Tuesday, Dec 06

Transcripts: Austin Dillon Press Conference - Daytona International Speedway

THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and continue with our post-race media availability as we're joined with our race winner, Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

Austin, made the Playoffs for the fifth time in your career. Won your way in. How does it feel?

AUSTIN DILLON: Feels amazing. I prayed before, let God have all the glory and light shine through me. Today getting through that wreck, I mean, it was -- I don't know what you call that. We went from 15th to first. I know what it's called. It's called the good Lord was looking after us.

It was cool to go through that whole cycle of thinking that the race was going to be called for rain. My first reaction when I got out of the car was, stay focused.

I was just happy to be in the position that we were in, and I said that in my interview. I was, like, whatever happens from here, it's a win. We're in a good spot, and that's all you can ask for.

You go in that room where they make you sit and put the camera on you forever, and it's like you're thinking in the back of your head that somebody is going to walk around the corner and say, Hey, congratulations, you've won, but you don't let your mind drift to that. You still have laps to go.

And I knew after that second storm, had to get my mind right. If they didn't call it then, we were going back green.

When they went back to replaying the race, I went to my bus and went over there and watched Paw Patrol with Ace because he needed a nap. He never went down. He is like me. He don't sleep.

Just chilled with him and watched our Carolina Cowboys. I watched them up until the time I got in the car, and I knew they had won the game, so it was cool that we won and they won in Austin, Texas. Pretty sweet day.

It's our first event win for the PBR team. They won and we did too. It's an amazing day. Thank you, Jesus.

THE MODERATOR: Let's go ahead and open it up to questions.

Q. I think it's safe to say one of the key moves after we got going again was the either contact or near contact with Austin Cindric running for the lead. I was wondering if you could walk me through what was your intention there, and how did that play out?

AUSTIN DILLON: Laps are clicking down, and I knew I could get to the 2's back bumper pretty good. The 62 and the 8 did a good job of getting up through there, so I felt like three Chevys in a row was an advantage.

In the back of my mind I knew that the 12 car was still out there, and before I didn't know where he was points-wise. If I waited until the white flag to make the move, possibly if he wrecks or someone wrecks back there, it could take our shot away.

I wanted to make it before the white. Truthfully, that was -- it just kind of happened. I was kind of planning on getting a bigger run than that before and pulling out to the right. And I figured that the 2 was going to be a sitting duck because they were going to go with me, the Chevys would, and then we would race it out from there.

He kind of got loose as I got to his back bumper into one, and I kind of have been giving him that same shove. I don't know if I just caught more momentum that lap than the others, but when he got free, I just kind of moved up the track.

Then I got way out front. It's very hard to tell yourself to hit the brake pedal when you are driving away from the guys that are behind you to not give up that huge gap.

When I saw Tyler got there and they were all splitting up, I was, like, Man, I can't let them go too big of a run. I knew Tyler would have my back. He has been a good teammate to me, and I enjoyed working with him.

Hit the brake pedal. He got on my back bumper and from then on it was managing the gap to him in my mirror. We were able to bring it home.

Q. As best you can tell, was there an actual impact between your bumper and Austin Cindric's?

AUSTIN DILLON: No harder than I had been the last ten laps pushing and pushing. You see them flaps come up in the front. We're pretty much connected. I'm pushing him.

It wasn't any more than what I had been, I felt like.

Q. This is probably as close to a 'ball don't lie' moment in NASCAR in terms of it looked like you were going to get it, and then you had to still go out and earn it. Was there any sense of pride in pulling that off after the circumstances?

AUSTIN DILLON: It definitely does feel like that. I say that a lot in our basketball league when I get fouled, and everybody in the league complains that I get fouled because I run the league. It's like when I knock down the free-throws, ball don't lie.

For me it's one of those things that my wife, she was upset when I came back because I got mad at her. She was dancing on pit road during the rain delay. I didn't say anything to her personally, but I had Craven reach out and say stop that, we're probably going to go back out racing.

She said, When you have faith, you don't -- you just -- you do. You enjoy those moments.

That was a happy moment to be up front either way.

It was kind of like, Okay, you're right. Have faith.

Coming down to the choose, when I had to choose top or bottom, I knew the 51 had a clean car. Brandon and I discussed it with the 19. Is his car going to be better on the push? We didn't get going great, but I was able to get to second, and I think second was key right there because of everything going on behind me.

I never got shuffled, and I could determine the lines and the pushes that were going on.

So it was written. It was pretty awesome to just be behind the wheel today. I feel like it was a good day.

Q. Austin, in 2019 you were leading this race, and then the big wreck happened that ultimately gave Justin Haley the win, just how full circle is the moment now three years later, you got the win because of a big wreck also in turn one?

AUSTIN DILLON: That's actually very funny about Daytona, and I didn't even think about that. But I've always thought about I tore down the fence, probably one of the worst wrecks in NASCAR history, come back and win the Daytona 500.

2019 I did feel about as confident as you could feel out front leading that pack. Clint got a run to me and turned me in front of the field. And I looking back I made an aggressive move cutting left on him. It was like, Whose fault was it? Doesn't really matter. It's over now.

It's cool how this place just -- I don't know. There's something about Daytona. When you pull through the tunnel, things just happen here. It's an exciting place. Always creates some kind of drama for sure.

Q. Going into turn one, you're behind Austin. Was the intention of getting to his bumper and getting him loose? Were you going to move him?

AUSTIN DILLON: Truthfully, it was trying to get him out there. Kept pushing him out. He would do a really good job of I think he was on the brake pedal because it wasn't getting him far enough out. The 62, he could kind of get to my back bumper and get a run, and we got a decent run through the tri-oval.

My intention was to get the lead before the white, so it worked out the way I wanted it to. But I'm not going to just say that that was the time I really wanted it to happen. I was actually just trying to get him a little further out, and he got free right there into one.

Q. Any concern, though? He gets a little loose or sideways?

AUSTIN DILLON: I'm glad he didn't come back up the track at a high rate of speed. He did a good job saving it.

It wasn't any more than what I had been doing. So I don't know if he just kind of was turning left as I was touching him and it made him get freer, but that was it really.

Q. We were talking yesterday over at McDonald's, and saw you working through the drive-through. That was pretty cool.

AUSTIN DILLON: Served some Coca-Colas in the drive-through at McDonald's.

Q. As one of the Coca-Cola drivers, to win the Coke Zero 400, to put the 3 car in victory lane, you've won the Daytona 500, to win this race too, is this a great day or what?

AUSTIN DILLON: The Lord has blessed me a lot of happy days. This is definitely going to be one of them. I will cherish it and thankful to have my son in victory lane and Whitney and my whole family here.

We love Daytona. We come down early to enjoy this area. It was cool because my first win, Ace was too little. He was just born in Texas so he could not come. Here is his first time he got to go to victory lane.

I don't know what he expected of it and seeing him thrown around a little bit of confetti. At first he was really tired because he hadn't napped, but he got the gist of it after a while, was and running around. I was terrified he was going to slip in all the champagne and Coke. He made it through. (Smiling).

Q. Is there any extra satisfaction to winning it in kind of -- if they had called it, it would have been a little bit controversial.

AUSTIN DILLON: Yes.

Q. Is there any extra satisfaction to winning it kind of straight-up?

AUSTIN DILLON: For sure. I've got four wins in the Cup Series. Each one of them mean something different to me for different reasons. But the Texas one where I had multiple restarts and had to win and cross the checkered flag was probably one, from the driver's standpoint, one of the most important wins to me.

Then now this one, too. To go through all that and to be able to be, I guess, clutch in a moment that mattered is important. To us in all sports, right? To deliver when you have the opportunity to deliver...

This year I've had some moments that were very close. Charlotte being one of them. I mean, I didn't sleep a lick after the 600 just knowing that we had put ourselves in a position with a tire advantage.

I made a heck of a move, and everybody was, like, Man, that move was amazing, blah, blah, blah. I thought that I kind of gave that away in turn three because I overdrove it. I got loose. It hadn't done that the whole race, but I was carrying a lot more speed than I had the whole race.

That one hurt me, and it kept me up a long time. I've always prided myself to finish races when I have the opportunity. Today it feels good to finish it off.

Q. Tyler Reddick obviously was behind you there for the last few laps. Everyone knows what happened over the last month. Was there any concern of yours that he wouldn't play teammate at all?

AUSTIN DILLON: No. When Tyler made his decision a couple of months ago, I called him and congratulated him. For me being an owner's son sometimes comes with caveats, and I wanted to make sure that I had nothing to do with the reasons that he was leaving.

When I called him, I was, like, Hey, man, I just want make sure I've been a good teammate to you.

He said, No, you have been an amazing teammate. Me and Alexa really enjoyed being around you guys.

I said, Look, man, congratulations on your deal. Let's go try and win some races for RCR over the next year and a half.

For me, I was in none of his negotiations, talks, or anything. So it was more like he has been in a way inspirational to me to pick up my game because he has so much speed, and he shows it constantly. Tyler has been good for me. Then I think I've been good for him in some consistency aspects. We've rubbed off on each other in different ways to really help.

When he got to my back bumper, I knew that I could trust him. Now, earlier in the race he made a heck of a move getting on pit road, and I thought I beat, like, four or five people getting on pit road on the outside. That little fart drove around me and Stenhouse and somebody else and got himself in a good position.

But I was, like, Dude, where were you going? Did you get scared at all about making pit road?

He was, like, No, I felt good about it.

That's just how Tyler is. It doesn't matter what position he puts himself, he is confident, and that confidence shows. I'm thankful that he has been my teammate for this long, and hopefully together both of us can keep progressing our share forward, and it feels good to have us both in the Playoffs.

Q. What kind of or is there a validation to being a Playoff driver, or are you to the point with your career you've been in it enough that validation is going to come more in your mind with finishing top ten and being somebody like that as opposed to just getting in the Playoffs in some years?

AUSTIN DILLON: I think every time you make the Playoffs it's validation to yourself that you're one of the guys. You know what I mean?

I think somebody said we've made it five times now. I don't know how many years I've been doing this, but every time you're not in it, it doesn't feel good. You're not going to the banquet at the end of the year. You feel like you let your guys down, you let your company down.

For me it's everything. It feels good to get a car that I felt like we should have been in earlier than this, but it doesn't matter how you get in, you got in.

15 winners or 16? 15? 15. That's a testament to this car and Next Gen and how competitive the field is. I don't think there's any other form of motorsport that has this type of competitiveness week in and week out.

You go to qualify at Watkins Glen, and from first to 20th, you look at the time sheet, and you are holding your breath for a hundredth to move you up five spots. It's what the Cup Series is supposed to be. It's challenging.

You never give up because that's kind of what this year has told me.

Q. How do you do it? It's easy to get beat up?

AUSTIN DILLON: I've got a great support him. We've done a lot this year. Having faith in our background, I talk about religion a lot because I feel like it's a big part of who I am, so for me the Lord has blessed me with a great family that can keep me grounded and I can lay back on something. Morals mean a lot to me.

Coming back to that and having that support system is probably -- when you go through ups and downs and the wrecks like at Charlotte this year or Atlanta, I mean, I hit the wall a ton in Atlanta, twice. Sore neck every now and then. But I'm not going to complain because I've been around those cowboys that ride bulls. Those guys live hurt. I can tough it out. I'll be all right.

It's a different type of tough when you get to go around those guys. I think they've been inspirational to me too. It's kind of drove me to have a little bit more fire just being around them. I did a training camp with them with some Navy SEALS, and I did the first day, and I had to leave for an appearance.

Those guys are scrappy. They have to love what they do to do it to justify it. If you lose the love for your sport, you're not going to perform at the highest level.

You've got to find why you're coming out here each and every weekend and doing it. For me it's family.

Q. When you group this win with all the wins you've had over the last four years and Tyler's wins this year, when you look at it big picture-wise for RCR, is this the most significant that shows where your program is right now?

AUSTIN DILLON: I think the next one is. You know, that's the next time -- this is a big win. It's, obviously, awesome, and I'm going to enjoy it and celebrate it and enjoy the fact that we're going to get to go compete with the top 16 drivers.

But it's the next moment, right? You have to look forward to that next one to really see where the company is at because this sport, you just level yourself off of everyone constantly. You're constantly being judged against the guy next to you.

So right now it feels really good. We came out on top, but we got ten more weeks of this.

Q. When you are sitting back there in the room just waiting and they're parading competitors in there to do interviews in front of you, and you are sitting there alone waiting, what's the worst part about that?

AUSTIN DILLON: I was cold. I didn't have a dry shirt for a little while, so that was getting to me.

Then just kicking the back of my feet on the little wall there the whole time just trying to act cool, and inside you're just chilling, waiting.

Q. Is that why you changed fire suits, because it was wet?

AUSTIN DILLON: For sure. This one is actually a photo shoot fire suit, so I had to cut a hole in it for my water deal that we plug up to to keep ourselves cool. I didn't even realize it when I walked out there that it was, like, not ready. I had to take a box cutter and cut the side of it to let the hole out (Laughing).

Q. You talked about this being a clutch moment. Obviously, very big day for the team to win your way in. This race and the way that it unfolded with someone winning their way in is really what this format and what this race becoming the cutoff race is all about, right, so it's what the sport wanted. What is this moment like from an adrenaline standpoint, to be a part of that, like immediately afterwards to be, like, we did that because, again, it's what the sport wants, and everybody talks about coming down here and doing it, but we haven't seen it until today?

AUSTIN DILLON: There's such a balance of harnessing adrenaline and staying in the moment because your mind plays tricks on you constantly. You're trying to stay focused on what's at hand and not get too excited. If you get too excited, you're going to make a mistake. You're trying to keep a level playing field in your mind of stay aggressive, make the right move when it counts.

I felt really calm over those last couple of laps. Just the position we were in, I felt confident. You don't always feel that at speedways.

There's certain moments when I feel really good out there, and I'm, like, Okay, I feel like I can control the momentum of the pack. That pack was a little bit smaller, obviously, but I have been in bigger packs and felt the same way.

Xfinity racing, 2019 we had that car that was unbelievable, and it felt like I was in control of what was coming out on the track. It is so hard to not let your adrenaline get too high. You have to harness it and use it to your advantage as well.

Q. Immediately after crossing --

AUSTIN DILLON: After crossing the finish line?

Q. -- did it hit you? What was that like?

AUSTIN DILLON: I don't feel like it yet. It's hard to, like, enjoy it. It's crazy because there's a constant, like, weight or pressure. Even though we've crossed the win, I'm going to enjoy it when I get out of here at some point. It's going to be, like, Ah. My adrenaline is still high right now, so I'm, like, trying to come down off of whatever that is that we get when we're running 200 miles an hour out there.

Q. We've looked at the replay a dozen times, and you went to the apron immediately when the big wreck happened.

AUSTIN DILLON: Yes.

Q. Was that your only choice, or was it instinct? You know, it looked like you knew what you were doing.

AUSTIN DILLON: I had no clue it was raining from where I was. I was just enough back from where you can see my end car, and there's some sprinkles, but I thought that was oil because the 99, when he kind of got turned and up in the air, I saw that. So my immediate reaction was get to the flat because I knew he was headed up the hill.

You start to understand certain things of which way cars are going, momentum is going to take cars. So he is going up the track. The next thing that's going to happen is somebody is going to get clipped and turn back left. You are hoping you make it far enough forward before that car comes back across the apron or my direction change is really going to hurt when I get clipped and go up the hill.

So the bottom is advantageous because you always have an out, but in the same sentence, some of the hardest hits you're going to take are when you get right-reared and shot into the fence.

When I hit the apron, the first thing that goes through your mind is you're coming off of a ton of banking at a high rate of speed to a flat, so you're back-steering instantly as you hit the flat. I'm starting to decelerate ever so slightly because you can't carry that same amount of throttle.

I made it to where I could see out of the peripherals. I didn't know it was the 4, but I knew a car was coming down the hill. He did a good job of not coming to the apron. The next thing I gassed up for a second to kind of clear him.

The next part is the 21 is in front of me. For a split second, it was, like, Oh, I'm going to hit the 21, and I got to the brake pedal, and the car settled in just enough time to get the right front out of the 21's way and underneath it.

Then, it was clear skies from there to kick the gas back up, down-shift, and keep your momentum up.

Q. You say it's your fourth win in the Cup, and this means a lot to you, but how about for the whole family? Richard just said it that it's been a long time that one of the family members have won here in Daytona.

AUSTIN DILLON: Yes, for sure. Any time I can bring Pop Pop a win, it feels good. He is the reason that RCR is where it's at. When you can go make the boss man happy, it feels good. He has been pushing me hard these last couple of weeks. Like, Hey, we have got to get in this Playoff race, We have to do what we can.

Another point that I didn't bring up, that was all of our key alliance for Chevrolet in the top eight Now are in the Playoffs. That's pretty cool for Chevrolet.

Proud to be a part of that group that's in it for the Chevys.

Q. Now that you're in the Playoffs, how do you feel about the first round?

AUSTIN DILLON: Actually, the first round for history looking back has been a good round for us in the 3 team. We've done a good job of upsetting some teams in that first round.

Darlington is a good place for me. So it's a great starting point. I think we finished second the last time I was in the Playoffs in that race. I feel good at Darlington.

We've got to improve on what we took there earlier this year. That's a slow, slick place. When those long runs happen, I feel like that's some of the best driving I do is when the tires wear out.

I don't know the next place off the top of my head because I was so focused on only getting in the Playoffs. I didn't even worry about the first round. Darlington, and Then what's next?

Q. Kansas and Bristol.

AUSTIN DILLON: Kansas and Bristol. Kansas was a decent track earlier this year. We're just going to have to go to work and really rely on the sim at Chevrolet and at RCR. It won't be from a lack of effort over the next three weeks to progress and try to get another win.

Q. Austin, I don't know if you know this, but it's been 32 years since the last time a cup race here in the summer started at 10:00 a.m., 1990. Would you care to know who won that race?

AUSTIN DILLON: Somebody already said it. Was it Earnhardt?

Q. Yes.

AUSTIN DILLON: That's pretty cool, 10:00. I'm telling you, this place has connections. It's crazy.

Q. I wanted to kind of talk about the restart where the cars all kind of wrecked. Did you see any rain? Secondly, on that last lap move to Austin Cindric, did you do it for Dale?

AUSTIN DILLON: (Laughing). No, it was more about just figuring out how to get to the front, and I was thinking about the teammates I had behind me. And I knew that if I made a move, that I was going to have a little bit of help. It just kind of played out that way.

^ Jaime start The restart I did not see the rain. My spotter told me immediately after we got through the wreck, it is pouring, and I was, like, Oh. I truthfully thought that the 99 got turned because that's all I could see from my perspective. Then I watched the replay, and I actually did have fluid. I thought it was probably -- it happened so fast that I didn't know that there was any fluid even.

I was just going to the apron to miss the wreck. So I never really lost traction like those first guys that hit it did. That probably was an advantage too that when they hit it, it might have dried it up. When I got to the flat, it wasn't as wet when I got there. I didn't feel any dampness on the flat. I don't know.

Q. Your last win here, you went out and I think there was a tattoo involved (Laughing). What are your plans? What special is going to happen here tonight? Didn't have you a golf tournament or something you were supposed to be playing in today?

AUSTIN DILLON: I do. I have a golf tournament, and I was working on a plane flight the entire time because the plane I was going to use broke down. I was going to use my grandfather's plane. He said after it rains, I'm going home.

Then I've been working on a flight, and my good buddy, Johnny Morris at Bass Pro Shop, that's where we're headed. We're going to Big Cedar to play Payne's Valley and it's for the Dilly Cup. It's a tournament that my dad and I started last year.

It's just a fun Ryder Cup style format. It looks like Johnny has waited around for me, so we're going to possibly go there, I guess. I don't know. Are we not? Or we are? I guess we might be going there. I don't know.

Q. That takes care of the post-celebration?

AUSTIN DILLON: We'll have some good times there for sure.

Q. No tattoo shops?

AUSTIN DILLON: No tattoo shops in Big Cedar in Missouri. If there is one, we might find one.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks for coming in, and good luck in the Playoffs.

AUSTIN DILLON: Thank you, sir.

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