CHEVY NCS AT CHARLOTTE 1: Austin Dillon Teleconference Transcript

NASCAR CUP SERIES
CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
COCA-COLA 600
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
MAY 22, 2020

AUSTIN DILLON, NO. 3 COCA-COLA CAMARO ZL1 1LE, met with media and discussed the return of NASCAR to racing at the two Darlington events, the fitness aspect of the upcoming Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, his relationship with the GM BuyPower Card and Pit Stops for Hope, and more. Transcript:

YOU HAVE A COLLABORATION WITH THE GM BUYPOWER CARD. CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT YOU’VE BEEN DOING WITH THEM LATELY DURING THE TIME-OFF WE’VE HAD?
“We created a relationship last year with the GM BuyPower Card from Capital One. We started off with a good year and this year, with everything that’s going on, obviously, with the coronavirus, we wanted to figure out a way to come together and partner and give back to our local community. Ray Wright, who is also on this call, is a good friend of mine. He’s our pit coach here at RCR and started Pit Stops for Hope a while back. I’ve always enjoyed working with him and seeing the work that he has done throughout our community for education and the local Piedmont Triad, and then has also been providing meals for kids. I’m getting ready to have my first kid and seeing what fatherhood is about. It’s kind of my mission to help support other children. Ray has always been really good with our racing community and bringing them together to find ways that we can give back. And so it was really cool that GM BuyPower card, Capital One, to help us out here and it’s made our relationship tie together closer and has really brought that family atmosphere to it.”

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FROM A REALLY WIDE VIEW, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS PAST WEEK AND HOW NASCAR GOT BACK TO RACING? FIRST, THEY HAD TO HANDLE JUST THE RETURN ITSELF WITH ALL THE HEALTH PROTOCOLS AND SUCH. AND THEN YOU GUYS GOT GOOD RACES OUT OF IT AND HAVE SOME MOMENTUM GOING INTO THE 600. HOW DO YOU THINK THE WEEK HAS GONE?
“I was sitting at home last night and I had the TV on ESPN and I saw Chase Briscoe’s amazing victory and his interview. Seeing that on ESPN, it’s been a minute since our sport has really been featured on that channel, and that just kind of made me proud of NASCAR for the efforts they went through to be the first big sport to come back. I think NASCAR, a lot of people were watching, because of the amount of people that we have to bring to the track. It’s huge for our sport. I’m really proud of all the guys and girls from NASCAR that made it happen and they’ve done a good job of bringing it back safely. I felt like it ran super smooth. Obviously, it was awkward for the first time sitting and waiting and not being able to do things leading up to the race. That was kind of tough. But, as far as going out and getting in the race car and getting back on track, it felt so good just to be in a race car again. As soon as the green flag dropped, it was a race. And you saw that. It was good racing. And yes, we do have big momentum going into the 600, one of our best races as a sport that we have. I’m looking forward to that race.”

WITH ALL THESE NEW EYES ON YOU AND PEOPLE WHO MIGHT BE NEW TO NASCAR, HOW DO YOU GET THEM TO SIT THROUGH THE 600, WHICH IS NOT ALWAYS THE MOST EXCITING RACE?
“Well, I think the package that we are bringing to the track now for 1.5-mile races, makes it more exciting. This weekend at Darlington, if you would have told me of those two races that we would have only gotten one green-flag stop in, over two races, that would have surprised me. I feel like it was pretty action-packed when it came to cautions and people wrecking and spinning out. Some spinning out I feel like can bring a caution out. That’s a different subject. But, I do feel like the racing will be action-packed this weekend at Charlotte. They’ll be good action on the track to be able to follow along and obviously re-starts and the stages have definitely brought more excitement throughout our races.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL PHYSICALLY? DO YOU THINK ANY DRIVERS WILL BE KIND OF FALLING OUT OF THE SEAT FOR THE 600 DUE TO THE FACT THAT THERE’S NO PRACTICE? THEY’VE GOT TO BE IN GOOD SHAPE
“Yeah, I’ve spent a lot of my time early in the mornings during this coronavirus pandemic working out. So, I feel like I’m in the best physical shape I’ve ever been because I’ve had time. Usually, during this timeframe, I just can’t find the time to really get on a routine and focus on working out because I have a lot more obligations than I currently do. So, I’ve been able to really focus on my physical fitness. That’s been a good thing for me. I hope some of the guys have been lazy and played video games a lot and they fall out of the seat on Sunday because I feel like I’ll be one of the guys who is in a good position to hold onto that steering wheel for all 600 miles and put myself in a good position when it comes down to it at the end. It’s a quick turnaround because each race, the lingering affects of a long race, you definitely feel the dehydration factor and you can get that back quick. But, I feel like there’s also just time that your muscles and stuff take to kind of recover. You can get the hydration back quick; but I used to run two or three races on a weekend, and I know how I’ve recovered from those. So, I think this is the same as just kind of going back in time when I was running both Xfinity and Cup and sometimes Truck. And you’ve got the guys that just know how to deal with that and how to keep themselves in good hydration that helps in the long run.”

WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN AS FAR AS THIS ACCELERATED SCHEDULE AS FAR AS THE EQUIPMENT AT RCR? DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU GUYS ARE IN GOOD SHAPE FOR ALL THESE RACES IN A SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME?
“Well, as long as we don’t tear anything up. I feel like we did a good job in these first two races. It definitely can put a burden on your team if you wreck cars. Some of them lost two cars in two races. That’s not a good start, obviously, to a couple months worth of races packed-in. It just creates longer hours with a smaller group of guys who are able to work on the cars. You don’t give the road crew an ability to go help your mechanics work on the car because you’re separating them. So, you just don’t want to put your team behind by wrecking cars. And we’re in a pretty good spot right now, I feel like, at RCR, where we are able to turn both those cars around and be able to run them again.”

YOU HAVE PEOPLE FIRED UP ABOUT THE ‘CHOOSE CONE RULE’ ON TWITTER. WHY DO YOU THINK THIS IS A GOOD IDEA AND SOMETHING THAT NASCAR NEEDS TO ADOPT?
“My thoughts are that as a sport, we’re always changing. We’ve done a really good job with the 1.5-mile program and brought it back to life. I think the next thing is trying to make it better for the fans and create more drama than it already has. The ‘choose cone’ is something that is utilized throughout short tracks in America, asphalt, you name it. You see it on a weekly basis at places when I was heck, racing Legends cars at age 14, with no radios, you could figure out how to make a choose cone work. You just chose and that was your line that you had to make. This puts it in the drivers’ hands. It kind of allows us to decide our fate when it comes down to restarts. You can’t just be bummed because you got the bottom and you lost four spots on the last restart and you’re really a 10th place car or a fifth-place car, you lose spots because of your line you’ve had to choose. This makes it where you get to that choose cone, and the first three cars have chosen the outside, that guy in fourth can pull all the way up to the inside pole and try and make it work. And it’s the same throughout the back of the field. You’ll have guys that will take the outside three or four rows worth of it, and it gives that guy, all right, go see if you can make it happen and keep those spots that you think you can gain on the bottom. I think you’ll see the announcers in the booth will have something else to talk about. And after the race they’ll be questioning, man, I should have chosen a different line. I should have chosen the top or the bottom instead of I was given the bottom. And also, I was watching the Xfinity race yesterday and those guys literally were brake-checking to get off the end of pit road. It takes out pit crews’ fast stops. Your pit crew could have gained you a couple of spots there, but instead, you’re giving up two spots because you’d rather start on the outside. That’s got to stop. I think it’s going to knock somebody’s nose in at the end of pit road before too long so that’ll end a guy’s race.

“I don’t feel like it is a hard thing to do. I know that the cone with the rope is a little outdated. I just want a painted area in the restart line. A bunch of the drivers got together and talked about it. I feel like we can accomplish it as a group. We’ve been able to bring our sport back through a pandemic. I think we can make a choose rule work. It’s not that complicated in my eyes. I don’t want to be the guy up there in the booth the first time because I feel like it would be a little bit hard. But there are certain tracks like Michigan, where you’ve got a long time before you get back around to the start/finish line. I think that would be a great place to practice it for the first time. It’s also a place where the top line is dominant. You lose three or four spots by the time you get to Turn 1 because of the draft there. So, it would create a long time for them to be able to straighten it out by the time we got back around. I think, personally, the drivers can straighten it out themselves. If you choose a line, you must stay in that line after that mark. If you swap lanes, you’re automatically black-flagged and brought to the back. And if you don’t give up your position before the start, it’s a lap penalty. I think that will create a way that no one is going to mess around and change lanes. You get to that line, you’ve got to make a decision. And that’s what it is.”

DO YOU GET THE SENSE THAT NASCAR IS OPEN TO THIS AND SOMETHING THEY’LL CONSIDER?
“I think they’re definitely open to it. From the discussions I’ve had, I just feel like there’s a lot going on right now, so I can’t push too hard because they have a lot on their plate. But it is something I wish they would put on the drivers’ plate to kind of handle a little bit because I kind of feel like given that responsibility, we can do a good job as a group. Have a meeting about it, like this, and talk about it as drivers and try and make it happen for our sport because I know it will be more exciting and give you that, like I said, put it back in our hands at the end of the race to be able to decide our fate.”

FOR RAY WRIGHT, CAN YOU TALK A BIT ABOUT PIT STOPS FOR HOPE AND THE DONATION BETWEEN AUSTIN DILLON AND THE GM BUYPOWER CARD?
“Basically, Pit Stops for Hope started in 2013. It started right here at RCR when we found out the North Carolina, our home state, has a major problem with children and being food insecure. One in four kids in North Carolina go to school hungry. A lot of these kids are elementary school age, middle-age school age, so a lot of kids aren’t getting the proper nutrition and they’re brains aren’t developing. So when you get more into schools, you find out that the teachers in the school system are actually putting snacks in the kid’s backpacks and trying to help them get through the day. They’re putting school supplies in their backpacks. And the teachers do not have a budget for that in our state. The teachers are amongst the lowest-paid teachers in the country. So our society is really continuing a cycle of poverty. We’re sending hundreds of kids to school and then they’re going into a classroom that’s not properly funded by a teacher that’s not properly paid. So, what we’re doing is we’re paving the way for poverty. And that’s been Pit Stops for Hope’s mission since 2013 to raise awareness for these kids and for better education. We help them find food and we help these teachers provide a better atmosphere to learn.

“I’ve known Austin since he was in high school. We’ve had a great relationship through the years. I was the minister at his wedding and he has been with Pit Stops for Hope since the day we started. He loved the idea and loved that it is a local charity because he knows the need that’s in this area. And it’s a big need. What we’re doing now with the GM BuyPower Card is something that can’t come at a better time. Kids were in trouble before this pandemic. Now schools were cancelled, so you have kids who have to do online learning in their houses, who might not have a parent at home. They definitely don’t have a Chromebook to learn online. A lot of kids went to school just to get food. So now they’re at home. They don’t have nutrition at their house and they don’t have the tools to learn online. Before the pandemic is was a problem and now, during the pandemic there is a bigger problem.

“So, this is perfect-timing. We got with local officials in our county and the counties that surround us, and you try to find out who needs Chromebooks and who needs tablets. We’ve done two food giveaways in the parking lots at these schools. We posted some of those pictures on our social media. The lines were out onto the road for people waiting to pick-up a sandwich. So, I’m always proud of Austin and who he is and how he represents himself and his home state and his hometown. And, we’re just very happy at Pit Stops for Hope that we have this money to go help the community with.”
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