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September 6, 2020

Austin Dillon

Darlington, South Carolina

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by Austin Dillon, our second‑place finisher and the driver of the No.3 American Ethanol Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. Can you talk us through your run out there and how it feels to get a second‑place finish in the first race of the playoffs.
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, that was fun. We had to start from the tail, just a little hiccup there at the beginning, had the front tires flipped, had to go to the back. At least we found it before the race because I would have probably knocked the fence down if we hadn't found that.
Man, we battled. This team, we've had a motto all year; it's been "FIDO," forget it and drive on, and that's what we kind showed that example tonight.
We just battled. We didn't take off very good the first 25 laps. Justin made a great adjustment, kind of really went at it, freed up the car, and that next run we took off and I felt like we were pretty good. I had a punctured right rear and was able to catch it in the middle of that first stage. We short‑pitted because I had to because the right rear was going flat, and man, the good Lord blessed us tonight. Caught a lot of breaks, truthfully. When that right rear was going down, we caught it. Went back out, gained a lot of track position because we were on good tires, and the caution fell for us in a good spot.
Took back off and just kind of got messed up on that restart, lost a little bit, and then was able to just steadily work our way back to the front all night long and then get inside that top 10. Had some great pit stops from our 3 team. The American Ethanol Chevy was really good when we kind of got to a point why I didn't really know what to do to it other than to just slowly tighten it up, and I wish I would have made just a little bit more of an adjustment. You could tell my last corner I had burned the right rear off of it trying to get there, and that's kind of where we were. We were just a little free. We had corded a right rear earlier in the race.
We've been working hard. We worked hard in the sim this week to make the car take off better. It's an older setup that we've run here a long time, and we just adjusted it, tweaked it a little bit to take off a little better, and that's what we've wanted, and it did, and that helped us keep our track position and ultimately gave us a shot at a Southern 500. So close to one of the crown jewels again. I like winning those things.
Yeah, good run.

Q. Did you feel like you were overlooked coming into the playoffs a little bit?
AUSTIN DILLON: I get overlooked some, probably more than most, I don't know why. I always feel like I perform pretty well in pressure situations, and RCR as a whole can step up. I have total belief in the 3 team and probably more belief this year than I've ever had because we've brought consistent speed to the track, and we might not have gotten every finish that we should have gotten this year but we've gotten a lot of good finishes. It's been one of my best years statistically and just the ability behind the cars are better.
Our Chevy has stepped up. Eric Warren, RCR, everybody that puts in ‑‑ all of our mechanics do a really good job, and heck, I think the smaller group has been good for us, less distractions at the track. As a whole, our group really works together well.

Q. Does having a chip on your shoulder motivate you? Are you somebody that performs better when you feel like you have something to prove?
AUSTIN DILLON: I feel like‑‑ I love to compete. I am just a competitor, know what I mean? You tell me I can't and I want to show you that you can in any kind of sports. Me and my dad will literally get in about fisticuffs over a pickleball game this week. I battle. I like to battle and grind things out. That's why I'm good at the longer races I believe because mentally I keep working, I keep working.
As a team I've got a team that's behind me that believes in me, and that's all I need is the confidence from those guys. We're in a good place.

Q. Can you further explain, you said the tires were flipped so the left front was on the right front? What happened there and how was that found? How does that happen?
AUSTIN DILLON: I don't know how it happens. It's just a mistake. I think when they put the tires on the car, somebody just didn't see the L and didn't see the R. They're Sharpied on there. That was how they found it. I walked up to the car and Justin immediately had seen it, and I was like, well, better change them now. There's nothing we can do. You flip them and put them back on the car and start at the rear.

Q. You mentioned FIDO. Where did that come from this year because I'm guessing‑‑ I don't recall you saying that before so I'm guessing that's a new statement for this team this year. Is that you? Is that Justin? Can you explain the origins of that, please?
AUSTIN DILLON: So I feel like I'm not doing justice to the guy to brought it to us, but I talked about it a little bit after Texas, I believe. It's a‑‑ he was a military vet who had lost his arm, just tore up. But Medal of Honor winner, brought a bunch of people out of battle in I believe it was Vietnam and he spoke to us at our luncheon. It was probably one of the best luncheons we've had as a group, just an unbelievable speaker, and I think it really hit home for me because I'm a fiery guy and I can dwell on things too long instead of moving on, and that acronym is just an easy reminder, like hey, man, it's over; there's no need to play it back or wonder why we're in the situation we're in; it's just get the most out of everything that I can.
Yeah, forget it and drive on. It's been a‑‑ it was cool to hear him say that, and I've got to get the name for you. I'll get that‑‑ I'll text Jackie to get it to you. But the guy is an amazing speaker and a true American hero.

Q. You guys showed tonight like you did in your victory this season that once you got up front, you could stay up there and compete with the best. What kind of feeling does that give you going into the rest of these playoffs knowing that you were able to replicate that again?
AUSTIN DILLON: Well, it's a great feeling. You know, it's confidence. Confidence goes a long way in this sport, and I think everybody knows that. It's a streaky sport, too. You see guys get on runs and they're able to really carry themselves with those. I'm hoping this is kind of our go time, that our streak is starting. It started at Texas but we've had some runs at places like Dover was really promising for us because we've really sucked there in the past and should have had two top‑10 runs. I don't know what happened to the first one. I can't remember. But the second one I think we finished eighth or somewhere, top 10 at Dover. It was a huge deal.
Those type of wins at tracks that you circle as we've just not been great at but I feel like we can do it if we get a good car are what really brings the confidence. So I'm all in right now and believe in our stuff. I heard Joey say it, he won a championship a couple years back and didn't really have the speed until the playoffs started.
I think we've had speed and now we're just starting to show it more.

Q. Going forward the next two races, what is going to be your top priority? Just finishing or still going for a win?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think you've got to keep going for wins. Richmond, like this was a good track for us. I knew it was a solid place for us. I knew having a lot of laps here, like a long race, was going to be good for us, but Richmond is what I have circled as my best track in the playoffs I feel, and I wouldn't have been able to say that a couple years back. But had two sixth‑place finishes over the past four races there, and the second one we were good enough to win we just messed up on some track position stuff.
I'm really excited about Richmond. Hope I haven't forgot anything and we can work really hard on it and we can go show up like we did today.

Q. Austin, you mentioned almost having another one of these crown jewels. What is it‑‑ obviously you've won the Coke 600, you've won the Daytona 500, almost get one here at Darlington. What is it about these crown jewel races that has allowed your team the last couple years to just step up the way you have?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think lengthy races. I like to stay in it and give me time to make adjustments on the car and just kind of grind, finding different grooves on the track. I wouldn't say I'm a slow learner. I learn, it just takes me sometimes a little while to get in that rhythm. I think that's why I've been good at them, and I try not to make mistakes. I try to be clean throughout the race.
A lot of people‑‑ you can make mistakes over a race by just one little error and I try and stay focused and not do those and give ourselves chances at the end of these things because the more opportunity ‑‑ if you stay in the race, you're going to have an opportunity hopefully when it comes down to it, and that's what we did. We gave ourselves the opportunity. The first two guys knocked the fence down, then it was me and Harvick. I was so close to getting him middle of that run, and he just changed his line a little bit to gap me. I kind of burned up my right rear, but it was close. Almost. Another one that would have been pretty cool. I think a lot of people would have been talking if we got another crown jewel. It would be awesome.

Q. You've maybe gotten a bad rap from some fans and some of the social media haters at times, but do you feel like you're in the best position driving wise that you've ever been in because it seems like this year we've seen a lot of growth out of you guys?
AUSTIN DILLON: Gosh, I heard a quote today that was so funny about haters. I'll have to tweet it at some point. Anyways, yeah, I think social media is great. Sometimes there's too much of it.
For sports, it's sports. That's what it is. I watch the Braves every night and I have a guy on my team that loves the Phillies and we talk junk to each other and I don't like the Phillies, I like the Braves, and I think there's a lot of people that don't like me but there's some guys and girls that do like me, and those are my fans. I think fans are supposed to dislike other people, and it's okay. It's not going to hurt my feelings. I'm not sensitive about those type of things.
I think‑‑ I love the people that do support me, and I also love the haters because that's motivation. I use it as motivation, and hopefully I turn some of them by the end of my career. I think Dale Earnhardt is a guy that went in his prime there was people that didn't like him, a lot of people, and then as time went people started to love him. And even the haters couldn't deny it. That's what made him so special. Even if you didn't like his style, he grew on you because he was a winner and he worked. A lot of guys are like that.
I'm good with it. I think we can win people over one race at a time.

Q. Austin, you and Tyler ran really well here the first time out back in May and were around mid‑pack the next time. What did you learn from May that was able to translate this time around?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think a lot. This place is a very temperature sensitive track. There was a 20‑degree swing between the two races. We kind of missed that, so I really kind of focused on the temperature this week and what we brought to the track was pretty much based off of what we felt was best for the temperature and how the race was going to play out. There's a lot more rubber on the track.
We just really did a good job putting in the work, Justin, Billy Scott has been a great help this year back at home. I'll give him a shout‑out. He's been our engineer that doesn't get to come to the track. He's been a lot of help, and we've just got a good group of guys that work hard. We methodically work ‑‑ I've put in, I think, eight or ten hours this week in the simulator just trying to get everything we could out of it.
Yeah, how about that Junior Johnson car, though? Is that not one of the prettiest cars you guys have seen on the track? I absolutely love Junior Johnson. He's one of my heroes. He came and spoke to me when I was middle school, maybe lower school. His kids went to the same school I went to, so Lisa and my mom are really close. I hope they enjoyed that race tonight. It was cool.

Q. You and Tyler have both had a lot of speed this year. What is it about RCR this year that has allowed you guys to have consistently strong runs?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think you've got two different driving styles and you try and find two drivers that kind of push each other. Tyler is a competitor just like myself. He's very adaptive to different tracks, so I have to learn from him, and then I think he can learn from me, too. I think some of the things I do really well and I struggle with he does better, and then there's both sides of it. We kind of show different places that we're good at, but we ultimately can both get there. It takes a little something different for both of us, but we both get there.
I looked back at the race where he really rolled at the first race here when he ran the top, and he's one of those people that are always the first to find the grip. So I kind of monitor him; know what I mean? When he gets to the grip first I know I've got to try and move. It's already too late most of the time because he's rolling at that point, but he finds it and then when it goes away, that's the next part that makes it tough. When the rubber gets built up, you have to move. I think that's what we were good at tonight. We were able to move around and kind of find our way.

Q. Kind of what you touched on before and kind of what you touched on last week during media day, playoff availability, you mentioned that you like it when people doubt you. Did tonight feel like a statement at all with a second‑place finish and almost coming up to win in the end?
AUSTIN DILLON: Feels like second place. It's like kissing your mom. It's not fun.
You know, I don't know. Sorry, mom, I love you.
Second place is so close. I'm going to be thinking about those last 20 laps for a long time. Man, it would have had a lot of people talking if we stole another crown jewel. I think they are talking. I think there's a lot of respect either way. I don't want to play the card anymore of the silver spoon thing or any of that. I've said my piece on that; that was fun. Now it's something else I've got to find to motivate me. I think my son coming into the world is pretty awesome. I want to do this for a long time so he can see me race, and whatever he wants to do, I just want him to experience some of the things that I was able to experience as a kid and be at the track because it's a family atmosphere here in NASCAR. I hope he gets that same opportunity one day to enjoy it.

Q. You're 10 points to the good; if you don't get the win at Richmond, would you be happy being 10 plus going to Bristol? Do you want to add another 10 points? How do you view what you've done and how this all plays out in your mind?
AUSTIN DILLON: Got to keep plugging away. I think we need to go get a win at Richmond, then you don't have to worry about Bristol. In these races anything can happen. I ran over something tonight and the right rear was going flat, and just good Lord was looking after us because we got to pit road, and that can happen to anybody at any point in these next two races. That's why a win solidifies you. I wish I would have got that thing tonight, but hey, we've got another chance next week, and Richmond is a great track for us and I feel Bristol is a solid place for us.
Some things are out of your control, so you've just got to gain as many points as possible. I was very aggressive trying to get as much track position as I could tonight. I was proud of what I did throughout the race. I don't know if I have any regrets other than, man, I think I burnt the right rear off of it. If I would have pushed any harder I don't feel like I could have gotten the 4. I tried the top with about 10 to go and I got loose and I kind of saved that last corner and he was fading hard. I used it up. We corded the right rear a couple runs ago. I know it was probably about the same.

Q. At least with being on the plus side of it, do you feel like you can control your own destiny a little bit and not having to rely on something bad something to somebody else?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I think we're in a position with the cars that we're bringing to the track that we can control our own destiny. I think every week we've got cars fast enough. As long as we don't hurt ourselves, I feel like we can advance. My goal was to get to that third round, know what I mean? This round right here, I've got to look through it first, and the second round is really important. If we get to that third round, those are three tracks that like I'm very confident in. There's Texas, Kansas and‑‑ what's the third? Martinsville. Martinsville we were super fast this year, didn't get to show it and I about croaked in the car because we blew a right rear and knocked the crush panels out. I literally drove from the back to fourth on track like three times.
Like I have Martinsville like super circled and just trying to get to that third round because that's what it is. You've got, what, nine races left, and we've just got to do all we can to try and get to the ninth with a chance.

Q. Why do you thrive in high‑pressure situations and equally shine like tonight at Darlington? And in doing so, in thriving, how much of a dangerous driver are you in these playoffs?
AUSTIN DILLON: I wish I could answer why. I'll tell you, I've always loved pressure situations. I think one thing that I'm very fortunate that my parents made me play other sports, from the time I was a kid. They didn't like‑‑ I didn't start racing at eight. I started a little later than most, and I played a lot of other sports and I played in the Little League World Series, which my buddies joke with me because we talk about ‑‑ I don't bring up the Little League World Series much because it's funny because I bring up like high school sports. But I've been in some pressure situations in sports with teammates and been relied upon to make a shot at that point. I played in basketball leagues and I've had to make game‑winning shots even thought if it's at like a smaller level to me, it's a big deal. It's easy to miss a clutch putt that's two foot.
So the clutch gene is a thing. I don't know why I like that. I like that opportunity. I like the pressure. I want to be the guy with the ball at the end. Just give me a chance.
Yeah, I've just been fortunate and blessed. It takes a lot of luck, too, in those situations. Things can go one way or the other, but we've been fortunate to make some of them happen. That's why we celebrate pretty hard when they do.

Q. How dangerous does that make you and the 3 team, knowing that you thrive in those high pressure, high moments?
AUSTIN DILLON: That's right, Ice Man. I am dangerous. I mean, I don't know. I hope we're dangerous. I feel like we are right now. I think a lot of people probably looked at us this week, and holy cow, they about got it done. One corner away. Maybe Richmond we just drive it in, finish it off.
THE MODERATOR: Austin, thank you so much for taking the time to join us. Congratulations on the finish and we will see you at Richmond.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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