Dale Jr. gives Elliott advice on bouncing back
August 30, 2014, Pat DeCola, NASCAR.com
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HAMPTON, Ga. -- Following his post-race celebratory burnout, Kevin Harvick whizzed by the No. 9 of Chase Elliott on his way to Victory Lane, tossing a thumbs up out the window to the NASCAR Nationwide Series rookie and his JR Motorsports teammate.
Elliott reciprocated, but it's clear he felt his performance in the Great Clips 300 to benefit Feed The Children at his home state Atlanta Motor Speedway didn't deserve the positive recognition.
Saturday's pole winner, Elliott paced the event's first 36 laps before ceding the lead to Harvick, who led the remaining 159 on the way to his third Nationwide win of the season.
Elliott noted that he didn’t think anybody could have touched Harvick's No. 5 Chevrolet, but was despondent over his fifth-place finishing position being three spots shy of where the No. 9 probably should've wound up.
"I feel like at best we could've finished second and I think if my guys had a driver that knew what he was doing, I probably would've finished second," said Elliott, who left Atlanta with a 15-point lead in the standings over teammate Regan Smith. "Just screwed up multiple times. I wasn't consistent and I didn’t do my job tonight. I just messed up. Complete driver error. Absolutely cannot do that. Unacceptable."
With 16 laps remaining, Elliott came in for a green-flag stop but overshot his pit stall. Having to back up, he lost two spots in the process and had to battle back to finish fifth.
It's a mistake most drivers have made, but it was still enough to get the 18-year-old phenom down on himself.
"I better get my act together before next week or hopefully that doesn't happen again," Elliott added. "Like I said, that's unacceptable on my part."
Luckily for Elliott, he has perhaps the best support system around him at JRM, including his team owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt, a newcomer to Twitter after his Daytona 500 victory in February, offered a bit of advice for how Elliott can pick himself back up after being so down -- behold the power of social media.
"I'd go on Twitter and talk to your fans," Earnhardt said. "They're pretty good at pumping you back up and telling you not to worry about it."
Of course, fans can only take a driver so far. At some point, he'll have to face the actual people he feels he let down, namely his NAPA Racing teammates.
"I'd talk to your crew chief, all the guys on your team. Those are the people that you feel like you've let those guys down in some way," said Earnhardt, whose JRM drivers have picked up eight 2014 victories. "Have conversations with them throughout the week or even tonight. Anytime I feel like that I've let Steve (Letarte, Sprint Cup Series crew chief) down, I've got to talk to him immediately and get that conversation handled and done and get some sort of reassurance that we're into this together. That kind of thing; that's what you want to hear.
"Don't shut down and go hide in a corner. Just talk to people and get to the root of the conversations you just need to have or you're going to eventually have anyways. Just don't wait until the next weekend at the race track to have those conversations."
Earnhardt threw in a quick story from his rookie Cup Series season, when he took a provisional pole at Rockingham Speedway, adding "I thought that was the worst day of my life."
It's just part of racing, and Elliott will learn that in due time.
"There's going to be a lot of races that you don't do everything you want to do right. … He'll have all kinds of days like that."
Elliott will have a shot to right the ship less than a week from now, as the series shifts to Richmond International Raceway for Friday's Virginia529 College Savings 250.
The last time Elliott raced there?
He finished where he felt he should've tonight -- runner-up to teammate Kevin Harvick.