THE MODERATOR: We're going to continue with our media availabilities for our Daytona 500 championship team. We're now joined by the crew chief of the No. 2 Discount Tire Ford, Jeremy Bullins. Why don't you just talk us through what it felt to be up on that pit box there that last lap or two.
JEREMY BULLINS: Well, I'll try to talk about it. I was screaming for the last half a lap, I think. Long time coming for me personally. Obviously awesome day for Austin and Team Penske. But I feel like I've been coming here forever trying to win this race, and finished second two or three times, been on the front row, a restart at the end, put it on casters or something.
So this is awesome. That's about the only way I can describe it.
Q. Describe how incredible Cindric has been so far with the team, especially like a year ago he had a great run, to come back now, a year later, working with you, to get the 500, especially for that 2 car to finally win it.
JEREMY BULLINS: Yeah, Austin has shown the last couple years in the Xfinity Series the amount of talent that he has. And the thing that's probably surprised me the most, since we knew all this was going on, is how hard he works at it, the time he spends away from the track, the questions he asks, just the effort and the studying that he puts into it to be good at it.
To his credit, he's done everything that we've asked him to do as a team, to try to learn and get better.
Obviously did a tremendous job today of staying out of trouble, making moves at the right time, putting himself in position, and I don't think you can express how hard it is to play defense at one of these races when you're leading, to be able to finish that off.
I'd be remiss if I didn't say thank you to Ryan. That's a hell of a teammate. That's a -- I've been here with him and felt like we were going to win with him, and I can't thank him enough for being that good of a teammate because we probably don't win that race without him.
Q. Jeremy, first, the incident at the start of the race, I think it was lap 41 with you guys and Chase Briscoe and Kaz Grala losing the wheel, how close did that come to ruining your race, or did it have much of an effect at all?
JEREMY BULLINS: We were very fortunate that we didn't get any damage. I know Austin feels bad about turning the 14 around there. I think the position he was in, he couldn't see the tire getting away, and I think those guys in front of him did and started checking up for it.
Austin just kind of had too much momentum there, so I'm really glad it didn't ruin the 14's day. It was just one of those things when you get -- it's so hard to see past the guy in front of you that those guys were able to see something he wasn't, but we were very fortunate not to get any damage and not affect our day really.
Q. Austin doesn't have like the typical background of a lot of NASCAR drivers, having spent a lot of time in sports cars, but he's won in everything that he's done in NASCAR so far. How would you assess him as a NASCAR driver so far?
JEREMY BULLINS: Well, I mean, I don't know how many Xfinity races he's won over the last two years, but to win a championship and be 50 feet from winning two in a row, I'd say he's done okay.
It was a matter of time before he got this opportunity, and he's done a really good job and taken advantage of all the -- he's had a lot of opportunities, but he's taken advantage of all of them.
And I think that's the main thing is when he's gotten these opportunities, he's put the effort in to take advantage of it.
Q. You talked about Ryan, that final restart, was it being in front of Ryan that was advantageous or was it the inside line, both? What goes through your --
JEREMY BULLINS: It's the whole thing. I'll be honest with you, you see at the speedways, we saw the Gibbs guys do it a lot and the inside guy lets the outside guy in, and that's just part of this kind of racing. That's part of how it plays out.
To be honest, I never even considered asking for that when we were the leader. I thought green-white-checkered we're just going to race for it and see what happens here. It was Ryan's idea. Like I said, hell of a teammate. I mean, the guy is awesome.
Then to know you've got somebody back there that you can trust pushing you, he kept us out front, no doubt.
Q. Just kind of curious, what are your expectations now? When you have a guy, he goes out and he wins right out of the box, I guess we kind of thought maybe it might happen on a road course for him, but to kind of just establish himself as a player this early on, how do you keep things grounded and just focused on November?
JEREMY BULLINS: Well, I think we're both very realistic people. I know that we both know that these speedway races are very unpredictable. Definitely we feel like the road courses are a great opportunity for him to showcase his strengths.
But I think if you look at the last couple years, he's gotten really good at mile-and-a-halfs. He runs well at Phoenix, he runs well at so many places.
I do think the sky's the limit for him if he continues to work like he has, and I have no reason to think he won't.
But we're realistic, and we know we've got a lot of work in front of us with this car and a lot to learn, and we still know what the level of competition is on this side of the garage, and he knows that.
This is great. It's awesome to be locked into the playoffs. I've never done it this early in the year, so I'm really excited about that. But at the same time we know we've got a lot of work to do, and that just means there's more playoff points available between now and then.
We'll just keep working like we always do.
Q. You've had a lot of near misses here, like you said. What did you take from the last six years of working with Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski on superspeedway racing specifically that you were able to apply to this race to make this win possible?
JEREMY BULLINS: Well, I would say it's not just me, it's my whole team. We've been fortunate enough to work with great guys like Ryan and Brad that we learned a lot about drafting and the things that you have to do to be successful and how to pit the races, how to keep track position at the right time and do all the things that we were able to do today.
You've got to survive the day and be there at the end, and we've done that a lot. So the odds had to be in our favor at some point. Daytona chose us today, I guess.
Q. Going down the backstretch on the last lap of the Daytona 500, you had Austin Cindric leading, Ryan Blaney second, Brad Keselowski third, literally all three guys you've worked with in the Cup Series to this point. What was that like for you watching them all, and what does it mean to you to have played a part in all three of their careers to get to this point?
JEREMY BULLINS: I think I look at it the other way. I think it's probably more the role that those two played in my career, to get me to this point, not necessarily what I've done for them.
Just the experience of working with them. Ryan from a rookie in the Cup Series to having some experience to an experienced veteran like Brad, I would say I'm grateful for the lessons that I learned through all that, to be able to try to help somebody like Austin on this journey of moving to the Cup level.
I'm grateful for everything I've experienced to be able to try to pass that along. I'm getting old. I've got to teach somebody how to do something.
Q. Jeremy, can you provide a layman's explanation of what was going on with the wheels and what happens if you don't get those wheels seated in that slot? Is that what contributed to the two wheel issues we saw today?
JEREMY BULLINS: Well, there's been a lot of discussion about wheels this week, so I'll tread carefully.
We have had some instances where there's a lot of -- like a lot of really tight tolerances on a lot of the parts on this new car, and if you look at the back of the wheel, there's a lot of lug holes there that line up on the drive pins on the hubs.
A lot of times, when you have that many holes and that many lugs and very close tolerances on all that, we've had a couple -- we took a set of wheels out of the rotations today because we made some tools to check them to make sure they were what they were supposed to be, and we pulled a set of wheels out and didn't use them today because we were afraid they might not go on.
It's all new stuff, and it's all very nice machined stuff, but when you stack up those kind of tolerances, we have seen some interference issues. That's what we've all been hedging against, if you will, through some of the things we've done.
It's one of those things that is something you deal with when you have a new car and new parts. And it's not the first thing that we've found, interference, things like that, when you have a car with this many things different. It's just one of those things that we'll work through every time.
I don't want to be a politician, but I'm not sure what everybody else's wheel problems were, so I don't want to speak on it.
Q. Austin Cindric, when he first started at Penske, that first Xfinity year, I want to say he averaged like a 17th place finish. I assume you still paid attention to what he was doing. Was there any thought when he was coming up that, man, he just didn't have it?
JEREMY BULLINS: Well, I think whatever opinion anybody had of him had to have changed over the years with the experience that he gained. I think Jeff Gordon tore up a lot of race cars, too, at one point, and he turned out to be pretty awesome.
I think these guys just -- there's so many guys, and I felt like this with Ryan, he had so much talent and just needed the experience, and I think it's the same thing with Austin.
I think the years he's been in the Xfinity car and the experience he gained there just made him better to get to the point where -- I hope this gives him a sense of belonging over here, that I can do this and I do fit in and all those things, because that confidence is very inspiring and leads you to do great things.
Did it start off great? Maybe not. But I'm telling you the kid studies and he works hard, and he puts a lot of effort into it. If he's not doing well, he will figure it out for sure.
Q. I want to press a little bit on this tire thing but not make it too rough for you. How confident are you in this kind of new era, so to speak, of NASCAR and the development of this car and their willingness and openness to talk? Do you feel as though you'll be able to come to a good resolution? In other words, they'll ask the questions and you can explain your side of it and maybe there will be some changes? Do you feel confident about that?
JEREMY BULLINS: I feel confident that NASCAR will work with the teams to find a solution when we run across problems, absolutely I do. I think if you look at where the Next-Gen car was in testing during the year at points last year, we had a lot of work in front of us.
I think if you look at some of those tests towards the end of the year, there was a lot of effort and collaboration between NASCAR and the teams to find the best solution to try to produce the best racing we can because that's what's important for the sport.
I think when we put the sport first, we're able to work together and find good solutions, and I think yes, I think we will do that.
Q. Did you get any feeling from just your guys, any sort of different aura having a rookie compared to a guy who last year who's a 10-year veteran and a former champion?
JEREMY BULLINS: Well, I think -- how do I say this? I think our guys were up for the challenge. I think you look back at the last few years, we ran -- it's a lot of the core group that we've had for years. Grant, my engineer; Kirk, my car chief; Darin, my engine tuner, a lot of these guys, we've been together for so long that we felt like, if we stuck together and did what we always do, we could give him the tools that he needs to learn and be successful.
I think that continuity is a very powerful thing in the sport, and I'm really glad that we've been able to keep those guys together, and they do a really good job.
THE MODERATOR: Jeremy, thanks for joining us today, and congratulations.