CHEVY MENCS AT Richmond 1: Austin Dillon Roundtable

MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
RICHMOND RACEWAY
TOYOTA OWNERS 400
TEAM CHEVY ROUNDTABLE TRANSCRIPT
APRIL 9, 2019

AUSTIN DILLON, NO. 3 AAA CAMARO ZL1 met with media and discussed the upcoming Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway. Full Transcript:

AFTER MARTINSVILLE HEADING INTO RICHMOND, HOW DO YOU FEEL THAT THE CHEVROLETS ARE MOVING FORWARD, ESPECIALLY IN LIGHT OF WHAT WE SAW IN TEXAS WITH THE HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS CARS?
“We feel like the Chevrolets are in a better spot than we were last year. We’ve had speed in our camp, at RCR and ECR in lot of the qualifying sessions, but we haven’t been able to turn it into finishing results that we’d like. Some of the Hendrick cars had some good speed last week. That’s good to see. And, Kurt Busch has also been pretty good all year. So, it’s moving in the right direction. I hope that we can continue the same path that we’re on and keep building on it. But, every week seems to be a different challenge, so we’re still progressing.”

INAUDIBLE QUESTION ABOUT FONTANA AND STAGE POINTS
“I thought Fontana, getting the pole, was really a great part of this year so far. We had a car capable of running in the top 5. I hit the wall early at the end of the first Stage. That was depressing, but we were able to come back and finish 10th with it. So, that was a good day. And then getting Stage points at Martinsville, we’ve gained more Stage points this year than we have, I feel like, last year for sure, just on average early in the year. We didn’t gain a lot of Stage points last year and that was a point of emphasis for us. At Texas we got a fourth place finish in that Stage. That was big. So, we’re happy with where we are right now as far as the progression of things and doing better when it comes to Stage results. We’d like better finishes, but the speed in the cars has allowed us to be up front more often than past years.”

HOW MUCH DOES IT HELP THE RCR TEAM TO HAVE THE PETTY TEAM THERE? DO YOU GET A LOT OF FEEDBACK FROM THAT TEAM AS WELL?
“Well, any time you can join forces with another organization to help make your notebook thicker, it’s good, you know? Bubba (Wallace) has been working really hard with those guys to get that organization pointed in the right direction. It’s nice just hearing his feedback on Mondays when we have our debriefs. We’re all in the same room together and just talking about what our cars are doing and the input that he’s brought has been helpful. And we’ve all kind of leaned on each other at different times. So, it’s nice to have him.”

WHAT DOES RICHMOND MEAN TO YOU? IS IT A FAVORITE TRACK OR A TOUCH TRACK? WHAT DO YOU THINK?
“Are you talking about the additions that the track made?”

NO, NOT TOO MUCH THAT BUT JUST RACING ON IT
“Okay. Well, I think the track did a really good job moving the facility forward and what all of our tracks are kind of doing is nice to see. It puts us in a great competition with other sports that have great venues. Richmond is one of those venues that I enjoy going to now because of the additions that they made to the track, facility-wise. As far as racing on it, in the past Richmond was not one of my best tracks. I’ve qualified well there and ran good for a little while, but always seem to struggle adjusting the car throughout the race. Last year, Richmond was a bright spot for us. We finished sixth at the second race there and raced inside the top 10 the entire race. So, I was really pumped after last year, to see what we were able to do because that was definitely an Achilles Heel for me. I had to get over it, mentally, because it beat me up pretty hard for a while. But, now I love going there. I’ve figured something out. We figured a set-up that works. So, I’ll be pumped to get to Richmond.”

ON THE SCHEDULE OVERALL, AND THE UPCOMING CHANGES FOR 2020, DO YOU FEEL LIKE IT’S ADDRESSING MAYBE SOME OF THE COMPETITION ASPECTS OF RACING VERSUS THE ENTERTAINMENT ASPECT OF IT?
“I’m not that deep into it. I look at it as just change. It’s good to try a different schedule. I’ve always thought the first thing I saw was moving us out to the West Coast after Daytona, and I thought that was a really smart move because we always struggle with weather in Atlanta. So, I feel like they’ve put a lot of thought into the process of moving these races around. Pocono would be the one that I say as far as trying to give the fans more, that could be something looking to the future. If you’re looking at something futuristic to help competition or the fans and get more bang for their buck, I see that with the doubleheader. Other than that, I think it was just trying something new. Ending at Phoenix is nice. It’s just a change from Homestead. That Homestead track really is an awesome track to go to, but it’s not what we race on every weekend. So, it’s nice to change it up to go to Phoenix. Short tracks are dominant in the Playoffs ending these Stages. I feel that’s an excitement people want to see in the Playoffs. So, I’m pretty pumped about the schedule and direction they’ve gone with it. Hopefully Mother Nature is too, with some of the changes they made.”

WHEN YOU LOOK AT WHAT YOU GUYS HAVE DONE SO FAR THIS YEAR, IS THERE ANY CONCERN ABOUT 1.5-MILE TRACKS OR ARE THERE PLACES THAT STAND OUT?
“The 1.5-mile tracks have never really concerned me because I feel like with enough practice time, I can get my car pretty competitive. Now, when you’re at a lack of downforce, we’ve had times and periods where that is no fun because all you’ve got is what you’ve got when you get there sometimes. As far as like picking one track out that I worry about, I feel like I’ve got to be better at road courses. That’s where I need to do my job better at. Other than that, I’m pretty comfortable everywhere now. I’ve had decent runs at every place; not as many of them as I’d like to have but we seem to be able to find places and set-ups to the cars to get them close enough to where we’re competitive in a lot of places.”

ARE YOU DOING ANYTHING TO IMPROVE ON ROAD COURSE RACES?
“Yeah, we’ve got a plan moving forward. I didn’t grow up road course racing. So, I’ve found places where I’ve been fast on road courses. It’s more that racing part and racing around other people and understanding why someone turns in the corner two car-lengths earlier just to position themselves for the middle of the corner. I didn’t understand that for a long time. I’m getting better at it. I probably need to get on a Go-kart more. You see a lot of guys going to Go Pro and using that place as a tool. So, I’ll probably use that sometime before we get to the road course races.”

CHEVY STILL HASN’T WON A RACE AND IT WAS A STRUGGLE FOR CHEVY LAST YEAR. IS CHEVY ANY CLOSER TO WINNING? IS THIS NOW A CHEVY PROBLEM OR THE INDIVIDUAL TEAMS OR A COMBINATION OF ALL?
“It’s hard to blame it on the individual teams off of past history. I feel like all the teams that are in the Chevy camp have shown that they can compete and win races. For me, we’re not where we need to be. We’re headed in the right direction. I do feel like we made steps this off-season. It’s cool to see some of the processes that were going forward, but we definitely can improve I feel like. There’s still improvement there and we need to see what other people are doing and do it better. That’s what this garage is all about is to see and look at it and try and recreate it and make it better. And, I’m proud of the effort that we’re putting in and bringing to the track. I think we’re halfway there. We’ve got still another half to get to where Chevy is winning and winning consistently like some of the other manufacturers are doing right now.”

WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE FORDS AND THE TOYOTAS, WHAT ARE THEY DOING RIGHT? LIKE, WHERE ARE WE SO OFF?
“I don’t really look at it….. Because it’s so competitive in the garage, I look at it more as a team. I don’t really see manufacturer as much, myself, personally, because that’s what I have to focus on. I have to focus on beating the competition. And I have to hope that our manufacturer does it’s job to want to beat the other manufacturers each and every weekend and spend more money than them and do a better job in the wind tunnel and do a better job with any kind of support that they can do. It’s kind of like trusting the process, right? Like patriots believe in that same kind of mentality. Let everyone do their job and hopefully it all works out. So, that’s kind of where I’m at with it. But, I guess that’s all I have to say about it because I want Chevrolet to be on top and I think everybody does in all the organizations because we want to go get wins and put Chevy back up top where they’ve been for so long. It’s unusual to not see a Chevy win. That’s why you’ve got guys really pushing to figure out what we’re missing as a whole.”

IS JIMMIE JOHNSON CRAZY TO BE DOING A MARATHON TWO DAYS AFTER RICHMOND?
“Jimmie Johnson is a seven-time champion and he still tries to come out here every week and kick everybody’s butt. He’s a different animal and I respect him for that. I think that’s what’s cool about Jimmie Johnson. He’s a GOAT. There’s not many GOATs in certain areas of sports. He can probably do whatever he wants. If you’re a seven-time champion and want to go do a marathon the day before we race, more power to you. I hope he’s tired.”

IT’S THE DAY AFTER
“Oh, oh. Well good. He can do whatever he wants. I think he’s a freak (laughter), he’s a beast. He told me a long time ago, I would bounce ideas off him from time to time when it comes to nutrition or anything because I feel like he’s been there and done that when it comes to everything health-wise. So, I talked to this off-season about diet and getting into diets; and it was funny just listening to him. He’s done them all, right? And what he felt was the best diet for him and we talked about that process. And before, I used to talk about fitness with him. And he was like yeah, I think if you can take six miles in 36 minutes or something, that’s a pretty good pace, when I first started talking to him, on a treadmill. And, I tried to do it the first time and I was like oh, yeah. Okay (laughter). He’s a beast. It might have been a little bit more than that like five miles in 36 minutes or something like that. I don’t remember quite the process that he had. But, I did it. You see him all the time running and sweating out here and doing his thing. I’m trying to stay as hydrated as I possibly can and he has his process and he obviously makes it work. More power to him.”

WHEN YOU LOOK AT CHANGE IN THE SPORT, IF IT’S A RULES PACKAGE OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR ORGANIZATION IS ABLE TO GET OUT IN FRONT OF IS AS QUICKLY AS ANY OF THE OTHER ONES ARE? OR, IS THAT SOMETHING THAT MAYBE TAKES YOU A LITTLE LONGER?
“Well, I like to think we’re really pro-active and I kind of like change for us because I feel like it gives us a chance to try and outsmart people with the brains that we have at our shop. I feel like we’ve got some really smart people there. And we tend to utilize them pretty good compared to the resources that some of the other teams have. I feel like we’re a big team, but we don’t have the resources some of the other teams have. But we seem to be able to compete quite often with them. And, I think that goes back to the people. I feel like we do have some good people at RCR and we keep doing a good job of figuring things out we’ll hit it, you know? Hit it first.”

WAS TEXAS REALLY THE FIRST TIME YOU GUYS HAD A CHANCE, LOGISTICALLY, BECAUSE YOU HAD TO GO OUT WEST TO APPLY WHAT YOU LEARNED WITH THE NEW PACKAGE SO FAR WITH THOSE CARS? OR, IS THAT JUST OFF-BASE?
“No, it’s not at all. Texas is one of the most difficult places we go with that package because as far as getting the most out of your body, there’s two different directions you can go. Less-drag, like speedway racing or more-downforce; which we all wanted when we were 1.5-mile racing in the past. But overall, you have more downforce than you had last year. So, in that track is (Turns) 3 and 4 it was like speedway racing and (Turns) 1 and 2, is weird. It’s like a short-track. It’s a messed-up shape. It doesn’t look right. I really don’t understand the process of how they thought that track up. But, it is what we have to race on. So, (Turns) 1 and 2 is really difficult to balance your car for and I saw different cars that I felt like got better throughout that race that weren’t that great in qualifying or in practice because they hit on something that helped them enough through (Turns) 3 and 4 that (Turns) 1 and 2 didn’t matter. We tried to apply what we thought going there we had the best car capable of winning the race. And when we turned back, all of our cars qualified in the top 12 and the best finish with us was 14th. So, we didn’t do some process right going into race day. I say that. I ran fourth that whole first day. So, track position was really key. And we got our track position back, but the car didn’t drive good the second half of the race. I lost grip and lost time because of that. And that hurts your track position each time.

“So yeah, we’ve got some work to do. But the process isn’t a failure yet. We’re getting there. We’re doing the right job. We’ve just got to fine-tune. And, I feel with (crew chief) Danny Stockman behind me, looking at our past history as a duo together, we get better throughout the summer months. This is our first half with each other. So, he’s really looking back at old notes that we’ve raced on in the past. And he’s one of those guys that really wants to move forward and innovate and so, he’s doing a good job of kind of trusting the process at this point; but he keeps coming to me like look. I’m learning so much so fast. Like, when we come back to these places a second time, we’re going to have a little different process about how we’re going to go about it. So, I’m pumped for that. And, our notes are good. The competition in the shops is good between the two teams, the No. 8 and the No. 3. We really want the No. 8 car to get the finishes that he (Daniel Hemric) deserves. At Atlanta, he had a really fast car and we learned a lot from that. So, it’s positive right now.”

YOU ARE REALLY GOOD AT RESTRICTOR-PLATE TRACKS. HOW DO YOU FEEL GOING INTO THAT? IS IT LIKE A HUGE UNKNOWN? OR DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU RUN WELL AT THAT STYLE OF TRACK THAT IT WILL BENEFIT YOUR TEAM?
“I feel like my grandfather has always wanted fast speedway cars. I don’t know what it is. It’s just RCR in general. They build a fast speedway car. So, for us; Hemric did that test at Daytona after the race. I haven’t had a time to look at what all he did in that test. I saw some of the speeds were really fast and they kind of tried to slow them down throughout the day. And, they got it kind of where they wanted it. So, I’m optimistic because I feel like the speedway racing can be better than what it was in our last package. I was able to win Daytona with the last package, but it’s not the racing I’d like to see at speedways. I’ve enjoyed tandem racing in the past. I’ve enjoyed the Xfinity races in the past because you can kind of make moves by pushing guys to the front or getting in line and making moves that way. So, I’m optimistic that this package allows you to make more aggressive moves than we were able to make with the old package because you saw a lot of big crashes with the old package just because the cars were a bit out of control when people got too close together.”
Team Chevy high-resolution racing photos are available for editorial use.

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