CHEVY MENCS AT DAYTONA 500 MEDIA DAY: Austin Dillon Press Conf Transcript

MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
DAYTONA 500 MEDIA DAY
DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
FEBRUARY 14, 2018

AUSTIN DILLON, NO. 3 DOW CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1 met with members of the media and discussed super speedway racing, the Daytona 500, learning from the Clash, his podcast, and more. Full Transcript:

IS THIS THE BEST CAR YOU’VE HAD?

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“Yeah, I said that on Sunday. I would say the best I’ve had since I sat on the pole here when I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. The car that I had the first time I came here was really fast. I just didn’t know what to do with it. Now, I feel like I’m a little more experienced in the draft and feel more comfortable in the draft with a fast car. So, maybe we can do some damage come Sunday.”

YOU AND YOUR TIRE CHANGER HAVE A PODCAST. HOW DID ALL THAT COME ABOUT?

“Paul Swan is my front tire carrier/jack man and me and him are just good buddies. He actually bought my first house, which is in front of the barn where I live. He lived with me for a long time, and then I got married and had to kick him out; so he bought my house and he lives right there in front of me. And we just wanted to showcase what we do as far as having fun and what we like to talk about. It’s all about just having fun and showing the fans our side of life that’s different. So, ‘Barn Life’ is the name of it. It’s on our YouTube channel there under Austin Dillon. I’m really excited about it. I’m going to have him stay over Thursday night after the Duels and we’re going to do like a live hit on YouTube after the Duels just talking about the pit stops and probably the racing. Hopefully we win the Duel and we really have something to talk about.”

HOW OFTEN ARE YOU GOING TO DO THEM?

“We plan on doing ‘Barn Life’ once a week. It’s going to be hard throughout the West Coast to keep up with that because I’ll be traveling obviously, so I’m going to Skype-into our set and Justin, who is kind of like the producer of the show, and then Paul will talk to me and we’ll have conversations from the West Coast because I’m not coming home during that week. Hopefully once we get into the season, it’ll be once a week. We’ll probably film on Thursday or Wednesday and come out on Thursday or Friday.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL YOU’VE MATURED AS A CUP DRIVER?

“Experience-wise, anytime you get more laps at tracks, you feel more confidant going to them. So, the places that I struggled and didn’t really like going to, I never let anybody know I didn’t like going to them, but I’ve been able to get better at them because you’ve got to. You’ve got to get better to be able to keep a job. So, I feel comfortable where I’m at right now and I’m looking forward to the ZL1. Obviously there’s a lot of hype going into the season with it and I think it’s good hype.”

WHAT, IF ANYTHING, DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT BEING IN VICTORY LANE IN 1998?

‘The biggest thing was getting to do the hat dance and getting scooped-up by my grandmother and my mom. We were playing in MRO in the driver/owner lot and me and my brother were probably just playing with our race cars, truthfully, and wondering why we were getting pulled away from what we were doing. Little did we know that picture in Victory Lane would be used for years to come. And now I’ve got this opportunity to take the No. 3 car back to Victory Lane 20 years later. It’s very special. I’m thankful for that opportunity and I want to go out there and put it back where it belongs in Victory Lane.”

DO YOU HAVE THAT PICTURE FRAMED IN YOUR HOUSE?

‘Yeah, we’ve got a lot of those pictures a little bit everywhere. The biggest place I see it the most often is in the museum. Austin Dillon Motorsports has like a secret office in the museum and it’s right behind the display of the Daytona 500 in ’98, and I see it often right there.”

INAUDIBLE

“We had the autograph session last week before the Clash and this kid came up to me and he didn’t have a hat on and I asked him if he had a favorite driver and he’s like no. I was wearing a hat and I said look, if I give you this hat, I’m going to be your favorite driver now, right? And he was like yeah. And so here’s the deal, I’m going to sign it and give it to you but I’m your guy. And he was like, for sure. So I handed him the hat and didn’t think nothing of it. It was like I got a new fan, obviously, he’s going to follow me forever because he’s probably eight, nine, or 10 years old. And the next day I saw him and I was walking through the garage and he yelled at me. And I came over there because I seen that he had my hat on. And he handed me a lucky penny. So, I put it in the Clash car and I made it through there with no damage and it was a solid race for us. So, I told him I’d take that penny and put it in the 500 car. So, we’ll have a penny in the car on 500 day.”

WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500?

“There’s nothing better than the Daytona 500 in my opinion as far as racing goes. There’s just so much hype that goes along with it. The fans really get behind it. It’s our Super Bowl. So, you’re just forever etched in NASCAR history when you win one of these things. I don’t think you have to have much history behind it. It’s just the Daytona 500. It’s amazing without having anything behind it, alone, it sets itself away from everything else.”

IT’S VALENTINE’S DAY. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TONIGHT? WHAT IS SOME ADVICE YOU WOULD HAVE FOR GUYS WHO ARE HAVING THEIR FIRST DATES TONIGHT AND THIS WEEKEND?

“Well, I would say to do a good job. This day does mean a lot to a lot of pretty women out there. Tonight I’m taking my wife to dinner. She doesn’t know where it’s at yet, so it’s kind of a surprise so I’m not going to say it right now. But it’s a good place. She loves roses, so I’ve got to go with the roses as far as a dozen roses for those guys out there. You can’t go wrong there. A woman might say oh, I don’t want flowers, but it still means something. The flowers, the dinner, then just telling her how much I love her.”

NOW THAT DALE EARNHARDT JR. HAS RETIRED, WHO DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE NEXT MOST POPULAR DRIVER?

“Well, I don’t know how that voting works, but Bill Elliott won a lot of those, so probably Chase (Elliott) would be tough to beat. Chase would probably be one of those guys who would be in there. Hopefully we can make some noise in that too, one day.”

WHY CHASE ELLIOTT?

“I think lineage is the biggest thing. Maybe I’m wrong. But, we’ll see. I’m going to put my bid in, hopefully.”

ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT CONCUSSIONS?

“No, I feel really safe in the race car out there. NASCAR’s done a good job with the safety aspects of our sport and I feel like flipping through the fence here, a couple of years ago in July, it definitely made me feel confident when I get in and drive. I’m really confident in my helmet also. The Arai helmet is a very good helmet. I would probably not change every because of that wreck right there and the safety and how I feel today because of that. I feel really confident in what NASCAR has done as far as safety.”

ARE YOU ON THE DRIVERS COUNCIL THIS YEAR?

“I’m not, but my brother (Ty) is this year. It’s good to have a Dillon on there because I sure he’ll voice his opinion like I did.”

WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO BE ON THAT?

“I think everyone did a pretty good job of expressing their opinions. Some people were louder than others. Some people sat back. Everybody gave something, though, whether it was about safety, security, racing, competition, or marketing. Everybody gave a little bit of something to add to the group, which I thought was nice. I thought we had a really good variety of drivers last year. And I’m sure they’ll have a similar variety this year with throwing some young guys in there with the old. I think everybody just has to speak candidly though. It helps our sport in anyway possible.”

INAUDIBLE

“In one meeting there was some funny stuff going on because it was right after Martinsville and just about everybody had been ran into it seemed like. It was like Denny (Hamlin) and Chase (Elliott) were both in there and (Ryan) Blaney and (Kevin) Harvick. I was kind of lucky I didn’t get into anybody. I was just like stirring it up as we were leaving in the elevator. It’s like, how’s your relationship doing this week, talking to Blaney. Oh, we’re all good, we’re all good. They’re probably still pissed off at each other, but it’s a part of it. It’s what we live to do. It’s racing. And you’re going to have that. It’s what creates the drama in this sport.”

REGARDING DIFFERENT RELATIONSHIPS IN YOUR SHOP DUE TO THE FAMILY ELEMENT OF THE TEAM, CAN YOU COMPARE THE AMOUNT OF TIME YOU SPEND WORKING WITH THE TEAM COMPARED TO OTHER DRIVERS?

“Considering I live really close to the shop, I go there quite a bit. And, I try to get to know all my team guys and their families and what they have going on in their lives. Keeping people in Welcome, NC is not easy. It’s a different part of the world. Racing is known in Mooresville and that area. So, when we get good guys, we want to treat them right and show them this family aspect that we have at RCR. I also enjoy getting to know people. And when they put their life on the line for me and put in a lot of hard work and effort, I want to show them the benefit of that.”

INAUDIBLE

“I don’t know how to answer that question, truthfully. I like what NASCAR is doing right now, I know that much. And I like the stage racing. I enjoy the changes that are getting made. They’re changes to create people to think about differences in NASCAR like the new pit stops and new adjustments that we’re doing. Things are happening. We’re not at a stalemate. Things are happening to make people excited about this sport. And the youth and drivers coming into this sport; it’s a really good time to latch onto them, in my opinion. There are a lot of positives going on in the sport right now and it’s more of what I’m focused on because I have this opportunity to drive in what I think is the greatest sport. I’m part of a lot of sports as far as viewing them and watching them and keeping up with them. You can’t go to any other sport and get the access that you get at a NASCAR race as a fan. That’s what I want to promote because I love different sports and athletes. I can walk right out here in a minute and fans are going to shake my hand and be a part of it. NASCAR really caters to our fans and I think that’s why we’ve had a loyal following for a long time and now it’s about showing that to other fans that don’t know our sport.”

WHY DID YOU NAME THE PODCAST ‘BARN LIFE’?

“I want to reach another group of fans to show them that I know a little bit about all sports and other things than just NASCAR. But, we’re going to talk about NASCAR and the fun parts of NASCAR on it. Plus, one of my pit crew members is on there. He’s one of my best friends. He was in my wedding. He’s a great personality to have out there and talk to. We’re just going to have fun with it and show them like what we like to do in any given week. It’ll be fun and exciting and pretty much out there to let everybody just live what I live, kind of, in the barn. It’s a cool place. So, we’re still figuring it out. It’s getting better every week. We’ve had test shows. We’ve gotten better. NASCAR has helped a lot with it. Different people from NASCAR have actually come to the barn because they’re excited about it and all want to be the first guy to really kind of lead the YouTube movement, I think. I’ve put some money into my equipment, too. I’ve got some nice cameras and microphones. I have lights for days. So, I’m learning what it’s like and it’s hard right now because I’m trying to figure out the dynamic of what people want to see. So, the biggest thing is just getting comments back and feedback and everybody has been asking me. And it’s cool; like people you wouldn’t expect are watching it. Like I went in the garage and I talked about how my crew chief had the flu. I told everybody that on Thursday before we went though tech and everything that he was probably not going to be at the Clash. Somebody saw me in the garage on tech day and was like man, your boy’s got the flu again? He’s had it twice. The only way they would have known that is if they watched Barn Life. That’s pretty cool that people in the garage are watching it already and talking about it. I’m pumped about it because it just shows me as a person. I try to be candid on there and let everybody have a part of the Barn Life.”

HOW’S YOUR CREW CHIEF?

“Oh, he’s good. I talked to him yesterday for about 30 minutes. He’s recovered. He’s stayed out of the shop as much as he can because he doesn’t want to get anybody else sick before we go on this big swing we go on. He’ll be here. He’s feeling better. The fever and all that broke like Monday. So, he’ll be fine and ready to go.”

INAUDIBLE QUESTION REGARDING RESTRICTOR PLATE RACING

“Well, I’m going to re-watch the Clash. But the good guys lead lanes and can get the momentum from the second place car better than others. Brad (Keselowski) does a good job of switching lanes and keeping momentum and not ever having a guy really get to your back bumper is key. I’m going to work with my spotter because I led some laps in the Clash and I think they were pretty important laps to look back of how could I have kept that lead? Could I have made a different move? I blocked Chase (Elliott) high that one time and ended up losing the lead because of that. So, should I have stayed on the bottom a little longer? We’re going to talk about that type of stuff with my spotter. You talk about the energy of the pack and stuff like that; it’s really key. This year, I feel more than ever, that it’s important for me because I’ve got a car that can lead, I feel like. The Camaro is pretty promising for us. I’m excited about Sunday.”

IS THERE SOMETHING ABOUT KNOWING WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN BEFORE IT HAPPENS?

‘You definitely can see it building. You can see a guy wiggle a couple of times and you know, okay, his car is not handling right. You see him wiggle again and it’s your own fault if you don’t switch lanes or get out of the momentum when it happens. What I’ve learned in the past is if you don’t trust yourself and trust what you’re doing, you usually get your ass bit pretty much. So, you’ve got to make the move when it’s time. The Clash race was a good example. We were coming down to three to go, and nobody was moving, and I chose to move to the bottom with 2 to go. Lost it. Got back in and took another dive at it into 3 and that allowed me to get the bottom lane going to the white flag. And I think the car behind me wrecked. So, you’re one car from being in it or out of it a lot of the times. And you want to be the car that’s out of the wreck in front of that wreck. Sometimes you just are. It’s just part of it.”

HOW HARD IS IT TO BE THE FIRST GUY TO TRY TO MAKE THAT MOVE?

“It’s really tough when you’re in that top 5 or top 6 area because you’re sitting in a good spot, kind of because of the smaller pack that created that. So, Sunday, I think it will help. There will be more power to go down there and there will be two lanes a lot longer in the race. It won’t be one lane against the wall. At some point it will because people break off. Green flag stops usually create that. In the Clash, I think the problem was guys are shuffling each other and nobody trusts each other. It just happens. You have to choose the right time to do it. Then it’s also easier, if you’re in third or fourth, to see that bottom lane coming and dive down and block it. I had a good run. When Blaney came down there it just kind of stalled me and we couldn’t keep going. But, it’s interesting to see how it all works and who will go with you. You’ve just got to create that bond with a couple of guys if they trust you and know your car is capable. Junior, for years, could pull down there and bring five cars with him. So, speed is a big key to this whole thing is getting people to trust you with a fast car.”

WHAT IS IT ABOUT JUNIOR THAT HE BRINGS FIVE CARS WITH HIM?

“I don’t think anybody has established that yet, really. That’s why it was tough to get a lane going. (Kevin) Harvick tried. And if you’re talking about a name as far as somebody to trust in the draft, a good drafter and won these races, he tried in the Clash and nobody went there. But he was trying to pull the tail, which would have been like myself and Chase (Elliott) and Denny (Hamlin) maybe, but we didn’t go. So, I don’t know if that’s been established now that Junior is gone. Brad (Keselowski) is obviously a good one. He can bring a lane with him and it seems like the Penske cars in general are fast enough to start a lane and lead it. I just want to be wedged up in there with them because I feel like our car can do the same.”

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