Austin, you have a busy week ahead of you competing in four national series races in just eight days. How do you plan to approach the challenge?
AUSTIN DILLON: Well, physically just staying hydrated and drinking lots of fluids. We have a good sponsor in AdvoCare that has a lot of good rehydrate products. I’ve been working hard to do whatever it takes to make sure I’m in shape and at the best of my ability when it comes to competition.
I’m just looking forward to it. I love racing. I’ve been out dirt racing the last few weeks during the week and then flying to the racetrack. Any time I can be in a race car, I’m happy.
Q : Austin, can you talk about the road trip you have planned next week from Chicago to Eldora?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, pretty much we’re going to Chicago. After the race we’re going to stay there and drive to Eldora Monday and test on Tuesday. I’m looking forward to getting back in a truck for the first time since our championship run, and we’ve got American Ethanol on the side of the truck, and just really looking forward to getting in there and competing on a dirt track.
It’s such a historical moment for our sport I feel like to go back to dirt, and something I love and grew up racing on. Eldora is a great track. It’s probably one of the best dirt tracks in the world. Can’t say enough about Tony Stewart and what they’ve done with NASCAR to come up with this really cool race.
Q: I hear you have an announcement regarding the Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis next week. Would you like to talk a little bit about that?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, for sure. I’m looking forward to my first Brickyard start in the Cup Series, and I’m proud to announce that Mycogen Seeds will be the sponsor for our car there, 33, and just looking forward to getting out there and competing.
We had a good run at Michigan, placed an 11th place finish, and Indy is a fast place just like Michigan. It’s quite a bit different, but looking forward to getting there and trying to do our best to give Mycogen Seeds a great finish.
Q. What is it about coming up on dirt that seems to so benefit drivers when they reach NASCAR’s national series? What helps them so much in that regard?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think being able to transition and change driving styles throughout a race, being able to follow the track’s changes and keep up to date with them. You have to change your driving style throughout a race in a dirt track probably 10, 11 times, depending on what transition it goes through. So it’s always changing. The track is changing. You’re having to change with it, and that’s what makes the guys being able to adapt to different tracks very good to have dirt experience.
Q. I’ve heard one school of thought that dirt racers are used to their cars not being perfect, so perhaps they can get more out of them when they’re not maybe as good as they want them to be. Does that hold any credence in your mind?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I think that has a lot to do with it, also, because once you get out there you can’t make adjustments. You’re in a 35-, 45-lap race, and that’s a good amount of laps that it doesn’t matter what your car is doing, you’ve got to figure out a way to make it go fast while you’re out there racing. You’ve got to be determined and figure out if your car is tight, well, maybe I need to change my line around to figure out how to make it turn. You use different parts of the track to manipulate the car throughout the race, depending on how it’s handling.
Q. Where do you see the race at Eldora being different than a normal asphalt or truck race? Is it just the fact of the segments or is there going to be something more you’re looking at as far as the big difference?
AUSTIN DILLON: Well, you know, dirt racing, it’s going to be wild. I don’t know totally 100 percent what to expect. I was very lucky to be able to make some of the first laps at Eldora in a truck, and from my experience in dirt late model where you have a ton of grip and a ton of side bite, the truck is a heavy car with a smaller Goodyear tire that we’re going to be running, so you’re going to see a lot of guys sliding around out there, and as far as passing and stuff, I don’t know what to expect. It’s kind of determined by the track, how the track is run in, if it’s going to be hard and slick. If it rains the day before, it could be wet and wide open and you could see some wild stuff.
Talking to Tony, and kind of my gist of things, it’s going to be pretty hard and slick, so you’ll see guys being able to momentum the track, and the momentum that you carry is what will make you fast there.
The heat races are definitely going to be wild for the guys that are trying to get in the race and slide jibing, and hopefully you see some of that stuff that dirt tracks are famous for. I think you will, it’s just a matter of keeping everybody calm at the beginning to not have a ton of cautions and making sure that the guys with less experience are talking to the guys that have some dirt experience out there.
Q. When you did that first test, how much of you was thinking, wow, this would be really cool to race these here, and how much was thinking, how in the world would we ever race these things here?
AUSTIN DILLON: Well, it definitely went through two drastic transitions at the test. We got there the first day, and it had rained. So you probably never see a track like that because of how wet and wide open it was. It was rough and wet, and for me I like it in a dirt car. Now, in a truck it’s a little tougher, but it was fun, even though they had the track wet and wide open.
On the second day it transitioned where we were racing and practicing in the daytime where the moisture had left the track and it got really hard and slick, and you went out there and it was tough to even make laps because of how slick it was. You had to be really smooth on the throttle. If not, the truck would get too yawed out, and at that point of too much yaw you would spin. You really have to be consistent, and like I said, momentum is going to be very big.
I’m looking forward to just seeing what the race turns out to be. I’m hoping for a great race, and I think if a good race happens here this weekend, I know the stands are going to be packed. Eldora always fills them. And a good race, I think you see two races there in the Truck Series next year.
Q. You mentioned earlier you’ve been doing some dirt racing and midweek stuff. Is that as much just to prepare for Eldora, or was that just kind of to work on some things or just have some fun or what have you been doing the last couple weeks with dirt racing?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, always this time of year there’s Summer Nationals going on in the super late model series, and they run a lot of midweek shows. They have 30 races in like 39 nights. It’s a crazy schedule, but it allows me to run some of these midweek shows and just get back in a fun element, man. Dirt racing is a blast. You really have to challenge – it challenges me because I’ve only ran three or four late model races this year. To get in there and compete with those guys you really have to challenge yourself and make certain things happen in a quick amount of time. You don’t have much time to adjust. You don’t have a practice session. You have three laps of hot laps, and it’s a just challenge to be able to go out there and compete with those guys. It’s very fun, and we had some good runs and finished third at Florence, Kentucky. And last night actually I was in Wytheville, Virginia, and sat on the pole. Had a flat tire running third.
But we’ve been really competitive with our Team Dillon racing late model, and any time I can get in that late model I think it’s good experience for myself, and especially to get out to our fans. We have some great grass-roots fans that are true racing fans out there in the dirt tracks.
Q. You mentioned earlier just about Eldora. If things go well, maybe a second race there. Is there someplace else that potentially if Eldora goes well that maybe could look at trucks and dirt, and maybe you look at the Charlotte dirt track? Is that something, or are there other tracks out there? I think NASCAR is trying to take a closer look at some of these shorter tracks or different opportunities. If Eldora goes well where would be a good place for NASCAR to run?
AUSTIN DILLON: Well, you know, there’s some great dirt tracks out there, but as far as facilities, right now Eldora is ahead of a lot of them. They’ve got enough stands for people to pack out. Also the infields can hold the big trucks and trailers. You’ve got – without the pit stops, there are some places you could think about going where I know a lot of the guys would love to go is like Knoxville one day possibly, but it’s just a tough situation.
There’s so much that Tony and NASCAR had to do to really work hard to put together this race. They put a lot of effort into it. You’ve got to do a lot of things as far as SAFER barriers, different stuff like that that you wouldn’t think of for a regular short track that they have to go through to really get approved as a NASCAR track.
Q. What about the challenge let’s say of the trucks running at Charlotte on the big track and then coming back and run on the dirt track in a short period of time or different times in the schedule, or you could do it at Texas or Vegas or something like that? Would any of those dirt track places work there next to the big tracks?
AUSTIN DILLON: I know a lot of the fans would love to see that. I think that you get a huge weekend of two types of racing that you could be able to conjoin a ticket package to really make some interesting offers. I think that would be awesome. You’ve just got to really work on the tracks. I think Eldora this weekend will show us how close we can get to doing stuff like that.
Charlotte is big enough, the dirt track is, and you could really see some good racing. I’ve seen some good racing there in the past. The track has to be right.
The track prep for dirt track is the most important part of everything. You really have to have guys that know what the track is going to do as it transitions, so the track prep people have to be really good at what they’re doing.
Q. Kind of a quick description of your NASCAR experience so far may be smooth and on the rise. It seems to be going along pretty well. Could you talk about the challenges that you expected coming into this level, these levels that you’re moving into and about what challenges seem the biggest for you right now?
AUSTIN DILLON: Well, you always have challenges and peaks and valleys, and being able to ride the low parts and being able to come back out on top at the end is what makes guys really good. I feel like you just have to really look at your overall performance at certain places and set goals. I think setting goals is very important, having realistic goals that you can go out and capture, and then challenging yourself, too. You’ve got to challenge yourself to get better. I’m a very competitive person and I have some great people around me. I’m very fortunate to have guys that are around me to push me.
Q. Was there a point obviously growing up in Motorsports when you were young that you thought about I think I can race at top levels, or was it kind of along the way you just realized it bit by bit, it just came along the way?
AUSTIN DILLON: Well, I don’t know if you ever just go, man, I’m good enough to be up there racing with those guys. I was brought up kind of where you work hard and hope to one day be able to be racing in the Cup Series, and if you work hard enough and you get that opportunity, then you’ve got to take full advantage of it.
I think I’ve had days where I feel like I can go race with those guys, and then you’ve got days where you’re like, wow, this is tough. But you’ve just got to go out there and have confidence and go show them that you can do it and prove yourself each and every week.
Q. Some drivers have said that they never ran on a dirt track. What’s some basic advice that you would give them, and how will you race those drivers differently?
AUSTIN DILLON: Well, dirt racing is tough. It’s a different type of grip level that you’re not used to. You can kind of compare it to some slick tracks and asphalt, but you never know, dirt changes and it evolves a lot. You just have to be very open minded when you go dirt racing. I think that’s the biggest thing is be very open minded, not afraid to ask questions and not afraid to go watch people and learn from other people. You have to learn. That’s one thing that I’ve been trying to do my best of is to watch the others that are out there and watch the track. You have to stay really in tune with what’s going on with the track.
Q. While being such a young race car driver with all the success you’ve had, how much hard work do you put forward to be where you are today?
AUSTIN DILLON: It’s a lot of hard work. You know, it’s a grind each and every weekend and during the week. You have to take care of your body. The biggest thing is going and being mentally prepared going into the weekend, knowing all the background information you can on the track, the previous races, the track history. Just putting in the work beforehand is very important.
And then having a lot of competitive drive. You’ve got to push yourself, and to push yourself each and every weekend to the limit to your best ability.
Q. We’re spending some time with the NASCAR Next drivers tomorrow, and you’re a young man who’s had a lot of success at a young age. What kind of advice do you offer them? They’re only a few years younger than you, but what kind of advice do you offer younger drivers when it comes to patience and maybe moving up in their career?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think staying focused on what your goals are, and the biggest thing is having a lot of drive and being open-minded. You’ve got to be open-minded to get better. You’re never going to get better thinking you’re the best every weekend because there’s always somebody out there working hard to beat you. Just staying open-minded is very important and working hard at being the best person you can be.
Q. How important was success – you had success early winning truck championships, winning races. Not every driver is going to have that same opportunity. How much are you able to learn from those successes, and what do you offer a driver who maybe doesn’t have the same resources but has that same goal?
AUSTIN DILLON: You know, I think even with the resources, I had bad days, also. First race of my career in Daytona in the Truck Series I hit the wall in lap 1. You look back at the bad days and you’ve got to be able to come out and be a better person and learn from your mistakes. I think learning from your mistakes are very important, being able to go up to somebody that’s fast that weekend at the track and talk to them and ask them, hey, man, what are you doing to kick my butt at this point in time? Where are you beating me or what are you doing to be fast? I think that’s a big part of it, not being afraid to go up to someone and ask him and try and learn from him because that guy beside you might have a little bit more experience. You might be driving harder, he just might know something that you don’t and he’s taking advantage of that.
Q. I was talking to Elliott Sadler the other day about battling for the championship this year compared to past years, and this year there being kind of Regan Smith and Sam Hornish are more closer to the championship battle and Regan being added and wondering if it was different with more kind of Cup veterans now battling for the Nationwide title. I was curious on your opinion of it. Do you feel like the racing is any different with maybe more guys, more experienced guys racing for the championship?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think it is. It’s tougher to be able to recover when you make a mistake. You really don’t have the time at the end of the races to come back from a mistake.
I think these guys just have a lot of experience and they know what to expect from these cars. I’m very excited to be in the points position that we are right now just because of how great the competition is in the Nationwide Series.
But as far as my experience from last year racing Ricky and Elliott, Sam was in the points for quite a while, he just kind of faded at the end, I feel like we learned a lot, and our team has come back stronger this year knowing that the competition level is better.
We were kind of behind I feel like at the beginning of the year, and we’ve done a good job of catching up and staying in tune with keeping our cars fast. I just am really kind of in a good position right now I feel like. I would love to be in first in points. You always would be. But I feel like you’ve got guys out there battling for points, and we’re just kind of slipping in there, and that’s where you want to be.
Q. The top five guys are separated by 24 points, not just five different guys obviously but five different teams, as well. Sadler kind of said that you two probably get along better now that you’re not teammates and battling each other for a title than when you were. Is there a difference when you don’t necessarily have a teammate right there, right up in there, as well, battling with you for the championship?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, it is. Like Elliott said, we probably do get along better on the track now. I think we always kind of had a good relationship before the races when it would come to showing each other what we had in the car and practicing and getting our cars good for the races last year. But we raced really hard against each other last year, and this year I feel like we still race each other hard, but we’ve kind of both gotten better, and we have a good relationship together.
The thing is when it comes down to it, you’re racing for a championship against every one of those guys. My only teammate is Brian Scott, and I have the 33 team there, too, and whoever is in that, whichever week it is, those are the guys I’m focused on helping, and my goals are to beat everybody else out there every weekend and beat them bad. As long as we can go out there and run strong finishes and stay competitive, I’d like to see Brian Scott get up there in the points battle with us. I think having that teammate that’s competitive this weekend was a great weekend for RCR, him finishing fourth, and my third-place finish. Having two cars that were fast, it enables you to pull a little bit of information from all the teams, and it just makes your team better.
Q. What is your motivation for success in NASCAR?
AUSTIN DILLON: My motivation? I think my family. My family being in NASCAR for a long time, seeing the transitions of up and downs, and my biggest thing, my brother and I both, we want to put RCR on top. We want to be the best team in NASCAR. That’s what motivates me because all the hard work I’ve seen my grandfather and all these employees here at RCR, the time and effort, the blood, the sweat and the tears they’ve put into those race cars, that’s what we want to go out and reward them with is good finishes and hard work.
That’s going to take some time, but my brother and I are both up for the challenge, and we just want to see RCR back on top. That’s what motivates me is beating all those other teams.
Q. Why do you wear the cowboy hat?
AUSTIN DILLON: I wear the cowboy hat because the chicks dig it. That’s why I wear the cowboy hat.