chase Elliott (07:08):

The two things for me is one, testing is not practice. Oh, I'm sorry. Testing is not racing and I think the biggest piece of that is just the track conditions. When you go test on dirt, they might kind of halfway prepare the track for you at the beginning of the day and then by the time you've run all day, you have run into a dry, slick racetrack, which is just not the track condition that you're going to see especially at the beginning of the night of a feature event and the track condition that you see there at the beginning of the night is not what it is at the end of a test. So that was a very tough thing for me to get used to because all my time in the midget prior to that race was kind of on a slick race track that wasn't really prepared a ton and I feel like those dry slick tracks kind of push you more to drive the car kind of like you would on asphalt.

Chase Elliott (08:05):

So that kind of suited me, but when you get in those moments where the track's kind of tacky and has a lot of grip, you've really got to drive the car a little differently and that's where your dirt guys who are really good is adapting to those changes and understanding not only what the track is doing right now, but what's it going to be doing in my heat race. If I'm in the first tee race, it's going to be different than what is in the second heat race and understanding those things. So that was a big one for me from that side. The second thing that was difficult and I'm still learning, and hope to learn quickly next week is just being around other cars and understanding the racing etiquette a little bit more.

Chase Elliott (08:46):

I don't know if etiquette's the right word, but just the style of what to do in certain situations, right? I think another one that kind of falls into that same category for me is how short the races are. The energy level is high from the beginning of the event because the race is so short. You can't ride around behind a guy and set him up for 15 laps. Your race is over. You've got to take your opportunities while they're there, and I think you see the guys that are successful in those types of cars, they do that. They don't mess around. If they have a percent of an opportunity, you can count on them taking it. Then on the flip side too, if you're on the receiving end of that, that's expected because that's what dirt racing is.

Chase Elliott (09:34):

For me just understanding that a little more, I just haven't got there yet. So the Chili Bowl, looking ahead to that, I think that energy level is going to be high from the get go, especially on your prelim night when heat races are short and you got to make the most of your time while you're in them. Those are the big ones for me that I'm still working through and trying to learn, and I anticipate big challenges for me next week.

Tyler (10:04):

There's very little etiquette, to be honest with you in that building. It's pretty intense now. I'm just saying.

Chase Elliott (10:12):

I think that's great. I think that's why there's you guys and myself, and a lot of people love watching dirt racing too, is because the aggression is high and the races are short and you got to make something happen and I think that gets swept under the rug when you start talking about dirt racing versus asphalt racing, the races are short. You got to do something or you're at a time period. I think less is more in a lot of ways, and I think the amount of laps in some of these events have a big factor in that.