Chase Elliott takes offensive approach to title defense

Chase Elliott might be the protecting champ in the NASCAR Cup Series, however safeguarding his status isn’t from another location near his centerpiece getting in the 2021 season.

“There is no defending,” Elliott stated Monday throughout a video conference with press reporters. “We need to be on offense. We need to keep pushing. 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 desire more. We’re not attempting to play defense. We just merely desire more. That requires to be our outlook and keep it as basic as that.”

You might think Elliott would consider the addition of four road course races to the schedule a major advantage. After all, five of his 11 career victories have come on road courses. Elliott has won the last four NASCAR road races, including the Cup Series’ maiden voyage last year on the Daytona International Speedway Road Course, which will host the second points race of the season on Feb. 21 as well as Tuesday night’s Busch Clash (7 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

In all, seven of the 36 points races in 2021 will take place on road courses, but Elliott’s outlook might come as a surprise.

“There’s not been one part of me that enjoyed the schedule modification, saw 7 roadway courses and believed, ‘Yeah, we have actually got it now,'” Elliott said. “That’s simply not how I am. The schedule is what it is. I do not delight in having anymore or less roadway courses. I truly do not care where we go. At the end of the day, you need to be excellent all over, and I wish to be excellent all over.

“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 great teams and the great drivers are capable of doing that, and I think we are capable doing that. So that’s where my head’s at — trying to be good everywhere.”

NO RECALLING FOR HARVICK AND NO. 4 GROUP

Kevin Harvick topped the NASCAR Cup Series with a career-best 9 success in 2015. With that overall, the chauffeur of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford rose previous Kyle Busch as the active leader in Cup wins with 58.

Regardless of winning the regular-season title, nevertheless, Harvick stopped working to make the Champion 4 for just the 2nd time because the intro of the present removal Playoff format in 2014. As the 2021 season techniques, Harvick will not be considering what failed in 2015.

“I think, as the season ended and we got about a week through it, I was done and over with it and had a lot to do moving forward,” Harvick stated. “In this business, you just don’t have time to dwell on it. If you’re going to continue to be good at what you do, you have to be able to put your mind back to work and take the things that went wrong and make them better — refocus, and you have to use those things as motivation in order to make those particular things better.

“I seem like I’m losing my breath discussing whatever that took place in 2015, since we have actually discussed what failed, and I have actually carried on and attempted to be prepared for this specific season… (Harvick’s staff member) understand that I’ll get quite annoyed if they wish to sit and harp on what took place in 2015 when we’re currently into simply over a week far from the Daytona 500. They much better have actually carried on. If they have not, they do not speak with me about it.”

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS CLOSES IN ON RECORD FOR MOST CUP VICTORIES

Petty Enterprises set the standard for victories in the NASCAR Cup Series, but Hendrick Motorsports is closing fast.

In 1949, Lee Petty gave his family-founded organization its first win, at Heidelberg Raceway near Pittsburgh. Fifty years later, John Andretti claimed the last victory — and 268th — for Petty Enterprises at Martinsville Speedway.

The Randleman, N.C.-based team ceased operations after the 2008 season, as seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty took on partners in what is now Richard Petty Motorsports, whose five wins don’t count in the Petty Enterprises total.

Chase Elliott won five races for Hendrick on the way to the series championship last year, and Alex Bowman and William Byron added one victory each to bring the HMS total to 263. Even if Hendrick surpasses the Petty Enterprises total, team owner Rick Hendrick acknowledges that there will only be one “King.”

“The Minor company will constantly be sort of the foundation of the sport,” Hendrick said. “Richard will constantly be the King. We might wind up with more wins than they did, however what they have actually provided for the sport … He is the sort of individual that when you discuss his name, it assists our entire sport.

“So I’m a little humble to think that, ‘Hey, I’m going to maybe one day pass his record of wins.’ I would love to, but I don’t know if I’ll ever contribute as much to the sport as Richard Petty and the Petty organization have.”

TRUEX HOPES NEW SPOTTER CAN AID END SUPERSPEEDWAY DRY SPELL

Prior To 2019, NASCAR’s brief tracks were pitching a nothing versus 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr.

That altered significantly when Truex won the April 13, 2019, occasion at Richmond Raceway. The chauffeur of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota finished the Richmond sweep in September prior to winning for the very first time at Martinsville in late October.

In June 2020, throughout in 2015’s pandemic-interrupted season, Truex won a 2nd straight race at the .526-mile Virginia speedway, providing him 4 short-track success over a 14-month duration. There stays, nevertheless, one glaring hole in Truex’s resume — something he wishes to remedy this year.

Truex has actually never ever won a superspeedway race. To attempt to eliminate that shortage at Daytona and Talladega, he has actually altered spotters this year, from Clayton Hughes to Drew Herring, who has NASCAR Xfinity Series driving experience with JGR (and a finest surface of 4th at Kentucky Speedway in 2012).

“I’ve got a list of things I’ve been working on,” Truex stated. “I brought in a change in spotter this year to try to be better at speedways, which is now … you look at the 550 (horsepower) package, basically speedway racing on restarts for a few laps.

“Things like that, we have actually been dealing with to improve at. It’s whatever. It takes all of that to win these races. They are really tough to win. We take a look at every opportunity.”

GRAGSON GETS GREEN LIGHT FOR CUP SERIES DEBUT

Now retired from NASCAR racing, Brendan Gaughan has handed off his superspeedway driving duties to a fellow Las Vegas resident.

When the No. 62 Beard Motorsports Chevrolet takes to the track this week, Noah Gragson will be behind the wheel, preparing for his NASCAR Cup Series debut in Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The first Cup start for the full-time JR Motorsports Xfinity Series driver comes in the aftermath of the death of team owner Mark Beard Sr. on Jan. 31.

The original plan was for Gragson to race conservatively until the end of the Great American Race, but that changed recently.

“It began as, ‘You require to go flight and take your time and simply exist at the end,’ and now it’s transitioned into Mrs. (Linda) Beard providing me the thumbs approximately go,” Gragson said. “She informed me to, ‘Drive the (heck) out of it.’ Those were her specific words. I’m ecstatic, since I seem like that’s more of my driving design.

“It’s definitely going to be a new challenge, a new opportunity. There’s going to be adversity, but I know the car will be strong and, hopefully, I’ll be able to adapt sooner rather than later with the package for the Cup car being so much different from the Xfinity car. I’m confident in my ability at superspeedway racing. In fact, I’m a lot more confident than I was at this time last year.

“I have actually had the ability to add front at these superspeedway races, lead laps at basically all of them, win phases, and I won the race at Daytona in 2015 in the Xfinity Series. It’s going be an excellent chance. I have actually been imagining it my whole, whole life to make a Cup start, and now I have that chance, and it’s all thanks to the Beard household and Brendan and all the partners included.”

–By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, Unique to Field Level Media.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.