The NASCAR champion reflects on his run at the dirt track; Help from Kyle Larson; Details the future
Chase Elliott is the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion. Over the winter, he’s unloaded for a number of short track racing events.
Those events included the Snowball Derby (Asphalt Late Model), Millbridge Speedway (Dirt Midget) and most recently the Chili Bowl Nationals (Dirt Midget).
The Chili Bowl Nationals is the biggest dirt midget event of the season. The race is run on a 1/4-mile temporary race track, inside the Tulsa Expo Center.
With 300+ cars, the competition is stiffer than any race you’ll find. Yet, Chase Elliott’s second midget appearance ever was completed against the best of the best.
Chase Elliott talks the Chili Bowl Nationals run
“Looking back, do I want to make this [Chili Bowl] my second attempt [in a midget]? I don’t know,” Chase Elliott told MAVTV after his Chili Bowl Nationals run.
“I had a great opportunity. The Briscoe family kind of came on board and wanted to do this. The opportunity was there. Who knows if the opportunity was going to be that right and make that much sense, down the road.”
Elliott ran his prelim night on Wednesday where he finished 8th in the B Main. That placed him in the F main for Saturday, where he missed the transfer spot by just two positions after starting last and finishing 7th.
“I don’t think I was prepared as I needed to be, showing up here. I wanted to come try and be here. And, I think a lot of guys say, ‘Yeah, I want to go try that someday.’ And I think my name was in that mix. But, I feel like at some point you gotta branch out and go do it.”
“This was the right time and the right opportunity to give it a shot. I learned a ton. This week was a lot of fun. I didn’t learn near as much as I need to learn.”
Help from Kyle Larson
Elliott had help from one of the best. Kyle Larson went on to win the 2021 Chili Bowl Nationals. In the weeks leading up to the event, he was helping his NASCAR teammate learn the ropes of dirt track racing.
“Kyle’s helped me out a lot over the past few weeks. He’s helped me a lot at Millbridge and taken a lot of extra time, he didn’t have to. To kind of guide me in the right direction and get me going.”
“He’s joining us at Hendrick Motorsports on the NASCAR side, hopefully for a great season on the NASCAR side. I think he deserves his opportunities.”
“More than all the political correct side of things. He just helped me, a lot.”
Elliott struggled to be consistent with little track time
“I hope I have some more opportunities to drive these cars some more. Continue to learn, race and get laps. Laps, that’s not something you get a lot of here. That was a struggle for sure.”
“I’ll be the first one to tell you, Wednesday was a struggle for me. I felt like I made it all the way to the B Main before I could make two or three laps the same.”
“I have some laps here in Tulsa, at the race track. It seems like they do a really good job of making the race track as far as size and width and the length, I think that part is really consistent every year. Although the track surface might change a lot. But, I think the rhythm can come back with you the next time.”
“The F Main’s not where I wanted to be. I wanted to make it a little further than that.”
“That B Main on Wednesday, that was the first time all week that I felt I was doing anything at all consistent behind the wheel. When you’re not making consistent laps not only can I not tell the guys what the car is doing but I’m not building a rhythm for myself.”
“It’s really hard to get better when you’re not doing two things the same. Those 5 laps that were good on Wednesday then the 15 laps today, that doesn’t add up to a whole bunch.”
“You just have to learn fast. This is an event where you don’t get a whole lot of practice at. And that’s probably part of the reason why it’s really entertaining.”
The Chili Bowl Nationals impressed the NASCAR champion
“It’s very different. I mean, it’s a very different vibe. Nowhere have I ever been that had 300 cars on the entry list. That part has impressed me, a lot. Just how well this flows.”
“This atmosphere reminds me a lot of the atmosphere that I’ve watched at a supercross event. Which I think is super cool. There’s not a lot of cars on four wheels that can race on a small track like this.”
“This is a really great environment. And obviously, an environment that is growing and gaining a lot of traction and attention.”
“I’m glad it’s on national tv and has the opportunity to grow. Because I think it deserves to. I also think this discipline of racing, translates to other types of cars. We see a lot of these guys go to the asphalt side and they pick up speed really fast, there’s something to be said for that.”
Will Chase Elliott run more midget races and the Chili Bowl?
“If I have the opportunity to come back, I absolutely will. Who knows what next year brings. If the opportunity is there and I feel like it’s a good one, you can count on it.”
“I want to get better. I didn’t tear up Paul’s car, so that was good.”
“These guys that are good, they don’t race these midgets one or two times a year, they do it a lot. And they’re very good at it. Part of the reason they’re very good at it is because they do it a lot.”
“When you’re busy doing the NASCAR stuff, you can want to race other stuff all you want. You can say you want to race other stuff all you want. But, until you carve out the time to go do it, it’s just not going to work. I want to make an effort to do more of that.”