Chase Elliott has no plans to defend his 2020 NASCAR Cup Series championship. He does, however, have every intention of trying to win another one this season.
Such is the mindset of NASCAR’s newest premier champion.
“There is no defending. We need to be on offense. We need to keep pushing,” he said. “I think if you’re back on your heels and trying to protect something, I don’t think your mind is in the right place.
“We want more. We’re not trying to play defense. We just simply want more. That needs to be our outlook and keep it as simple as that.”
Elliott, 25, enjoyed his most successful yet as a fulltime Cup Series driver in 2020 but he didn’t begin the season as any sort of lock to make the Championship 4.
However, he and the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team showed the speed to contend throughout the year and by the playoffs they appeared to have hit their stride.
Three of Elliott’s five season victories came in the playoffs – including two at critical times. His win at Martinsville, Va., locked him into the Championship 4 the next week, where he won again and clinched is first series championship.
“It obviously was a great end. We were able to get hot at the right time and have really well-executed races to end the 2020 season,” Elliott said.
“I think for us, and the cool thing for me that I’ve thought about since then, there is still much more for us to go get. I don’t think we are at our best in every category, which is really cool for me and something that I think our team should take a lot of pride in.
“To have the kind of result we had last year but also know that we can still improve in some pretty big ways is exciting.”
A vast change in the 2021 Cup Series schedule may have also opened the door for Elliott to capitalize on more victories throughout the season.
The Cup series will see several new venues this year, including a record seven road-course events – six in the regular season and one in the playoffs.
For Elliott, who has earned five of his 11 career Cup wins on road courses, that would seem to present an enormous opportunity.
But he doesn’t look at it that way.
“There’s not been one part of me that watched the schedule change, saw seven road courses and thought, ‘Yeah, we’ve got it now.’ That’s just not how I am,” he said. “The schedule is what it is. I don’t enjoy having any more or less road courses.
“I really don’t care where we go. At the end of the day, you have to be good everywhere and I want to be good everywhere. We as a team want to get to the point where we can win on any given week: road course, circle track, intermediate, dirt … whatever it is, we want to be able to win at any time.”
The reason, Elliott says, is that’s what he believes defines the most successful drivers and teams in NASCAR.
“There is a really small group of guys that can win literally every week. Like, we all would leave the track and we wouldn’t be a bit surprised that they won the race. I want our team to be a part of that conversation as well,” he said.
“I want to get to the point that whenever we leave the race track, no one was surprised that we won. Our team is very capable of doing that, and that’s where my head was at last year.
“If you can get among that group, consistently be there and have chances to win every weekend, everything else will fall into place and you’ll have plenty of opportunities for a long, long time to do great things.”
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