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NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES: COKE ZERO 400 POWERED BY COCA-COLA


July 6, 2014


Kurt Busch

Austin Dillon

Brian Vickers


DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

KERRY THARP:  We're now joined by our second place finisher in today's race, and that's Brian Vickers, and he drove the No.55 Aaron's FSU National Champions Toyota, and our top finishing Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate, coming in fifth place, is Austin Dillon.  He drove the No.3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet.
Brian, I'll start with you.  Certainly one of those races that I'm sure there was a lot of strategy going on, a lot of things being said over the radio with the weather and so forth and so on.  Just talk us through all that, how tough it was today for the drivers because I'm sure it wasn't an easy afternoon.
BRIAN VICKERS:  No, it wasn't.  There was a lot of strategy going on, and it kept changing.  When we started the race, knowing there was a competition caution coming at lap 20, we thought about kind of taking it easy and going to the back, and lo and behold, the lane we were in just kept going forward, so we went to the front, and then it got a little bit too dicey for my comfort that early, and guys were moving around a lot.  So we went to the back, just had a bad feeling about kind of the energy in the pack and where it was headed, so we dropped back, and at about two laps later there was a big crash and we were fortunate to be out of that.
You know, and then we kept going there and got to a point where we were ready to go but just didn't quite have the speed we needed in the car to get from where we were at to the front, and we ended up actually getting into the pack at about the wrong moment and were fortunate enough to get through the last big wreck.  I saw it kind of starting out of the corner of my eye, a car from the outside to the inside just went way too quick, and I just jumped on the brakes and as soon as I saw it opening downshifted and went to the gas and was able to get through it.  But very lucky to get through that wreck and keep the FSU car out of trouble.
The guys did a great job.¬† They called a great race and put me in a position to win there at the end.¬† You know, it was just‑‑ we were just a lap away from an opportunity to make a pass, and you know, I had one shot at the 43 with a run, and the 13 got to my right rear corner and I just couldn't move up and do anything with it.¬† We were just stuck there.
And then the rain just came at the wrong time for us and the right time for them.  You know, it's unfortunate, just really proud of everyone on this Aaron's Dream Machine team.  They've done a great job getting the momentum going back in the right direction, and that's what we need right now.  Would have really loved to have put this Florida State University National Champions car in victory lane, and that's frustrating.  You know, I was hoping they would wait it out.  We've got lights, it's Daytona, it's only 2:00, but I guess they felt the need to call it, so it is what it is.
KERRY THARP:¬† Austin Dillon, talk about your run out there today, a strong top‑5 showing for sure.
AUSTIN DILLON:  Yeah, it was a good run for our Bass Pro Shops Chevy.  We just made it through the wrecks.  Seeing it like Brian and everybody up front at the beginning was swapping ends and didn't look good, and we made it through the first one, and then the second one hanging out there down the backstretch, and my teammate was in front of me, and he checked up, and I checked up, I kind of just shot the middle and they went left and got lucky.  I saw Jamie flying through there.  That was crazy.  Made it through that, and sitting pretty good there.  I think me, Brian and a bunch of the guys right there would have loved to seen it go back, but it's racing.  It's part of it.  We've been here for a while and would love to go back, but that rain has been tough to deal with all weekend.  I'm ready to go to my dirt race, which is in Indiana.  I'm trying to get out of here.

Q.  Guys, this is obviously one less kind of wild card race off the books, and that means with Almirola winning there's one less spot in the Chase for points.  It's been so much talk about wins this year, but now that there's even less spots for points, does this sort of accelerate what you'll be looking at every week as far as the standings and trying to have good points days as well as a win?
BRIAN VICKERS:  Yeah.  I mean, obviously the fewer spots there are, the intensity picks up for the guys in that position.  You know, I think every week you go to every race trying to win and knowing what's at stake if you do and what's at stake if you don't.  The closer to the Chase you get, the more that intensity is going to pick up.  Our job is to go out there and try to win next weekend.  We came close this weekend, but the weather didn't work in our favor, and that's that.  We've just got to get on with it and go to next week.
AUSTIN DILLON:  Yeah, same.  We jumped from 18th to 13th in points.  There's less positions now, but just got to stay consistent.  We had a test at New Hampshire this past week.  I felt like it was a good test for us, and we go on and try and keep these runs going for us as a rookie, and I think it'll close up the rookie points now, too.  We've gained a lot the last couple weeks, and this will definitely help.

Q.  Austin, how bad did you need this performance today after the strong season that Kyle Larson has had?
AUSTIN DILLON:  It's huge for us getting a top 10, a top 5; it definitely can change the rookie race.  We've got some momentum now.  We've got the last four races, I think, in the rookie race, and just stay consistent and hopefully we can come out with this thing.  Our cars have been really fast all year, and we're getting better each week.  I feel like we're gaining a little bit, and I'm excited about that.

Q.  Austin, after all the attention you got down here in February, you've still been hanging around, so just where would you assess your team halfway through the season and what do you think is the biggest thing you have to work on going forward?
AUSTIN DILLON:  Well, Kyle has had a great season and I'm kind of putting our season against his because we're racing for the rookie of the year.  That was our main goal going into this year.  Any other year the last couple years it would be a great season, but the way they've run we've put a lot of pressure on ourselves.
You know, we're hanging in there.¬† Just want to find some more speed at these mile‑and‑a‑halfs, get more consistent.¬† Kentucky was a good race for us, just didn't make a good adjustment at the end.¬† Experience will come with that, I hope, and like I said, I feel like our cars are getting better and we've been really harping on that as a group at RCR to make our cars better, and I think we're starting to show.¬† Ryan had a good run at Kentucky, and hopefully we can carry that on at New Hampshire.¬† We still saved a test or two, I think, as a group, so maybe those tests will help us out.

Q.  Brian, did you think you were racing to the finish there before this storm came, and how long would you think would be reasonable to have a delay before you should get restarted?
BRIAN VICKERS:¬† You know, I didn't‑‑ it wasn't‑‑ Billy mentioned before we went green that the weather was still a ways off, so obviously we knew it was a possibility and storms have been building all day.¬† You know, the few sprinkles we had I wasn't sure if it warranted a caution, but I understand NASCAR's concerns after the Nationwide qualifying incident and don't disagree with that.
Knowing that we weren't even supposed to start the race last night until 7:00 p.m., I was shocked that we called it at 2:00 something in the afternoon.¬† You know, I was expecting‑‑ I know a lot of the fans tuned into the TV and stuck around at the racetrack waiting to see a finish, and I was expecting them to wait a little bit longer knowing that we have lights here and it was going to be a night race anyway.¬† So I was a little surprised, but then there were circumstances that maybe not so surprised that it was called early.

Q.  Austin, as far as the rookie part of it, are there some learning curves that you had to overcome in the Cup level you'd like to share with other rookies and fans out there?
AUSTIN DILLON:¬† Oh, for sure.¬† Each week you learn a little bit here and there and what it takes to compete at this level.¬† I mean, it takes a full weekend from the start of the weekend when you unload off the trailer, and learning that is just‑‑ it's the hardest level of racing in the world in my opinion, because I've never done anything past this.¬† But for us, just progressing each and every week and being smart throughout runs and trying to make our cars better throughout a race instead of maintaining, that's one tough spot.¬† You've got to be able to gain through a race and you can't just maintain, where in a Nationwide race or a truck race it's shorter and you can get your car decent in track position and you can kind of maintain that way.

Q.¬† How odd is it to be racing not knowing is this going to be the last lap?¬† Is this the last‑‑ because you know that the bad weather is coming and you're just uncertain like do I have two more laps to make it move or do I have to get it done now?
BRIAN VICKERS:¬† Yeah, I mean, it's definitely challenging, especially this type of racing, because being in the lead has its advantages and disadvantages, so you don't necessarily‑‑ I mean, I think probably more advantages than disadvantages.¬† I'd rather be in the lead than second going into the situation, but you just never know when the checkered is going to come.¬† I think to a certain extent, as many fans as stuck around today to watch this race and to see 160 laps, knowing it was only 1:30, 2:00 in the afternoon, I was shocked that it was going to be called this early in the day, knowing that we have lights and it was supposed to be a night race anyway.
I don't know, I just kind of felt like it was going to be another storm that would come and go and we'd go back green and finish the race.  But it ended up not being that way.
AUSTIN DILLON:¬† For me, it's tough because I thought we were racing to 80 there for a while, and when we got‑‑ I hang around in the back for quite a while just trying to miss some of the stuff that looked like was going to happen up there.¬† It was pretty wild.¬† It is tough not knowing if you're going to get to 160 because you've got guys saying, oh, it's going to rain out, it's going to do this, and there's so many opinions and you just have to trust yours, I guess, when it comes down to it and get there when it counts at the end.
KERRY THARP:  Austin and Brian, thank you for being here today, and good luck next weekend.
Joining us now is our third place finisher in today's Coke Zero 400, and that's Kurt Busch.¬† He drove the No.41 Haas Automation Chevrolet for Stewart‑Haas Racing, and Kurt, certainly you had a strong car up there, and we heard you on a couple of the TV interviews during the rain delays that this might have been one of the strongest cars you've had down here at Daytona.¬† Just talk about how the race unfolded for you and how things went today for the 41 team.
KURT BUSCH:  I thought we had a good finish today.  You know, I'd love to be out there racing and competing for the win, and the car ran strong.  We dominated, led most laps, and the Haas Automation Chevy was a good car right from the time it was completed and shoved into the wind tunnel, and those guys really did a good job back at the shop to prepare the No.41 for all the speed that you need here at Daytona.
We executed well on pit road.  Again, we led a lot of laps today and thought we were in good position, and when you're racing knowing that there's weather in the area, it's best to be in that lead position because that gives you the best shot at when the rain does come and if they do call the race, that you're the leader.
Most importantly, though, we've made a good turn on the 41 car the last month with good solid finishes.¬† Today it's disappointing to finish third after leading the most laps, but all in all, looking at the long‑term projection, it's been solid on the 41 car, and it was great to run good Daytona weekend, July 4th with a patriotic paint scheme with America's Machine Tool with Haas Automation as well as the symbolization for our Armed Forces, so it's great to have the race dedication that we had on the race this weekend from the Armed Forces Foundation.

Q.  Is it difficult to set up a strategy when you don't know when the end is coming?
KURT BUSCH:  I thought we did well.  Daniel, my crew chief, was on top of when we needed fuel and when we were playing the halfway game as well as when we were playing the pit the last time to make it all the way to lap 160, and it seemed like it was putting us in a good position to lead laps, which we did.  We were leading at the time, and that's what you want if the rain is going to come out.
So the race was a bit uneasy.  I think the competitors were looking to jockey harder for positions towards the front, and we saw a couple big wrecks today because we didn't know if we were going to get much past lap 80.

Q.  Just your thoughts, were you surprised the race was called at this point because there's still so much time left in the day?  And you talked about the building of your team.  You guys are doing it at a variety of tracks, it's not like you're having one type of success, so what's helped turn things around for you guys at this point?
KURT BUSCH:  It seems early to call a race.  It is Sunday already, and the majority of our fans that showed up were going to use this day to travel back home.  On average how far are the fans here locally traveling to get back home?  Is it four hours?  Maybe we could have run later on today and still finished and everybody could have back home and to work on Monday.
You know, the network TV side of it versus the safety of the fans, as well, with thunder and lightning in the area, it's a tough call to make.  I didn't do my job to be the leader.  We didn't quite have a couple solid restarts at the end to be the leader for when the race was going to get called.
As far as our team developing and moving forward, you know, it's nice that we've shown speed on all different types of tracks, and I can't really pinpoint one thing other than just working through some of the aerodynamic balance changes we've made to our car since around the Charlotte race as well as we built up enough notes on what we were doing wrong to steer a different direction, and we did that at the first Pocono.  So the 1st of June we've been running a lot better with two different balance changes.

Q.  Are you and Daniel (inaudible) new relationship?
KURT BUSCH:  Yeah, the relationship with Daniel, you know, there's some times when a driver and a crew chief hit it off and they're off to the races right away.  Daniel and I have been slower to mature together in our relationship, and so we're 18 races into our first date.  Now we're going into the second half of the season, and all of our first dates are done.  We'll go to New Hampshire next week, and that'll be the last new track that we see together, and then from there on out, all the tracks that we've been to we have notes and we have test sessions planned, and that's where we have to make the 41 team stronger.

Q.  As far as your team members and you, when you get rain delays, especially when it's delayed to the next day, is it harder on a driver?  Is it harder on those team members that have to go to work?
KURT BUSCH:  It's tough on everybody.  Are you going to go back to green?  Are you not?  You've got to pack the stuff up while it's in a torrential downpour.  I told the spotter as I got out of the car, be sharp, be focused, stay upbeat, keep this good attitude about this right now because we have a shot to win this if it goes back green.  Instead the race is called.  We were almost ready to start kicking the tires because we were third.  But it's a general good feel when you're running up front, and we led most laps today.  That's what we'll take away from today.

Q.  You've been really successful at this sort of weird form of racing without popping through for a win.  Does it frustrate you or do you like it?  Do you anticipate coming here because the stats are good but no trophy yet?
KURT BUSCH:  No, you're right.  I haven't won a points paying restrictor plate race.  It's been tough over the years.  15 years into it, I've won IROC races and won a Shootout, won a qualifying race; even Nationwide, I've won a Nationwide race here but haven't broke through for a points paying Cup win yet.  I've got to go to the videotape.  I've got to go back and study more.  When I'm the leader, I have to advance my game.  I have to be better at blocking and strategically managing the race as a leader.  I've been really good at seconds and thirds, top 5s, just got to break through for that win, and I believe I need to do more work to get better at it.

Q.  (Inaudible).
KURT BUSCH:  Well, there's the film study, then there's the you have to be in position to make mistakes or you have to be running up front more often to learn from it.  You can't learn by dragging around in the back waiting for wrecks to happen.  You learn by leading and getting shuffled out of the lead, and then trying a different approach to stay in the lead and to be able to make your car as wide as you can at certain spots and to make others have to rethink their strategy.
The chess game definitely comes into play more so when you're the leader than anything else.
KERRY THARP:  Thank you for putting on a good show this weekend.  We'll see you at New Hampshire.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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