NASCAR Media Conference
June 12, 2013
AMANDA ELLIS: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to today's NASCAR Cam. We are joined by Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 AdvoCare Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. Dillon, who's 4th in the NASCAR Nationwide Series points, is coming off a runner‑up finish at Iowa Speedway where he led 207 of the 250 laps. At Michigan International Speedway, the site of this weekend's Alliance Truck Parts 250, Dillon has one top 5 in two starts. He will also race in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 driving the No.33 American Ethanol Chevrolet.
Austin, you're going for your fourth consecutive pole this weekend in the NASCAR Nationwide Series after earning the top starting position at Charlotte, Dover and Iowa. If you win the record‑setting fourth consecutive pole, you would break a six‑way tie with Sam Ard, Trevor Bayne, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Michael Waltrip. Do you pay attention to the records at all?
AUSTIN DILLON: Oh, yeah. We're out here trying to break records and create a name for ourselves. Any time you can‑‑ that group of people that you just named is an awesome group of people to be held up against, so if we can go out there and break that six‑way tie that it is right now in the Nationwide Series for poles, it would be amazing. I've got the pole at Michigan actually twice I think now. We're going to a track where I'm very capable of setting the pole. We've got ECR engines, some great horsepower this year. Hopefully we can get it done this weekend.
Q. With slowly transitioning into the Sprint Cup Series, what are some of the many goals that you set for yourself?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think most of all is these races that we have this year is to run all the laps. I think it's very important to gain experience throughout a full run. You go through lots of changes in a Cup race where you have many stops, pit stops and changes, so the cars change a lot more throughout a long run, and just trying to keep up with those and making sure we don't get out early in these Cup races where we can't use that experience to help us for next year. I think that's really big, like I said, to finish these races, gain that experience so you have a little bit of a notebook going into next year.
Q. Not only do you have the three poles in a row but your average starting position this year is kind of crazy. Is qualifying just an emphasis for you guys, or why do you think your starting positions are so good week after week?
AUSTIN DILLON: That's a good question. Danny Stockman does a good job with giving me something I'm very comfortable with during qualifying. I feel like qualifying has always been something that has been not really‑‑ it just comes to me naturally from dirt racing. I've sat on a lot of poles in dirt cars. One of my favorite things to look back on I sat the pole for the World 100, one of the toughest dirt races out there at Eldora, and qualifying has just been something that I feel like getting in the car that I can go out there and hold it wide open for a lap or be in the gas the longest is something that's been pretty simple for me, but right now it's just making sure that we can do that throughout a run and be fast over a long period of time.
Q. How does starting that far up help you in the race, especially in some of these events that are loaded with Cup guys?
AUSTIN DILLON: Well, it's good to start there just because of track position, and in a shorter race like the Nationwide Series races, you don't have the opportunity to make many adjustments to your car. So starting up front, and also having the No.1 pit stall is huge. Getting that early pick for a clean pit stall in and out makes your day a lot easier when you don't have to deal with multiple cars around you when you come down pit road.
Q. Just a quick question about Indianapolis. On July 27th you guys are going to be back at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and just would like for you to comment on what it would mean to you to put RCR and the No.3 back in victory lane as Dale Earnhardt did, and also how did you run there last year? How did that go for you?
AUSTIN DILLON: Oh, Indy, the inaugural race at Indy was great. We had a good time, and I finished fifth. The car was really good. I actually got into the wall running third or fourth early in the race, had a really good race car, just going down the straightaway I actually got too big of an entrance entering 1 and knocked the fender in, so that made us pretty tight the rest of the race. We were able to take two tires and hold out for a fifth‑place finish.
Had a good car, our teammates both were really good. Elliott Sadler had a great shot to win the race and Ty drove up to third, I think, at the very end. We've got some speed there and looking forward to going back. It's going to be a busy weekend because I'm running the trucks at Eldora and then driving up to Indy for Saturday, so it's going to be fun.
Q. What would it mean to you to put the 3 car back in victory lane at such a prestigious racetrack?
AUSTIN DILLON: Well, any time you can put that 3 car in victory lane it's huge. The fans love to see it run well, but at a place where it was so successful like Indy, the Brickyard, to go back there and put it in victory lane would be crazy. I wouldn't know what the feeling would be like. It's our second race there ever, and to put a 3 back in victory lane would be very cool, very special.
Q. I'm working on a story on Trevor Bayne, and I was curious whether you felt he raced you more aggressively than he has in the past going for that win the other day.
AUSTIN DILLON: No. We raced against each other in the E Series hard, just the same at other tracks, and we had raced short tracks a lot. The year was 2008 when we raced for Rookie of the Year together, and we also raced for a points championship, and we raced hard like that at a bunch of short tracks, ended up‑‑ we've always raced hard against each other. We're both very aggressive, and that was just the last few laps of the race, and we were fading and got caught up in lap traffic and felt like we gave up some time there, so I had to race really hard to try and hold on to a track that we felt like was where we were really fast and led most of the laps all day. Just it fell where every circumstance kind of changed for us with the sun popping out and then the rubber being washed off the track and not having a competition caution, our car started fading at the end of a long fuel run. It was the longest run. It was 76 laps or something like that. So it was just a part of racing. His car was set up for a long run, ours would take off and hold on. We just needed a caution to make one adjustment.
Q. I don't know how well you know him, but did you ever get any sense from him either through talking to him or the way he's raced that maybe he's feeling any of the pressure of trying to fill in the role of the driver of the car that's won the last two titles?
AUSTIN DILLON: Oh, I'm sure. Mike Kelley and Ricky Stenhouse did a great job in that 6 car the last two years, and it was really fast. They started off a little slow, and so did we this year. I'm sure that they're just trying to get back to their form. Trevor is a good driver. Like I said, I had the run against him in '08 and I figured out how tough he was there, and we had some good battles then, and I'm sure there will be some more to come.
Q. I wanted to find out with the quick turnaround this weekend driving with Nationwide and Sprint Cup race at MIS what do you take from one to the other and how do both go hand in hand as far as competition and education goes?
AUSTIN DILLON: Well, as far as education, I'm looking forward to the second time that we've run the American Ethanol Chevy in the Cup Series. Last year we ran there, and we were actually having a really good run in the Cup race and had a radio blow up. It was one of the worst situations that you could have.
Sorry, there's a clock in the background; that's one of my grandfather's Martinsville clocks. Pretty cool to hear it chiming back there.
But as far as using both for information going forward, the Nationwide car has a lot less horsepower, so you try and do whatever you can to‑‑ I think the Cup car helps the most because when you get in the Nationwide car you have a ton of confidence, when you get in the less horsepower. I get in there and I feel really confident about what I can do with moving the car around the track. And the Cup car is more about gaining experience and knowledge for next year and seeing how much the track at Michigan has changed since the new pavement. A lot of our guys are suspecting that it's going to free up quite a bit, and I hope that we'll be set up perfectly for the race and we'll go after it and have a good strong run in both races.
Q. You ran great on Sunday morning in Iowa, leading a ton of laps, but the Cup guys weren't there. Do you feel we need to reduce the amount of races for the Cup guys to come into the Nationwide Series and the Truck Series to race?
AUSTIN DILLON: Truthfully I felt like that was the best car we've had all year long, and if the Cup guys were there, I don't think the outcome would have been much different. I think we were going to lead laps either way. I've raced against the Cup guys in a bunch of races this year. There's only been really one that's changed the outcome, and that's Kyle Busch, and he's been tough. Their car has been dominant at a bunch of these races.
We had a car I feel like if the Cup cars were there this weekend, we could have competed and been really strong. Not saying it is tougher having those guys there, but we've got Brian Vickers, Regan Smith, Elliott Sadler that were all there this weekend that have run multiple Cup races in their career, so personally the only guys that weren't there were Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne and Kenseth, which those three have been running quite a few this year, too. But we've been able to run up front with those guys, it's just one guy is spoiling the party, and that's the 54 car right now.
Q. How much are you and your dad and grandfather preparing for next year and what your Cup program might look like and how it's going to fit into the overall structure of RCR?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think we've been working on it quite a bit, just trying to figure out small things really of how to get the most experience going into next year such as running different races. We've run a bunch of races this year for the Phoenix Racing Team, and really very happy that we're allowed to do that because experience is huge, and when you don't run‑‑ running the Truck Series and the Nationwide Series you don't ever get that horsepower that you get when you get in those Cup cars. It's been a blast working with those guys and very thankful to have been able to run those races that we have.
Q. Going back to Indianapolis, what would a win at Indianapolis mean to your Nationwide career, to maybe‑‑ I don't want to say cap it off, but you're going to Sprint Cup eventually, and what would it mean to have a victory there for your Nationwide Series career?
AUSTIN DILLON: Well, I think it's very important to win some of these races that aren't standalones. I think having the Cup guys there is big. I think going to these places, like you said, Indy, Daytona, and having a win, it just boosts your confidence, and confidence is huge in this sport. Your mental approach is huge, and getting those victories against the top‑ranking guys really will propel you to the next level.
Q. Obviously you are famous now for bringing back the No.3 of Dale Earnhardt for the first time since he passed away at Daytona. What are some of your personal favorite memories of the Intimidator?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think personally it's just being there at the Daytona 500 when he won and being able to rush to victory lane and do the hat dance and look back at pictures with me and my brother hanging out in victory lane, and then not really knowing what part of history we were really a part of. And also looking back at being with my grandmother and my mother at home watching the Cup race on Sunday, and our family tradition was to sit down and watch the Cup race if we weren't at the Cup race, and our favorite thing was when Dale won we were going to get pizza that night. That was a big deal to have pizza night after Dale won, and he won a lot then.
Q. There's a ton of pressure that comes with just driving that number, but you seem immune to it given your history and your family situations. Now you're just having success on the track at every level that you get to. How do you stay grounded and not get too far ahead of yourself?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think RCR has done a good job of letting me take my time and really get experience at different tracks and run two years in the Truck Series was huge, and now our second year in the Nationwide Series. I think they've done a good job of developing us, me and my brother both, and staying on the path. As far as me and staying grounded is I never feel like I've made it, and Jimmie Johnson, he's a great example; I don't think he feels like he's made it because he keeps going out there each and every weekend and winning races. Just go out there and stay focused and know that I have goals that I want to accomplish, and hopefully in the end I can accomplish most of them.
Q. You have a job that most people would love to have, in fact most people watching us right now would call it their dream job. What's the best part about driving a race car for a living?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think the best part is going to the track and competing against the top‑level guys, being‑‑ there's only one Cup Series out there, and that's the highest level of Motorsports in the whole world, and to be able to compete in it, it doesn't get any higher than that. It's unbelievable to be able to be out there racing with some legends, and also getting to be with our fans. We have the best fans in NASCAR, and to see them each and every weekend, it's a blast to know how much support that they give you.
Q. A lot of people who aren't race fans, the naysayers out there sometimes will say race drivers aren't really athletes, but you are for sure, you played baseball and you went so far as the Little League World Series when you were a kid. Have you ever gotten a chance to meet athletes in other sports and sort of joke around and talk about if they could drive a race car? How do you think maybe LeBron James would do behind the wheel of your car?
AUSTIN DILLON: That would be a good question. First of all, we'd have to cut some bars out to get him in there, and second of all, NASCAR is a total different outlook. It takes a really mentally strong person to be able to get in a race car and do the things that we do. Physically for myself, I have to feel very confident in myself, so I work out a lot, stay in the gym, and that's big for my confidence, and that's what I like to do. Some guys, they don't have to work out as much, but mentally they have to do other things to take them to the next level.
As far as athletic topics, me and my brother are huge sports fans. Our channel never leaves SportsCenter, we're always on there watching NBA, NFL, whatever it is, big Fantasy Football fans. I'm in a bunch of leagues. So I know quite a bit about other sports, played almost every sport you could play in high school. I have some mutual friends, Drew Storen who pitches for the Nationals, he came to Daytona this year and supported me, and I got to take him around the track at Richmond last year. He couldn't understand how fast we go through the corners. I was just taking him around in a Camaro. I think we were going 110 at Richmond or something like that, and we were rolling. It was kind of raining, so I had him pretty pumped up, and it was a good time to show him what we do on a regular basis.
AMANDA ELLIS: That's all the time we have for today. Austin, thank you for joining us, and we wish you the best of luck this weekend in Michigan.
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