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MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES: STP 500


April 2, 2017


Kyle Busch

Austin Dillon

Chase Elliott


Ridgeway, Virginia

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by today's fifth‑place finisher in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series STP 500 here at Martinsville Speedway, and that is none other than Austin Dillon, driver of the No.3 Okuma Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. You had an incredible run going out there, ran as high as third and had that No.3 Chevrolet up in contention all day. Walk us through your run, and what made you so successful today?
AUSTIN DILLON: Well, you know, first off, we've got to thank the guys. They had a really fast race car, and we didn't panic. We didn't have the speed the first couple practices, which for some reason I never do here. It's just a trend. I can't go fast enough to start, and then we consistently get better throughout practice and the race. It's nice to do that, but I wish I could not give the field half a race before we get up through there.
Starting 20th was big for us because our last practice was good. Our car had takeoff speed the whole day. It's the first race car we've had that can actually restart and go for the first five laps, and that's a lot of fun, and we've got to focus on that. I think the way the new racing is with the stages and stuff, short run speed is key, and if you have long‑run speed, falloff, it really doesn't matter because you're going to get a caution at some point.
But I'm just proud of the guys. We finished fourth here last year, and to come back and back it up with a fifth, it's one of my favorite tracks, and really at one point I thought we were going to have a little something for the two leaders, but middle of the run our car just lacked a little bit more turn and forward drive, and then at the end we could come back to them again. I think I was running the 22 back down there at the end. Just proud of my guys and thankful for this run. We needed it.

Q. Austin, today was sort of a pretty good endorsement of the stage racing. Were you surprised how those first couple of stages ended?
AUSTIN DILLON: No, I wasn't surprised. I was on the edge of the first stage. I was running seventh and it got wild there at the end, and tried to block the outside, and ended up being ninth. I was just thankful to get a point in that stage. But it definitely got wild at the end. That's what we're creating, and I like that. I mean, it's fun, and as long as you're not in the guys that's getting wrecked or turned or any of that, my day was good.

Q. Austin, first top 10 of the year, and I know obviously Newman got the win at Phoenix. He finishes in the top 10, as well, today. Does it feel good for you to kind of reaffirm that there's a resurgence going on for RCR?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, top 5, too, that's even better. No, it's really key that we do stuff like this, and short tracks have been a lot better for us the last year, and this year it was good to come back and repeat that.
We've still got work to do, but it's huge to see RCR running better and having cars capable of running with guys like this. It's just fun to see his back bumper most of the time.

Q. Austin, near halfway slugger lat by came on the radio and told you to get aggressive and be aggressive. How aggressive did you have to be to get in the top 5?
AUSTIN DILLON: Well, it kind of came to us. The car allowed me to be good on restarts, and I think that's almost better than having to be aggressive. If your car is good at points and turns, that makes it a lot easier. Strategy worked out where we stayed out on tires and never came and lost track position, and our car was good enough to hold on on the long runs.
It just worked out for us. We got spun early in the race, and it was one of those deals where the 77 was inside, and he came down, and it was like half‑‑ I needed to go in harder and probably move him up or give him it, and it caused the big kind of crash there and jumbled up a bunch of guys. But it's hard there. We left and he just kept coming left. I hit him, and then Denny hit me and whoever hit Denny kind of shoved and ruined their day. I didn't want that to happen to those guys.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by today's runner‑up in the STP 500, and that is none other than Kyle Busch, driver of the No.18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing. The intensity, Kyle, was there from start to finish here at Martinsville. I know you came up on the short end of the stick, but please walk us through that battle with the 2 car in the closing laps.
KYLE BUSCH: I was just grasping for straws. He was way better than we were at that time. Just wasn't the same. Our car definitely changed there for the last run of the race, and we just didn't have what we needed in order to have the speed that we had all the rest of the day. We were able to drive away from the field. We led a lot of laps. We really had no contention there from a lot of people, just passed halfway the rest of the way to the end, and then you put a set of tires on and you lose three‑tenths. That was pretty shameful, but we come home P2. So that's all we had.

Q. I know you talked earlier about the resurgence for RCR, but today in general, just it started kind of crazy and it ended different than we all expected. Were you surprised that this race went as long as it did to the finish after 14, 16 cautions earlier in the day, to go that long green to the end?
AUSTIN DILLON: Not really. I mean, it finally just calmed down. There was enough wrecks where people were finally like, let's get some laps under our belt, I think, and didn't get banged around.
It's just Martinsville. It's streaky like that, and I bet if you look at the history there's a lot of stuff that goes up and down, and the race kind of plays out that way. You never know how it's going to end.

Q. Kyle, it seems like you and Brad can't get away from each other, whether it's XFINITY, Cup, you guys have been racing around each other, been fast the same weekends. For you as a driver, when you have somebody like that that just pressures you, beats you sometimes but is always right there, does it‑‑ how much does it push you to be better as a driver when you've got somebody like Brad that challenges you week in and week out?
KYLE BUSCH: I wouldn't have had to worry about him if I had the right tires on the car. You know, it's just a fact of the matter of when you have guys that are good and you've got guys that have fast cars, you're going to be together. Chase Elliott has been up front a lot this year, and Larson and myself, Brad, some others, as well. When you have guys that are capable of running up front each and every week, then it's going to get congested sometimes at the front, and today Brad ran a good race.
I don't know if he knew he was better than me. He probably should have known for as bad as I was struggling in the middle of the corner and he just bided his time and waited for my stuff to finally heat up too much and he got by me. I was giving it all I had grasping for straws, just seeing if I couldn't hold him off, but I knew it was just‑‑ time would tell.

Q. Kyle, a lot of people are going to be talking about the Stenhouse moment at the end of stage 2 where he bumped you out of the way, resulting in Chase's win. He said after the race he had to do that because he wanted to stay on the lead lap and that was his only option, he knew the caution was coming up. Is that fair game in that situation?
KYLE BUSCH: It is if you expect it back. I actually was rolling into Turn 3 and was kind of going higher out of my way in order to let the 17 back by and give him the lap. That was my intent, and then he just drove through me. It cost me my spot to the 24, so I was hoping that I could run off the corner side by side with the 17 and keep the 24 at bay and just keep my nose in front of his and be able to score the segment, and I was trying to be a nice guy, but nice guys don't finish first.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by today's third‑place finisher, Chase Elliott, driver of the No.24 SunEnergy1 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Intense race out there today, Chase. You got a stage win there at stage 2, a lot of hard racing going on. Could you walk us through that stage win and your overall finish?
CHASE ELLIOTT:
I mean, yeah, as Kyle was talking, about kind of had that one handed to us. For me, at this place I was way much improved than I've ever been here in the past, which I thought was great. This is such an important race, especially when you come back here in the fall, it's not a place that you can just get by with running bad in life, expect to just go on in the playoffs if you're a part of it.
I was really proud of our improvements this weekend. I hope that it wasn't just a fluke deal and we didn't just get lucky today and run good. I really hope that we've found something or I have found something at this track that will lend some more consistent finishes that are further towards the front.

Q. Kyle, did the end of that stage change kind of the way you would race the people that you were trying to lap at that point?
KYLE BUSCH: I mean, they were doing everything they could in order to stay on the lead lap, but you know, when you've got the leader to your outside and you just keep banging him off the corner, that's pretty disrespectful, but do whatever you want. You know, it's going to come back and bite you one of these days. You've just got to always remember race car drivers are like elephants; they remember everything.

Q. Not to harp on the end of stage 2, but that's a playoff point; is that something that could come back to haunt you?
KYLE BUSCH: Yep, especially because we don't win races in the Chase, so definitely. That was a point that we were looking to score and try to achieve, and we lost it. It's just like the rest of this year, too. We've just thrown away points, if points matter, week in and week out. We've just got to get‑‑ somehow get our luck better. I don't know what it is that just keeps knocking us back that we don't have things kind of go our way, but they just haven't been going our way, so we've just got to keep plugging along until they do.

Q. Chase, yesterday when you were in here, you told us that you really didn't think a lot of what happened yesterday would apply to today, and yet here you sit again with a playoff point and a really solid run. I mean, what do you take for future Martinsville races away from what you did today, and what did you guys find throughout the day that ultimately got you back to third because I know there was one stint there in the middle where you guys were struggling pretty good.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, we started the race, and for whatever reason my car would not turn at all for the first three or four laps, and I about knocked whoever was on the outside of me back to Charlotte a couple times I felt like on accident, and I thought we were going to drop like a rock. Fortunately, I don't know if it was just being on the splitter or whatever it was, but actually our car kind of came to life and started turning pretty good, and from there it drove pretty similar throughout the entire day. Like I said, I hope it's a consistent trend, that we can continue to run decent here. Obviously we'd love to kind of take that next step and try to contend for a win. But from where I've been here in the past, night and day, so I was really happy and proud of that.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thanks for joining us today. Good luck next week in Texas.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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