Chase Elliott has found his voice.
Saturday morning at the Talladega Superspeedway, Elliott must have eaten Wheaties and felt good, as he was ready to go when his media availability became bright and early. NASCAR’s most popular driver and 2020 Series Champion sounded 15 minutes on safety about the next generation car, which was an absolute surprise.
Elliott does not provide opinions. To be perfectly honest, Elliott can be a difficult topic to cover. It’s not because he’s rude or unpleasant to interact with, but because, often, he doesn’t give you much to work with. It’s not Elliott style.
Elliott turns to the interviewer whenever a question appears that hints at asking for a personal feeling or opinion. He was quick to reply that he doesn’t make the rules or that something is above his salary; So it does not answer.
Hopefully Talladega is not alone. Obviously, Elliott was frustrated over the weekend, as his fellow drivers have been all year round about the car they’re driving.
Elliott called phrases such as “it blows me away” and “there’s no excuse” and words that include “disappointed” or “disappointing” many times. NASCAR, Elliott explained, took a step back in safety, baffled by it.
“I think these guys are worried,” said Elliott team owner Rick Hendrick of his driver as he spoke. “He sees one of his teammates injured. He saw Kurt in pain. He’s a young man with a career ahead of him. Nobody wants to do something that they can fix and wipe out.
“I think that was on Chase’s mind. I’m proud of him. He doesn’t say much, but when he speaks, everyone knows he’s not worried about his anxiety.”
Regardless of why Elliott decided it was time to speak up — the fact that he was an injured teammate, and his frustration reaching boiling point where he didn’t hide it, a team effort by the drivers to band together to force NASCAR in. Corner on the business and competition side – the sport needs him to do this more often. Elliott may not like it, but his voice matters. Just like Dale Earnhardt Jr. before him, being the sport’s most popular driver has its weight. When this driver speaks, everyone listens. The media. fans. NASCAR.
It’s a responsibility Elliott never seemed to want to take on before. But it does come with the mission of being the NASCAR Cup Series Champion, having a niche in the sport, and having a famous family name.
People want to know what Elliott thinks. Nobody asks him to solve sports problems, but he has thoughts about them, and it’s like pulling teeth trying to get him to give the slightest hint of how he’s feeling.
“The way I look at this is I definitely want him specifically and all the drivers, but my concern is Chase being as safe as possible,” said crew chief Alan Gustafson. “We know this is an inherently dangerous sport. But I want it to be as safe as possible. From my position, I will do everything I can to make sure it is as safe as possible. I feel collectively in this garage, that there is a tremendous resource of smart people where we can push this to Forward, getting to a position where it’s not a topic, not something these people have to worry about week in and week out.
“I definitely feel terrible for Alex. Alex shouldn’t have suffered the kind of injury he took. We all have to accept that, move on, move on, make it better. I’m very confident we can do that. That’s what we should focus on. “It’s all together. Collectively, I think we have a lot of resources to make that happen. I’m sure NASCAR will do everything they can, and so will the teams, and we’ll get through this quickly.”
It was a pleasant surprise to see Elliott first take on Twitter by responding to Justin Marks’ tweet about how the sport should “never take steps” back gracefully. The mere existence of the tweet was against the trend. It was something Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin tended to do, but now it seems there is an effort by all the drivers to make their points clear.
Then came Elliott’s press conference. Another welcome development.
Elliott spoke and the world didn’t fall off its axis, and the sport wasn’t hurt. His words were meaningful, important and everything anyone wanted.