Chase Elliott: ‘It’s crazy how fast time has flown by’

Elliott returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway for Ambetter Health 400
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, prepares to practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 3, 2024, in Los Angeles. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, prepares to practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 3, 2024, in Los Angeles. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/TNS)

Chase Elliott returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Ambetter Health 400 on Sunday. He missed the spring race last year, one of six events he missed after suffering a fractured tibia in a snowboarding accident.

Elliott, the Dawsonville native, returned to AMS for the Quaker State 400 in July, where he finished 13th.

Elliott, who had offseason shoulder surgery, finished 14th in the rain-delayed Daytona 500 last week to kick off his ninth NASCAR season. He recently made a trip to Atlanta, where he spoke on several topics.

On his thoughts about Daytona 500 and Ambetter Health 400 being a week apart: “It comes quick. I wasn’t a huge fan of that when we just had one event here, but I think having two events has a really nice balance to it. And having Daytona being a plate race obviously, and Atlanta’s a little bit in the plate race category now track configuration wise, so I think it’ll be a really nice mix. Because the weather with what it’s going to be in February versus what it’s going to be when we come back in the playoffs is going to be totally different and I think you’ll be surprised at how different the race might look between those two. There’s been a lot of work, a lot of effort put in on the track, for not just the competitors, but for the spectators too. And I think they deserve two races … and I’m looking forward to coming here twice.”

On AMS getting two events: “Atlanta being right here in the heart of the southeast and close to NASCAR central in Charlotte and just a really strong area of the country for a large portion of our fan base to have two events to be able to come to that’s fairly close. ... I think it’s fitting, and I look forward to going down there every year.”

On his mindset this season: “It’s really just about being competitive and consistently competitive every week and being strong at all different types of tracks and configurations. The wins themselves would be great, but I think if you’re giving yourself chances, you’re going to get your fair share. I always look forward to going to Daytona, it’s an exciting time of the year for our sport, and I think the country’s hungry for racing at that point. Football’s over this weekend, the playoffs have been dying down, baseball hasn’t started up yet and basketball’s on, and a little bit of golf, but it’s nice to contribute to that. I don’t think our sport could ask for a better time of year to get started with the landscape of what’s available to watch and I’m excited to be a part of that.”

On two weeks off for the Olympics: “I can speak for everybody in the garage that travels the circuit every week, having those two weeks is a really big deal. I think just to give everybody a little bit of a chance to reset, 38 weeks is a long time on the road, especially when you’re doing it every week. I’m sure there’s fans that wished we were racing those couple of weeks, but I think industry-wide, it’s a necessary time for everyone to kind of hit the reset button and I think it’s a great time of year to do it. I really think that two-week stretch in the summer would be a nice addition for our schedule on a yearly basis, especially as we’ve taken away some of the random off weeks that we’ve had.”

On how weather can affect AMS: “I missed the first race there last year, and then got to run the second race, but it was rain-shortened, so I think it totally depends on the weather. How cold it is when we get back? If it’s a day like today maybe you see some cars drive a little worse than we have these first couple of trips, but I would say generally speaking if it’s chilly, it’s probably going to be more of a plate race. I am curious, though, when we go back for the second race after it sits for a summer, and I assume it is still going to be pretty hot that time of year, what it looks like then. And my guess is as good as anyone else’s. I really don’t know, so we’ll see.”

On bouncing back from last year: “For me, every year, whether I’m coming off a really good year or a really bad year, like last year, my mindset is not a whole lot different. I just want to be competitive and be a contender every week, that’s all I’m asking because I am a believer that if you’re doing that on a weekly basis, you’re going to have your fair share of wins, you’re going to have your fair share opportunities to win championships and have good weeks. So, it’s just all about being contention, being competitive, having pace every week regardless of what the track looks like. If it’s a speedway, short track or road course, if the service is brand new or if it’s 15 years old, just across the board be a contender. That’s all I’m ever after. The wins are great, of course I want to win 10 races and win a championship, everyone does, but I think just being competitive on a weekly basis, that is what wins the opportunities and that’s the goal every year.”

On recovering from injury and preparing for the season: “I had that procedure done in the middle of November, so that’s just not a lot of time to get that particular procedure rehabbed and ready for the clash this past week and that was a concern getting approved for that. I didn’t want to have to sit that out, so that was really the goal all winter was just trying to get back in a position to go out there. And fortunately (I) made it, it was great. Made it through that without messing it up and that was good. And we got two more weeks to keep working on it before Daytona, so I was rehabbing two or three days a week every week, all winter. So, I didn’t really have any time to go anywhere, but it was all good to have to spend a lot of time around here and I’m ready to go.”

On his career and time with Hendrick Motorsports: “This will be year nine in the Cup and then I had two years extended before that. It’s crazy how fast time has flown by. I’m grateful for it, there’s certainly been some tough days, but there’ve been some really good ones too and it’s important to enjoy those when you have them because you never know if or when you’re going to have good days like that again. So, I’m always grateful for those opportunities and those good days when they come, so hopefully we can have some more of them. But it’s been a super fun ride, you guys have made that special too, so I appreciate that and just try to keep trucking, who knows where it goes from here. But yeah, the Hendrick 40 is crazy. What Rick (Hendrick) has built and the legacy that he’s left on motorsports. He’s done a lot for a lot of people within the racing industry, myself included. So, I’m grateful to be a part of that family, it’s really neat. I don’t know many of the next 40 I’ll be around for, but (I) certainly hope it lives on beyond that.”