February 14, 2021
Daytona, Florida, USA
Daytona International Speedway
An Interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our second-place finisher Chase Elliott in the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet as well as Austin Dillon in the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
Q. Guys, there was a lot of single-file racing all night long here. How long did you feel like was too long for you guys to be able to make a move, and was there any consideration of working together, being that you both were driving for Chevrolet?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, we definitely were trying to work together as the other manufacturers work, as long as we could. The top was just so fast. Unfortunately there just wasn't an option. Like Thursday night I thought there was an option for the bottom and a few good cars could make ground, and you had a choice. But today, the top was just ridiculous, and it made it to where nobody wanted to pull out of line until the very last lap, so that's kind of what you got there to work with. But yeah.
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, for me, I thought Chase and I, we worked really well together all night. We kind of lost some of our bullets in some of those wrecks with the Chevrolet camp and we had gotten to a point where we were in a decent position and Ford had that front row, first four cars or so, and just tried to wait as long as possible for them to start fighting for the win really and it kind of happened the way we wanted it to. We were really close. We had two Chevys finish second and third. We needed a couple feet, both of us.
Q. How disappointing or surprised were you -- I know Chase just talked about the bottom not working, that somebody didn't try to do something early just in back of you or just in front of you to try to build some momentum there to give you guys a shot a little bit earlier?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Well, I mean, from my perspective and I think Austin was in the same boat, but just like I said a second ago, nobody wanted to pull out of line. We were so afraid that there was only a few Chevrolets left right there at the end, even if we had all got bunched up -- I know I wasn't sure whether or not it was going to be enough, and obviously everybody else was thinking the same thing because yeah, we just -- everybody was content to ride around the top until the very last second, and that's what you saw.
Yeah, just didn't think it was going to be enough for guys to jump out any sooner than that lap to go to make anything happen.
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, same here, similar. It's hard when the manufacturers now are so tight and they're working together very well and they had numbers on us there at the end. We had a couple more cars back there, but the speed that they were able to carry running wide open around the top, it was tough. You're on older tires there at that stop, so running the bottom, it just works your tires harder, and harder to keep the nose under the car and make speed.
The 42 popped out, I don't know, it was probably six or seven to go, and as soon as we got down there I could feel the momentum of our line start to die pretty quick and it was one of those things where we've got to get up pretty fast and he wasn't able to get back up and I hate that for him but it's one of those things that those lines, it's hard to be that guy to stick your neck out because it is what it is. But I thought, like I said, we did a good job. We knew they were going to have to race for the win at some point, the Ford camp, and we gave us a shot.
Q. Austin, 20 years after Dale died, you had the 3 in contention. How did you feel about your day in lieu of the fact that for a while there it looked like it was going to work out here on a big day for the 3 team?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, you know, scored a bunch of points over the entire weekend. I just can't say enough about RCR, ECR and the effort that was put in over the off-season for our speedway program. We really struggled at Talladega in the speedway last year and able to take this car and show a lot of speed all weekend. I thought we had one of the faster cars, and it's clean, so we get to run it again. That's the big thing.
Q. I've got to ask about the early accident on lap 14. Were you surprised at that point in the race the aggression level was already so high and then that accident?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I was. I mean, yeah, I was definitely surprised. I wasn't sure why -- I was shocked that there was as much pushing and shoving going on as there was there at the beginning. Not that that's super abnormal, I don't guess, but yeah, just really got to be careful about that, and the way these bumpers are on these cars, it's just super easy to get somebody pointed in the wrong direction, between the bumpers not lining up and the cars being so low to the ground and stiff. It makes it kind of hard to control when you're being hit like that.
Yeah, I was surprised that it was going on like that, that early in the race.
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, same here. I mean, not super surprised. There was a lot of guys out there that are in new rides and trying to make the most of it every time. It's a big stage, but I think everyone learns the second time around, we've got a lot of young guys and I was that guy at one point, too, trying to be up there pushing early. Yeah, it only pays on the last lap. It does pay to kind of be a little better at the beginning.
Q. Speaking of that early wreck and the rain delay that came after it, did the early wreck and the loss of so many other guys including two of your teammates, both William and Alex incapacitated after that wreck, did that change the strategy for you guys, the early big one and the subsequent rain delay?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I don't think it changed the strategy. I mean, the strategy was still the same for us. We just didn't have as many players to work with.
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I echo that. He's right. That was the same for us. We had a plan, we just lost some of the guys that definitely could have helped us.
Q. At the end of the race there, there weren't many manufacturer-alike cars lined up. Did that add any fear and hesitation to pulling out and making a move to win?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, yeah, I think just the sheer -- for me, just the sheer fact of how fast the top lane was. It was just so hard to get a run going anywhere else. I don't know if it was just the amount of cars that were there, if it wasn't the full pack that we're used to seeing or just the temperature or the humidity or what was making that so fast. I'm not sure. I would love to know. Seemed like it was a bigger difference from top to bottom than normal, and I think that was why we were all scared to leave there.
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I think so. I mean, Chase was trying to make runs to -- like with laps to go he would back off my bumper and try and make a run to get us a run and they weren't really building big enough to really want to pull out. Like he said, it's hard when you've got five of the same manufacturer in front of you trying to scoop them all at once. Somebody is going to come down and block you, you know it.
Q. What was the most difficult and challenging part of the race today?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I think the most challenging thing from my end was just balancing what to do about how fast the top was. I mean, I didn't really know what to do. I felt like my hands were tied. I hate that. I think I would love to race and be able to race for a stage win or a little bit. I'm not saying go overboard and crash everybody, but at least pull down and do a little something for the people watching, and we just -- it just wasn't an option to better your result. So we didn't.
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I mean, it's hard. The Duels were fun. You split up some manufacturers, you get some good racing, but the way it ended, it was hard. And the big wreck, it definitely takes a lot of the speed out of the pack and the ability to have more cars pull to the bottom.
Q. How well do either of you know McDowell, and any memories of him throughout the years? And what do you think of him pulling out this upset?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I personally don't know Michael very well at all. He certainly has stuck around over the years and battled hard through the course of his career, and I think you can't help but respect the fact that he's still pushing and trying to have success here at this level. Yeah, I respect it, I'm happy for him, and I hope he enjoys it.
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I know Michael just from hanging out a little bit in the motor home lot. He's a great speedway racer. He really does find himself at the front and finishing many of these races quite often and he had a fast car tonight. He could push me on the bottom there for a couple laps. He's always around at these things. You've got to give him credit for that. He's a Christian brother, too.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports