Chase Elliott focused on results more than fun

Elliott: This is a small step in the right direction (2:46)

Chase Elliott, 20, speaks with Marty Smith about becoming the youngest driver to win the pole for the Daytona 500 and recognizing that the real work is ahead this week in preparing for the race. (2:46)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Is it bad to want to see maybe just a little bit of dabbing from Chase Elliott. Or at least a "Heck, yeah!" kind of attitude?

Probably not. It's fun when youngsters have fun. But it wouldn't be Elliott. And if fans want drivers to be authentic, then the focused, down-to-earth Elliott will be the one they get.

It hasn't changed since Elliott came on the NASCAR scene as a 15-year-old first signed by Hendrick Motorsports five years ago. He is scary competitive as far as his demeanor. There isn't much of a brashness, and he hates to lose, and he hates to lose even more when he feels he made a mistake.

So it wasn't rare last season to see Elliott get out of his car and bolt straight for his hauler. There was absolutely nothing for him to want to talk about. So what if he is the son of a NASCAR Hall of Famer and typically runs well? If he had a bad day, there wasn't much he had to say.

In seeing his determined rise to the Sprint Cup ranks, it doesn't come as a huge surprise that Elliott won't puff out his chest over winning the Daytona 500 pole for Sunday afternoon.

"For me, it's more for the guys to celebrate, not for me," Elliott said Tuesday morning at Daytona. "There was nothing special I did to make that happen on Sunday. It's about those guys [on his team], the kind of car, the engine shop, the kind of engine they put in that thing.

"For me, the race is the most important thing. That's the starting spot. It's not about where you start, it's about where you finish."

Maybe Elliott just doesn't know any better at 20 what he should do as the youngest driver ever to win the pole for the sport's biggest race.

"He's young -- he doesn't know how to celebrate yet in terms of going out and hanging out and partying with his friends," joked his teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. "Hell, maybe he will be a late bloomer as far as that goes. I was, too.

"I didn't start ripping and tearing until I was about 25 or 26. I didn't know how to celebrate, either, at that age."

Elliott doesn't have much to brag about on the Sprint Cup level. He has yet to finish in the top 15 in a Sprint Cup race. So if it matters most where he finishes, he probably feels he hasn't accomplished much in his five previous Cup starts.

"I know we have one of the best cars down here, and definitely the entire Hendrick Motorsports team has been fast," Elliott said. "The Hendrick shop has done a great job. I know we have a car capable of winning. I certainly think I have a lot to learn from a drafting standpoint, a lot of aspects, just kind of getting used to things, getting around other cars.

"I know our car is capable of winning; I just need to learn what to do behind the wheel."

Throughout his 10 minutes with the print media Tuesday, he answered the questions politely but succinctly, as if there is no reason to say more.

When asked whether he ever thinks about driving the No. 24 car (the one made famous by four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon), Elliott simply replied: "You don't. Not at all."


"Once you get in it ... you can't see what number is on the outside," Elliott said. "[You're] just trying to go as fast as you can."

Elliott flew Monday to Atlanta to try to pump interest in the race there next week. Yes, the season does continue after this week. Everything calms down for people, and they can start to get into a rhythm for the season.

For Elliott, he has the focus to just get through this week.

"We recognize it's a very long week ahead," Elliott said. "For me having the questions asked, you should be asking [the rest of the team] the questions, not me on the pole, because they're the ones that deserved it.

"Me, being in my position, I look at that as just a way that I give credit where credit is deserved, and those guys are the ones that deserve it, not me."

His father did have some advice for him. He told his son to try to enjoy it. Maybe he is and it just doesn't look like it.

"The one thing that he is probably worried about is perception," Earnhardt said. "When I see a driver make those style of comments, he's just trying to say the right thing. He doesn't want to step on anybody's toes or give anybody the wrong idea.

"He's very focused, and he wants people to know he's very focused. We've seen his interviews when he doesn't do well in the Xfinity Series; he puts it on his shoulders, and he's way too hard on himself. He just wants people to understand he's committed, he's a hard worker, and he's here to accomplish his dreams and goals."

Elliott said he has tried to listen to his father's advice, which comes more about handling things off the track than on it. As the 2014 Xfinity Series champion, Elliott has shown enough talent that some believe he has the potential to turn into a superstar in the sport.

"[My dad said to] definitely just try to take it as it comes and not get too excited about things, not get too down about other things," Elliott said.

"There's going to be downs in this sport; you hope that there's some ups that come along with it. Try and ride that roller coaster the best you can."

Maybe someday he'll ride the roller coaster with his hands in the air and screaming at the top of his lungs. For now, though, this 20-year-old has a job to do.