Austin Dillon has run well in the 2015 season. Though the sophomore driver hasn’t clinched a Chase spot, there is optimism in the Richard Childress Racing camp. Dillon is fighting for his playoff life and it’s going down to the wire heading into Richmond. Currently, the No. 3 team is 120 points out of 16th and will likely need a win in the remaining four races.
In 2015, Dillon has run many XFINITY Series races. When he is behind the wheel of that racecar he is one of the cars to beat. He has won three times and has accumulated 10 top five and 11 top-10 finishes.
Dillon is a believer in one of NASCAR’s new rule packages that they recently debuted. The much-anticipated package allowed for side-by-side racing and the No. 3 team benefited from the package.
In this exclusive interview with Speedway Digest, Dillon discusses all of that and more including RCR’s alliance and how it has helped out both RCR and the teams of Furniture Row Racing and JTG Daugherty Racing.
Dustin Albino: Could you grade your 2015 season thus far?
Austin Dillon: I think it’s a solid season right now. The last couple of races have been way better than the beginning of the year. We just kind of got off to a slow start. We’ve had some failures that put us behind in the points as far as engine failures and other things. We weren’t prepared as well as we needed to be at the beginning of the season, and now I feel like we’re probably at our strongest point in the last two years.
Albino: With the No. 3 team currently 75 points behind the Chase cutoff, the team will more than likely need a win to get in the Chase. What remaining tracks between now and Richmond do you feel most comfortable at?
Dillon: I enjoy Michigan. I think Bristol would be a good one also. Those two are what we have circled right now and anywhere else could pop up and be one of our better tracks.
Albino: Do you feel your team is a Chase team?
Dillon: If we could get in the Chase right now, then I think we are. I think we’ve showed the most speed that we’ve had all year at this point. That’s a positive. I need to go out and if we win a race then we’ll definitely be Chase ready. If you can go out and win a race, then that proves that you are ready to do it.
Albino: How have you been able to transition into having Slugger as a crew chief?
Dillon: It’s been fun. Slugger’s a very aggressive person and he’s very good at getting everything out of me and the car. I enjoy working with him because he definitely pushes me.
Albino: Furniture Row Racing has been running well every week. Have you and RCR been able to learn from them?
Dillon: We can. I think we’ve obviously gained a little to get closer to them in the last couple of weeks and it’s showing for us.
Albino: How close is the alliance?
Dillon: The alliance is pretty close. They see everything that we see and we hope we can see everything that they do, too.
Albino: an affiliating team to RCR is JTG Daugherty Racing. How does AJ give you pointers on how to run a road course since he is a specialist?
Dillon: You can kind of look at his different traces and stuff and check out his brake points and that stuff to kind of rely on and help your driving style.
Albino: How has running more XFINITY races this year helped you progress on the Cup side?
Dillon: I think that the experience going into Sunday and knowing what to expect when you hit the track. It definitely gives you an advantage with where the track is going to go.
Albino: We’ve had many rules packages in the past month or so. Which one do you prefer?
Dillon: I think the 2015 package is the best so far. The low downforce isn’t bad; it’s just they need to put a little more work into it.
Albino: Which of the two do you favor, Indy or Kentucky?
Dillon: Just Kentucky.
Albino: What’s the difference between your rookie and sophomore seasons?
Dillon: I think that I’ve developed as a driver. I’ve been able to be more open to change in my driving-style and I’ve gotten better. I feel like I’ve improved and now we have our team improving in the same direction.
Albino: Have you found that driving the No. 3 has had as much pressure that the media suspected it would?
Dillon: There’s pressure. I think that there’s pressure anytime that you step behind the wheel of anything in NASCAR even though it’s just a number. For me, I just want to go out there and run well for the No. 3 fans and put them back out front and put the No. 3 car back up front where it’s supposed to be.
Albino: What are some of your goals for the remainder of 2015?
Dillon: Obviously to win a race. To get to Victory Lane that will make us go a lot further if we can do that. To get to Victory Lane would be the main goal.