NASCAR Media Conference
July 12, 2010
DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to a special NASCAR teleconference in advance of this weekend's NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events at Gateway International Raceway. Joining us is Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. Austin won his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series from the pole just 24 hours ago, give or take a few minutes, at Iowa Speedway. That's noteworthy for several reasons. He's now the series second youngest winner, at age 20 years, 2 months, and 37 days. It's also the first series victory for Richard Childress Racing since 1995. And not the least, Austin's grandfather is NASCAR legend Richard Childress and is also his team owner.
Now the No. 3 team heads for Friday's Missouri Illinois Dodge Dealers 250 at Gateway with Austin seventh in the series standings after 10 races.
Austin, has it sunk in yet?
AUSTIN DILLON: I don't know yet. We celebrated with the guys last night at the local Bass Pro Shop in Iowa. They had a bowling alley, a bar, a poolroom. We went over there and hung out. I think about midnight last night it kind of sunk in. It was hard to sleep last night, that's for sure.
DENISE MALOOF: That sounds good, as it should be. Congratulations again. We'll go straight to some media questions for you.
Q. Austin, in the span of just over a week, your grandfather has visited Victory Lane three times, once with the 3 car with Dale Jr., Kevin Harvick won at Daytona, and then your first trip to Victory Lane yesterday in Iowa. I just wondered, what has it been like to be around your grandfather this past week or so? With two victories coming in the 3 car, what was it like to play a role in this outcome?
AUSTIN DILLON: You know, I was at the shop last week. The sign out front, we put different stuff up top of the sign. I was looking at it. It said, Life is good. I think that represents us right now as good as anything.
We got our first victory in the Truck Series. My grandfather was there to celebrate with us. It was pretty awesome. RCR, last year was a pretty rough year for us. I think we've turned it around for us this year. It's pretty exciting to see what's going on.
Q. How difficult has it been for you to be so close to running well week after week, and then finally getting the victory, but also for all the people who paid attention just because you were running the 3? Must have been a little pressure on your shoulders.
AUSTIN DILLON: I put a lot of pressure on myself. Just try each and every week to get the best finish we can with that number. I know the fans want to see it up front. That's where I want it to be.
Luckily we came through yesterday and had a dominating performance. I think we've been kind of edging out this whole year. We've been fast at all the racetracks we've been to, just had little mistakes here and there that have hurt us, put us behind.
The last two weeks previous we've had poles and run well in the top five. This week at Iowa, I knew we couldn't let another one slip. Everybody on the team, myself, did a great job of just minimizing mistakes. We were flawless yesterday.
Q. Since this was your first win in the series, will you keep any type of mementos, whether it's driving gloves you won't use again? What will you take from yesterday and put in the trophy case with the trophy to signify the significance of this win?
AUSTIN DILLON: You know, I think the biggest thing I'll probably keep is that Bible verse that we had on the dash of the car. I read it right before that last restart. I really think it helped me. Kind of took a deep breath, was ready to go after that.
We're going to get a big picture with all the guys. I'll probably put it in the trophy case with it.
Q. What was that Bible verse, do you recall?
AUSTIN DILLON: It was Romans 15:32, I think. I got it here. Let's see. 'That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God and may with you be refreshed.'
Q. How did that help you?
AUSTIN DILLON: You know, I was reading it. Everybody was on the radio trying to figure out for that green-white-checkered if I should choose the top or the bottom. My grandfather wanted me to choose the top. My crew chief didn't know if the bottom was better. They were kind of arguing about it.
I kind of had in the back of my head what I wanted to do. I just looked down at it, read it. At the end of it, I said, 'You may be refreshed.' I took a deep breath and chose the top where I thought we needed to go, told everybody we were going to be all right. Went and won. It was pretty cool.
Q. Obviously you've been around racing. I'm intrigued about the power of the 3 car. You've seen it at the local levels. As you get up to the higher ranks, the more national series, there's more of a fan base, how does that strike you? When you see people celebrating what Dale Jr. did with the 3 car at Daytona, you putting it in Victory Lane at Iowa, I know you're not new to this, but how does it strike you and what does it mean to see that?
AUSTIN DILLON: You know, it's so awesome to see that number running well again. When you see it on top of the board when you leave the track, that was really a cool sight. To see the 3 when you're leaving the track, it was on top of the board. That was cool for me and my grandfather. My grandmother got to be there. It was just really cool.
Like you said, Dale Jr. did a great job last week of winning. It's a powerful number. It makes the people in the stands stand up and cheer. I love driving it. It's a lot of fun.
Q. Are you still going to school? Are you off for the summer? Has that helped focus on things?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I'm off for the summer right now. I didn't take any summer classes. But we start back at the end of August.
Q. Do you find it any easier to concentrate or focus on the driving when you're not taking courses?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I think so. It relieves some of the stress. You can be at the shop more, hang out with the guys, just less things to think about. You can really focus on the racing part.
High Point has done a great job of letting me be able to go and do the things I need to do, whether it be testing, and get ready for the races.
Q. Now that you've won, will that help you if you have to miss a class at all or anything like that?
AUSTIN DILLON: I don't know (laughter). They still make me go to all the classes, keep up with my work. I think it will stay the same.
Q. You're going to be a junior?
AUSTIN DILLON: Sophomore.
Q. I know you've been around racing long enough to know that it takes a lot of talent, but it also takes a ride to win. As you look around these days, it's hard for young drivers to come up and get a shot like you've got. Do you think you would have gotten a shot to show your talent if not for your relationship with Richard Childress?
AUSTIN DILLON: You know, I really take it to heart each time I strap in that car or the truck or whatever I drive. I drive dirt late models. Came back home yesterday, this morning, to drive one tonight. Got rained out. I'm racing tomorrow night. Whatever it may be I get in, I try and do my best.
You know, I think there's always a shot of making it to the top whether or not. I have a good opportunity, like you said. I've tried to take as much advantage of it as I can. Yesterday I did and we won, proved that we can do it with all the competition in the Truck Series.
Q. With this victory yesterday, how does that kind of change your outlook on the season as far as racing coming up in the next few weeks? Do you approach them any differently?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think we approach them the same way we have been the last couple weeks. We've been still focusing on getting those finishes and running in the top five. That's as most important as anything.
Today when I got off the plane, I looked at the points. I think we're only like 260 something out of the lead. That was pretty cool to see that. I think we're still in the hunt for this championship, especially with a dominating performance like yesterday. If we can go to a few more of these tracks and do that, we can still win the championship.
Q. Austin, what has been the steepest part of the learning curve for you so far? Did you expect to be this far along in your career this fast?
AUSTIN DILLON: I know once we started racing, my dad always kept us moving really quick. I didn't get to win a lot of races as I was moving up. I got to run. Once we did well, he'd kick me up really quick. I'd break through the learning curve. My little brother would come through and win all the races in whatever series we'd break through in. Legends cars, my brother would win, they'd kick me up to dirt. We'd start running good in dirt. I'd get kicked up. Ty would come through and win the dirt races.
It's cool now to be in a point I feel like that we can start winning races, that I'm in a series now that I can take my time and kind of learn how to race and how to win races. Yesterday was the start of that.
Q. You mentioned your brother. Do you still share a lot together, a little bit more than what team members might do?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah. I help him as much as I can. I went to him the other day in the ARCA garage. My crew chief and I helped his crew chief and him try to change their car around. Really before qualifying, he picked up a bunch and got the pole. That was really cool to see both of us on the pole. He ran a great race, finished second. That was really cool.
I mean, he's my brother. Once he gets in the same series I'm running, it might be a little different, but I'll still help him.
Q. Coming up to speed so quickly in the Truck Series, a lot of people are thinking about your future plans, where you might go next. Have you sat down with your grandfather and mapped out a plan for the Nationwide Series, how might that go in 2011? Do you have a set of long-term goals where you want to be over the next couple of years?
AUSTIN DILLON: You know, we've kind of sat down and planned out next year. I'm planning on running the Truck Series again next year, running for a championship again, which I'm really excited for. I think that's the way we need to approach it, is try and get more experience.
We did win the race yesterday. I know everybody wants to move up quick. I feel we're at a point right now where we can take our time. My grandfather is the same way. We don't want to rush things, move up too fast. Just puts you in a bad situation. That's the plan for so far, is to run the Truck Series.
Heck, you never know, we might enter a few Nationwide races. Got to run at New Hampshire a week or two ago. Had a good run going, had a little mistake. You never know, we might get a few Nationwide races next year, a few by the end of this year.
No long-term goals set yet, but you never know. With good wins, good runs coming, you never know where we could end up.
Q. Can you put into words how much more exciting or important this victory was than your late-model victories?
AUSTIN DILLON: It was really exciting. You know, I got that first Camping World East win back in 2008. It was a win. Went down in the books as a win, but it wasn't truly a win because we didn't cross the checkered flag first.
This time it proved to everybody that I could actually win and win under a pressure situation with the green-white-checkered. It was a heck of a celebration. I'm glad we got the first one behind us. I know we can do it now.
Q. You've run well in the past at Iowa, right?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, we've had some success there in the ARCA race and the Truck race last year. We were waiting for that one race, that one truck to put everything together, run like we did today.
Q. As well as you ran yesterday, does that give you a better idea of saying, when you go to a track that you haven't run at before, what the truck will need?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think so. The biggest thing is confidence and mentally that you can go out and win races now. You've proven it. It's time to go do it. I think getting that first one behind you is really big.
Q. Where are you running late models tomorrow night?
AUSTIN DILLON: Gastonia, North Carolina. The Ray Cook Southern National Series.
Q. This has nothing to do with racing.
AUSTIN DILLON: That's fine.
Q. The Cup Series has lost our teenage heartthrob in Kasey Kahne. He's pushing 30. Joey Logano could potentially be that next kind of hottie to follow in the series but has a girlfriend. Would it be a good fit for you? Do you have a lot of female fans? Could you be in a commercial where girls are chasing you?
AUSTIN DILLON: I have no problems with girls chasing me. That would be pretty cool. I don't know how to respond to that.
Q. The more important thing is something for the younger fans to enjoy in the sport. That was something that Kasey brought. He attracted the younger fan base. Maybe since you're a college student, that's another way you can help bring younger fans to the sport. Do you think about that?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I remember when Kasey first started, I was even a fan of him. After meeting him and how cool of a person he is, he does appeal to the younger audience. That would be awesome to bring younger fans into the sport. Like you said, the college atmosphere. If it may be girls, whoever it may be, the younger world, I would love to have as many fans as I can get. Whatever it takes to get 'em, we'll hopefully keep winning and see how it goes.
Q. Austin, let's go back to the Legends Nationals three years ago at Orlando. How big an advantage do you think running the Legends cars gave you over everybody else who has never run a car that's that hard to drive?
AUSTIN DILLON: Running the Legends car, I think the biggest thing about that is the horsepower, the tire ratio. You have a lot of horsepower, you have a small radial tire that doesn't have much grip, you have to figure out how to hook it up.
I think running those cars helps me move along even further into dirt. You drive them similar to a dirt car. You kind of carry that mentality over.
Q. I want to say in five of your first seven races this year you didn't finish on the lead lap. Did you lose any confidence during that time? Did you have any time wondering whether you were doing the right thing?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think the confidence level was always there, especially with the way the trucks were running. We were in practice and running well in all those races. We had a freak accident at Charlotte with the lug nuts. I'll take the blame for Daytona on that first-lap deal. Just put in a bad situation there on that.
Other than that, though, we've had fast trucks each and every race. Just haven't got the finishes due to mistakes, whether it be on pit road, on the track.
I think the confidence was always there, like I was saying, especially after getting those poles, running up top five. We were running good in other races, but didn't get the finishes we deserved.
Q. Did you talk to anybody specifically after that Daytona deal? Anybody say anything that was particularly helpful?
AUSTIN DILLON: Actually, Carl Edwards met me at the car right after that happened. He told me, Man, don't feel bad. I was leading here and spun out in my first truck race. I don't know if it was his first, whatever it was.
That's cool when a guy like that can come to me and knowing I had a really fast truck, just saying it's okay, everything is going to be all right. That's cool of him. Carl is a great guy for that kind of stuff.
Q. When you look back to yesterday's race, what do you feel you were able to do to win that in the sense of what did you learn from yesterday? Were there experiences from earlier this season that helped you at situations late in the race where you could get that win as opposed to being a driver that is close and is not able to finish it off?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think the whole season really helped us. We've had little mistakes at certain races that have hurt us when we've had fast trucks. Every little mistake you go over before you start to race and make sure nothing can go wrong, we talked about it in our team meeting before. We need to minimize mistakes and give 110% if we're going to have a shot at it.
Pretty much all the experience from all year has come into play. My restarts weren't as good as we should have been in previous races. Yesterday that was one of my strongest points, were restarts. As soon as we took the green flag, I could restart and get a lead, and that was big.
Q. How did you get better at that? Obviously you can't practice that during practice or over at the shop. How did you improve on that aspect?
AUSTIN DILLON: Just really focused on everything you have to do with hitting the shift, shifting at the right point, not spinning the tires, make sure you're focused on what you have to do. When you do it more than once, it's shame on you.
Yesterday I was able to just hit my marks on my shifts and get to the gears at the right point and take off what everybody else wasn't taking off.
Q. I'm sure your phone and messages blew up afterwards. How many people did you hear from? Were there people from the Cup and Nationwide level that left messages for you yesterday?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, there was a bunch of RCR teammates, Burton, Clint Bowyer. They all sent me messages of congratulations. It was just really seeing people that had helped me along the way, whether it be people that helped me with my dirt sponsorship, different stuff. It was really cool for all the people that have gotten me to where I am now.
Ricky Carmichael sent me a text a few minutes ago congratulating me again. We're really close friends. That's cool.
Q. Did you get to hear or read any of the stuff that Dale Jr. said after winning in the 3 car at Daytona about never driving it again and so forth?
AUSTIN DILLON: I got to hear a little bit. Not much, though. I was actually running a dirt car when he won.
Q. He basically said it's a lot of pressure. Of course, his situation is different because it was his dad. You seem to have no problem embracing driving the car, even with all the pressure that comes with it. Would you say that's a fair statement? If it were up to you, would you mind driving this car the rest of your NASCAR career?
AUSTIN DILLON: You know, I love running it. It's a lot of fun. Like you said, there is pressure behind it. The fans want it to run well when it's out on the track. It's something you have to take on and take on as a challenge is the way I look at it.
It's fun to me running that number. The fans stand in the grandstands when you run well with it. It's different, like you said, from Dale to me, from family background.
I do enjoy running it. But it's grandfather's decision when we run it and how long we run it.
Q. You've won pole three straight times, never raced at Gateway. Can you continue that kind of run or run up front? This is a track where you have to run pretty much up front if you're going to win.
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I've been getting a few notes from dad and some other people have been telling me about the track. The way our equipment and trucks have been handling, I feel like there's no reason we shouldn't be able to go out there and run well. We might not be able to pick up as fast as we usually do in practice and make the adjustments we're able to make when we were fast right off the truck.
There's a good shot at it. Four in a row would be awesome. I don't know what the record is for the Truck Series for how many poles in a row, but I'd love to go for it.
Q. Having never raced here, have you been talking to people who have in the past?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I mean, just trying to get as much information as you can gather. But the main thing is when you get there, you have to learn it yourself. That's what I figured from going to these places for the first time. You have to go out there with the mindset that you're going to pick it up quick, you're going to learn the line, do what it takes to get fast, whatever it takes, and do it fast. You only have an hour and a half each practice.
DENISE MALOOF: Austin, thank you very much for your time. Congratulations again. Good luck this weekend at Gateway.
AUSTIN DILLON: Thank you.
DENISE MALOOF: Thanks to all our media who participated. We will see you very soon.
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