February 11, 2021
Daytona, Florida, USA
Daytona International Speedway
An Interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our winner, Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.
We'll get right into questions for you.
Q. Do you think your Duel at the end was more dicey because it's maybe two younger drivers?
AUSTIN DILLON: I definitely think some of the younger guys out there trying to learn. I mean, it's hard. I was talking to some of those guys, they didn't get any drafting practice as a rookie. I tried to talk to Anthony and Kaz before the race, just tell them, Hey, guys tell you to run wide open out there, but at times your car is not handling good, you got to drive it with the throttle. It's got to be tough for the younger guys, driving for your life every time you get in the car.
Then there was some aggression. Obviously everybody wants to win, it's the first race back. But you kind of as a driver forget out there what we're really racing for, and that's on Sunday, the Harley J. Earl trophy. It's nice to come home with a Duel win. I've never had one of those.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by Justin Alexander, crew chief.
Q. How do you feel about this win tonight, how it sets you up for Sunday?
JUSTIN ALEXANDER: Pretty excited. It's like Austin said, it's a first race back for the year. It kind of sets the tone for the year. Honestly, last Talladega, our last speedway race we competed in, we weren't very good. We were slow. We didn't have a great car, weren't happy with it. We went to work this off-season.
All the guys and girls back at RCR really put their heads together. We built a great car, came out here. It's good to just go out and execute this first race, just show we do belong up there and we do have the car to win the 500 this coming weekend.
Q. Austin, now you proved you have a car that can push, be pushed, handles well enough to make the big move you made at the end of the race. How do you feel about having a chance to win this race, 20 years after we lost Dale?
AUSTIN DILLON: It's very special. Glad you mentioned that. A lot of emotions going through your head out there. I tried to throw up the No. 3 to grab the checkered flag. I always felt like Daytona has something to do with years and the prestige of this racetrack, how it all works. It's odd how things happen here. You create memories.
This is definitely a memory. 20 years ago, like you said, we lost a hero in our sport in Dale Earnhardt. It's great to put the number he made famous back in Victory Lane this weekend. Hopefully Sunday we can do something similar to what we did today.
Q. Austin, you mentioned Kaz and Anthony, some other new drivers. Did you learn anything specific about who to race against a certain way or anything about your car specifically?
AUSTIN DILLON: In all honesty, dude, I saw the front all night, which was amazing. I didn't get too far in the pack. Justin and I were talking, Man, what are we going to do? We feel pretty good about our car, but haven't had to race through traffic much. Kind of a guessing game on that. We make adjustments for a little more sunlight. We're going to be at temperature-wise like we ended tonight.
We're happy with the car, it drove really solid. No complaints when it came to handling. That was the biggest thing I was worried about going in today, was how is our car going to handle.
I'm really pleased with it.
Q. Austin, the move to get you to the front where you sliced under Bubba, for those of us that don't drive over 75, how premeditated was that? Did you have the idea you were coming across, you were gunning for the bottom? How does that work for us mere mortals?
AUSTIN DILLON: It's a reaction. It was like a flick of the wheel. I knew his momentum when he was going up the track, he wasn't going to be able to switch lanes with me to block it. So I waited till as long as I possibly could. A couple years back Matt Kenseth made I think a move trying to block that way, too. It's just not good when the guy behind you has a head of steam.
I knew if I cut across fast enough, it was going to kill a lot of his momentum. He came back left faster than I thought he could. It almost gives you a boost.
I haven't seen the replay. I can't wait to look at it. I think it's probably going to look pretty cool. Yeah, that's just feeling the car tonight. I felt really good in it, trusted it, my spotter and I were kind of one most of the night. We felt like the moves we were making, when he said something, that's where I wanted to go. It worked out.
The car, like I said, the guys worked so great in the off-season, just gave me the confidence to make the moves I was able to make at the end.
Q. When you come to a track with this package, how much does confidence play into the moves that you're making? The difference between guys like yourself or Denny, who are running up front all the time, where does that come into the equation of people running well? You know what I mean?
AUSTIN DILLON: It's a big part of it. I can't thank the guys enough, I feel like we really went to work. I feel like I'm a solid speedway racer, when you give me that piece I'll go drive it. The guys did a good job on that.
The guys that find their way to the front, yes, it's confidence in the car's ability, then being confident in the moves that you make that allow you to do what you do.
But there's also a fine line where you trim the car out and the speed's there, but the handling is not. You see guys that may make a move but they're out of control. Those are the guys that, yeah, they have speed, but you don't trust as much. They'll come off the corner one minute and can't hold a line. If you can carry speed, make moves, the car looks settled, that's the scary guy. That's the guy like Denny. He just finds his way to the front most of the time.
It was nice to be one of those guys tonight. I felt like our car was scary. You had to work with us. You know what I mean? When you got a guy you have to work with because you can't get him shuffled because he seems to find his way. Kevin, I'm sure he wanted to find a lane there. In the 500 he's probably not going to be as easy on me as he was on the backstretch. I felt like I did a good job blocking him.
He worked really well with me tonight, was able to push my car, and it was stable I feel like. I think that's why he chose to go ahead and get me out there as far as he could, then he was going to try to make a move. It just paid off where he had to commit to me.
Q. Who are some of the other scary guys you've seen so far?
AUSTIN DILLON: The usual suspects. Bubba's car is really fast I feel like. He was aggressive tonight. You could tell he was trying to do all he could to get the 23 car a win right off. The usual suspects. The Fords are going to be there. When you get all of them out there together, they're hard to break up.
Chevy, it did a good job tonight. Myself, Kurt. I really loved working with William Byron. His car looked stable and fast. The 9. He could push me.
Happy with our Chevy camp. We've worked hard as a group at Chevy to get together even better than when we did when we surprised the guys in Talladega. Hopefully Sunday we're back on track when it comes to Team Chevy and working hard together.
Q. Austin, the move coming into the tri-oval, it's easy to make a lot of nothing, but for those of us that watched a lot of tape, awfully reminiscent of the guy who drove that 3 car. Do any of those thoughts ever cross your mind coming back to Daytona or Talladega knowing the success he had?
AUSTIN DILLON: Man, stuff's happening so fast right there, I'm just relying on instincts and stuff. Dale Sr. was a whole 'nother animal when it came to speedway races. I'm glad to be able to get up there and dice it up. Proud of the ECR engines, RCR. They have a long-standing history of building fast cars and bringing them to speedways. Just proud to bring home another Duel win for them, try again when it comes Sunday.
Q. Do you think about the end of the 500 on Sunday? This was crazier than any Duel I've seen in a while. Do you think the end of the 500 gets quite that crazy?
AUSTIN DILLON: Oh, yeah. I think it will be just as crazy, a lot more leading up to it. It will get crazier beforehand.
Yeah, I mean, handling will be I think more of an issue for some guys in the day part of the race. You'll see some at some point just stringing out to the top for a little while. It seems like, man, when a group of manufacturers get together, they can make good pushes to get to the front, which is kind of cool.
Definitely going to try and regroup with all my Chevy teammates, debrief, figure out how we can do our best to maintain the lead as a group.
THE MODERATOR: We figured we'd be doing you a disservice, you could not watch that thrilling conclusion. We're pulling up the replay. Walk us through it.
AUSTIN DILLON: Oh, wow. I knew the 19 had got shuffled. When the 4 was pushing me at this point, I'm pretty sideways through three and four. I see Bubba make his move up the track. I just kind of flipped the wheel there. That worked out great. Then the yellow line was close so I had to move up a little bit.
Yeah, worked out good, man. That was fun. Actually I feel like the drama started even further back than that view. Just trying to get the 4 to go with me was the hardest part. Obviously the turning left hard off of turn four, that was cool. It was fun.
Q. Have you gotten a chance to talk to your brother at all?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah. I'm glad you brought him up. I thought he did a great job tonight. I'm really bummed for him. He took the 96 car into a position that they needed to be to make the race. They didn't make it last year. I felt like he did a really good job of driving that car. They were fast. It's just a bummer that he's got to go home and you see other cars that he beat that are going to be in the race.
Bummer, but it's the rules. Everybody knew the rules going in. I hate it for him. I gave him a hug. He was in really good spirits. What he said afterwards is that it's actually really motivating. It's cool.
Q. How has the off-season been for him, new chapter, new team?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I think he's just trying something new, figure it out on his own. He's done a good job of getting some rides. I think he's got the first four in that Xfinity ride. Heck, I didn't even know because I wasn't on Twitter, haven't gotten the scoop on it all. It's cool.
I'm glad he's getting an opportunity. Hearing it from him, he's excited. The work that he's putting in in the off-season, I think it will pay off.
Q. Any lucky pennies already?
AUSTIN DILLON: I don't have a lucky penny yet, no. Not yet. Just the good Lord above.
Q. Is this a statement win heading into the 500?
AUSTIN DILLON: I definitely feel like for our team it's a statement to bring a speedway car like that. I've had two speedway cars, and not even the one I won the 500 with. I was, like, really excited about that. I have more confidence in this car than I did the one we won the 500 with. There's only one other car I've had at a speedway that had this kind of speed. I wrecked it in the July race leading.
Really pumped about it. I told the guys at the last restart, I definitely want to win this thing, but more importantly I want to have this car for Sunday because I'm really excited about it.
Q. You mentioned your brother said something to you that was motivating. What did he say? Why was it motivating?
AUSTIN DILLON: I just said, Man, I feel for you, in other terms. He looked at me and said, God has other plans for me. He was just calm in that moment of like adrenaline and hurt. It was cool to hear it from him.
Q. The rules haven't changed, so the runs are still big. Are the runs any bigger than what they were last year?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I feel like it's similar to what we saw last year. It was good to be one of the guys that were able to make the big runs I think was the biggest difference for me. You still can get wrecked if you block too much. I noticed that. There's some that you don't want to step in front of, then there's some if you time it early enough, you can step in front of. You got to be careful.
Q. Regarding the engine program you have this year with Hendrick and Childress, how has that affected you here at Daytona? What have you noticed different between the engine last year and this year?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I mean, hard for me to tell between last year and this year. ECR, they're very solid on bringing not only power but something that lasts. Really proud of all the guys at ECR. It was cool to see what they were able to do to help Chevrolet last year win a championship.
I think the alliance between Hendrick Motorsports and ECR, I think it's only going to bolster Chevrolet's engine program for years to come. I hope that development that we put together into the engines just shows up each and every week. I know it will.
Q. Kaz took over the 3 car when you were sidelined last season. How proud are you of the race he was able to run?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, we signed Kaz in the off-season at Team Dillon Management. Not only is he a great race car driver, but he's a professional on and off the racetrack. I love the way he carries himself and the work that he puts in. Found sponsorship for himself to race when it came to racing at RCR.
He's somewhat I would call a businessman race car driver. Not only that, he's focused and really puts in the effort on and off the track to succeed. He's in great shape. He does everything he's supposed to do as a race car driver. It's cool to see him get opportunities.
I'm grateful for Matt Kaulig and Chris Rice that gave him that opportunity. I know it probably didn't look good for him at some points tonight. It was a little bleak when he was in that wreck. Just being strong with it and being able to make the Daytona 500. It's a blessing to be able to run in this race because it's so prestigious. It's my favorite day of the year just to get in it.
Q. The relationship you have built with Justin. You have been able to post some fantastic results. How pleased are you with the way you've been able to create a strong team in these unprecedented times?
AUSTIN DILLON: I'm a huge team guy, always have been because of my background in sports. When I won my first two championships, those guys on those teams, I have in my phone book and still have relationships with all of them. Those were great times in my life. I've just tried to recreate it ever since.
The priority this off-season for Justin and I was to get our team signed back up. We evidently like we've had some All-Stars over the past year on our team. We wanted to make sure we brought those guys back. If somebody did leave, we wanted to bolster that position.
It's really key to work with those guys in the off-season and just have the same team together. I had my spotter for a second year in Brandon Benesch. That was another step we took in the right direction tonight working together on the speedway. We really didn't even talk before the race. We just went and raced and it was there. It was awesome.
Q. You and Aric have history here. You both won today. Can you envision you both battling for the win again Sunday?
AUSTIN DILLON: Well, I'm sure. It's just how things work here. I mean, Aric and I have both raced each other hard since these times. It's inevitable you're going to race some of the people you raced against throughout in the NASCAR series. I was funny, sitting in Victory Lane, Aric won tonight, we won tonight.
But there's so much that happens. I hope that we're in that same situation. I'll be happy either way if we're in that same situation on the white flag for both parties. I think we'd both say that and try to make a different move, whatever it may be, when it comes down to it.
Q. (No microphone.)
AUSTIN DILLON: Probably not. No, I think he might. If I was in his situation, I don't know. He's probably going to wreck me (smiling).
Q. You spoke about the fact you ran most of this race at the front of the field. Now going into the Daytona 500, is that the strategy there this trying to stay ahead of the chaos or conserve a little to miss the big wrecks?
AUSTIN DILLON: The 500 is such a long race, it's impossible to keep the lead and stay up there the entire race. We're going to do our best shot at it. The way pit strategy works and things go, we'll also be smart about the times, the chances that we take.
We know that the car is capable of doing what it did tonight, so we'll be smart about it when we have to be smart. I think being in front of the wrecks and the chaos is a big, big key part. You've seen guys wreck from the front of the field just as mid-pack in the back. It's a hard one, such a hard race. It's amazing to be a part of it.
We'll just play it by ear. I'm just glad we have a car that's capable of winning it. I do believe that. That's half the battle.
Q. You never really got in traffic. Are you concerned if you get back in traffic, there may be handling differences?
AUSTIN DILLON: It definitely can change. The further back in traffic, the dirty air gets pretty wicked. We'll just go with it on the fly. That's another thing, you talk about team, that's what we were good at last year. When we unload, we might not be where we need to be, but we adjust, stay calm. I think I'm a calmer person than when I first came into the Cup Series about how I handle things on the radio. Yeah, just roll with the punches and see how things go.
I'll give Tyler Reddick the credit on that. I've seen him hit the wall, say, It's okay. It's one of those things where just be patient and try and get it better. I have total confidence in my guys no matter what happens that we can get it where I can drive it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for taking time for us. We will see you on Sunday.
AUSTIN DILLON: Cool. Awesome to see all you guys in here hanging out. It's nice.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports