Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 AdvoCare Chevrolet, was the guest on the NASCAR media teleconference this week. Dillon, currently sitting second in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings, talked about the Dash 4 Cash, Indianapolis, and pressures of being a young driver, among other things. Below is the transcript from that teleconference.
THE MODERATOR: We welcome Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. Austin won a $100,000 NASCAR Nationwide Insurance Dash 4 Cash bonus in Saturday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and, qualified for next the Dash 4 Cash race and an additional $100,000 bonus at Chicagoland Speedway on July 22.
Austin currently sits second in the NASCAR Nationwide Series points standings, only three points behind teammate, Elliot Sadler. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year leader has one win and 13 top 10s in 2012.
Austin, let’s first talk about winning the Dash 4 Cash last weekend and what that meant to you at New Hampshire.
AUSTIN DILLON: I first of all want to thank Nationwide Insurance for putting on the Dash 4 Cash. Going into the week leading up to New Hampshire, you thought about it a lot, because you’re racing for $100,000, you never bring up the money during the week for a regular race. But this $100,000 bonus really kind of puts the nerves into our team and really made us focus going into the race.
I didn’t think about it until I got to New Hampshire and when we got there, man, it was pretty awesome to be fighting three other guys for a hundred grand. I said it in our first conference with the Nationwide Insurance on NASCAR.com, it was pretty cool that you have a one in four chance to win a hundred grand, and it was a fight till the end at New Hampshire and I’m sure it will be the next couple of races.
THE MODERATOR: You won last year’s Truck Series race at Chicagoland Speedway. So what are the team’s expectations leading into this weekend’s Nationwide Series race?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think we are really excited about Chicagoland. Elliott Sadler ran really well there last year, had a shot to win the Nationwide race. And we won the Truck race, so I think our team is really excited about going there.
We have a good core set up. Once we get there, we’ll be using some of the same stuff that Elliot learned last year and add that to what we learned in our Truck Series start at Chicago and try to build on it and have a shot to win.
I think it was a good off-weekend, some of the Cup guys won’t be there, it will be a fun race. I think the guys racing for the Dash 4 Cash will be up front racing for the win. I think between me, Stenhouse, Elliot and Hornish, and you also have Kyle Busch up there running, there’s going to be some great racing going on, and especially for that extra bonus.
Q. As far as the Dash 4 Cash stuff goes, now you’re the only one eligible to win $1 million, if you win Chicago, Indy and Watkins Glen [EDITOR'S NOTE: Watkins Glen is not a Dash 4 Cash race. The four consecutive Dash 4 Cash races take place at New Hampshire, Chicago, Indianapolis and Iowa] after that; have you thought about that a whole lot? Have you given that thought? Obviously if you win that, that’s going to help you points wise, but where does your mind-set go into a race when you start thinking about what you could do ultimately with this?
AUSTIN DILLON: Well, I think you start over thinking it and overanalyzing what you could do, and it kind of can take away from your ultimate goal, which is to run well every week, and don’t stray away from what we’ve learned.
We have not done anything special or done anything different when we went to New Hampshire for the 100,000. It was more just trying to stay focused on our plans from the beginning of the year and that’s to run the laps, and our car is going to get faster each and every week, because we are learning as a team.
I think the next three tracks we go to are going to suit or give us a shot at that million. I think that Chicago is a great place for us. Indy with RCR’s history there and the teammates I have, and the way our cars are running, we’ll have a good shot at Indy also. And then Iowa, I’ve won there, also.
We have a shot at the million. I think it’s a great shot for $1 million. I don’t think you can get the odds that we have going into any other casino. So I think we’ll be racing our way the whole time hard and when we get to Iowa, I guess we’ll focus on this week and winning the millions.
But this is the kind of week we just want to go out there and keep points racing and try to get those wins.
Q. You mentioned Indy next weekend. When you get there, obviously you’re in a very tight points battle right now. But, this is the first time the Nationwide cars are racing at the big track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Does this become a race where, you know, in a way, maybe you forget about the points just a little bit and you might even take a little more risk to actually get that win, because it is Indy?
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I think the way it is, the points structure, you have to take risks now to run up front. The way people take two tires at the end of the race, it’s been crazy lately. Risks are involved every week, and we’ll definitely be taking some risk to win it.
Like you said, Indy is such a prestigious track that you want to do whatever it takes to be up front at the end and have a chance on that flash restart and go after it. If we do our job, we’ll be there at the end and shouldn’t have to take more risk than we do every week. And that’s our plan is to be there at the end.
It’s going to be fun learning the track. We are not going to have much time when we get there to really go around, and maybe Thursday I’ll be able to right around in a pace car or something. But it’s going to be fun going around Indy in such a special place.
Q. You mentioned your thoughts before going into New Hampshire. Typically what is on your mind, when you’re waiting until the festivities are over; what typically is on your mind before you get in your car?
AUSTIN DILLON: Well, kind of going over our race plan. Thinking about what everybody around me is kind of — what’s going through their head and trying to always get in their head and try to figure out what their plan is on the first restart, just thinking about that initial start and what I’m going to do, what my plan is. You try and plan things out, but really, it changes, and if you feel like you’re prepared going in, it really does help. You know, stick to my line and make sure that I’m hitting my marks the whole time.
Before the race, before I even get near the car, I try to keep everything off-subject; almost actually don’t even think about racing as much as I can. And when it comes time to get near that race car, that’s when I focus in a lot, almost rest before you get focused, and then try to use all your energy and the rest that you gained to really focus extra.
Q. Have you developed a mental routine during the week to keep up with everything that’s happening around you? A lot of stuff’s happened to you the last couple of years.
AUSTIN DILLON: I think the only routine I have is no routine (chuckling). I do stuff sporadically all during the week which keeps my mind off of things and helps me do other things. I think I race a lot. I try and dirt race and stay in a car as much as I can to keep myself sharp.
I think that’s helped me a ton is being in race cars during the week, and when I get to the track, I’ve already been in a car at some point before I’m already racing and been doing something during the week.
So keeping my mind busy I guess, and sharp.
Q. How much more pressure is it on the crew going into the second half of the season?
AUSTIN DILLON: How much pressure is it on the crew or me or everybody?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think we’re sitting in a great spot right now. As a rookie team, we have accomplished so much this year. Anything from this point on is just going to be a bonus.
But we don’t look at it that way. We look at it as, we want to win a championship. We don’t take just Top 10′s; that’s getting by for us. We want to run up front each and every week. We want to be in the Top 3 and we want to compete with the Cup guys who come in.
We are really hard on ourselves and we want to stay on this roll. We want to do what it takes to work hard and keep pushing each other, the team included, to be there at the end. You know, these guys have done a great job during the summer months, and that seems like the time when we gain our points. We did it in our Truck Series days, too.
And keeping the guys pumped up about getting to the racetrack is huge. We have a group of races that I can’t wait to get to the racetrack every week. Even testing today at VIR, we are having fun as we are out here. Keeping everybody excited about getting to the track is big, and it’s such a long season; it’s a longer season than what most of the guys on my team are used to, but they are doing a great job with it and having fun.
Q. I read that Ryan Blaney is driving for Penske Racing for about two or three Nationwide races. Talk about going through some of the pressures of being a young driver and driving for a big team.
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I think Ryan did a great job at his start at Richmond. I think that’s what really helped him propel to where he is now, and he’s done a great job in the lower series of late models and the e series. But driving for a guy like Roger Penske or my grandfather or Jack Roush or Hendrick, there’s a lot of pressure. I think people expect you to run good because the equipment you have is good. Sometimes they don’t look at everything that’s around you or what situation you’re in, and it’s tough.
But you do the best that you can with the equipment that you have, and the equipment he’s going to have is great; it’s winning equipment. So he’s going to be expected to run well and Ryan is a kid that will be able to handle the pressure I think and run well. It’s just that you have to do whatever it takes to put it out front, and I think he will, and he’ll do a good job of that.
Q. Just your dynamic with Elliott Sadler coming down the stretch, he’s trying to go for the championship as well; how has that dynamic been working out for you as you get closer to him in the points?
AUSTIN DILLON: Well, you know, we are a team here as RCR and we have been working together, sharing information, just like we have from the start. You know, some weeks Elliot is faster than I am and we might use his setups; and some weeks, he might use our setups.
But we are very close, though, each and every week set up-wise. That’s the best thing about RCR right now and our Nationwide program. We are helping each other. There’s not a big ego over there trying to recreate something. Everybody is working together for one common goal. I think it will stay that way. And it should. That’s how it’s going to be for the rest of the year and we’ll fight it out as a team and drivers at the end of the year and see how it works out.
Q. You had the great performance here a couple of weeks ago, and coming up for September, confidence-wise that has to help you out coming into this, and just what suits your style about our track? You’ve qualified on the front row each time you’ve been here and outside the Top-10 only once in a truck race.
AUSTIN DILLON: I think just maybe my dirt background. I really don’t know. I get through the bumps really well. The characteristics of the track help me. I never really complained about the bumps. I’ve had good equipment there.
Just it’s a good track for me. I can’t wait to get there in September like you said. I think we have a shot at definitely having another dominating performance. Our car was really good, and when we go back, I think it’s going to be better. Just keep working on some of these other tracks.
Q. Do you look forward to the atmosphere? You’re going to be in a featured event here in September; how will it be different for you?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think it will be good, because I think we draw a good crowd in the Nationwide Series. The Nationwide Series is racing really well right now.
It’s nice having the Cup guys there because there’s a lot of people that get to see the race and watch, and it will be fun. It will be a relaxed weekend. The best thing is that my dad probably won’t be there, he’ll probably be with the Cup guys so I don’t have to deal with him (laughing).
Q. Have you seen any different in the way Hornish has been driving in the last few months?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think Sam’s performance has definitely picked up. I think it’s picked up since Iowa. I think that’s the first time that I saw how competitive he was. I think that their equipment is getting better. Their setups are getting closer each and every week. He’s going to be tough to beat.
I think he’s going to be one of the guys in the race at the end of it. He’s going to be able to gain points at some of the road courses, I believe, and some of the short tracks. He seems to really do well at the flat tracks and shorter tracks, and then the mile-and-a-halves, I think that’s where we can gain on them.
Q. Did you consider him a threat for the title at the start of the year, and was there a point this year where as you were distancing from yourselves, that you thought, wow, he’s going to be right here in the mix.
AUSTIN DILLON: I actually did. I considered him being one of the toughest ones because of his tough experience. I think two years in the Cup Series, or three, however many it was, the experience he has going to places like Indy, Fontana, where I’ve never been before, were going to help him.
So we’ve been able to maintain at those places, which is nice, but I knew he was going to be there just because of his Cup experience. When you drive something with so much horsepower in the Cup Series and you come back to the Nationwide Series, you’re so confident and aggressive, it really helps.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Austin for joining us today and best of luck this weekend at Chicago.