Austin Dillon, No. 3 Dow/Cheerios Chevrolet SS, met with members of the media at Daytona Media Day and discussed starting his rookie year.
WHEN YOU LOOK AROUND, SEE THE DALE EARNHARDT T-SHIRTS, ET CETERA, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
AUSTIN DILLON: The legend of Dale has lived on for a long time and is going to continue to live on forever. Dale Earnhardt is not just famous because of the number. He is Dale Earnhardt.
He was a hero in everybody's mind, including myself.
As far as Dale, Dale is going to fly here forever. That's the coolest thing about everything that's going on.
AUSTIN DILLON: Been a pretty steady progression. Media Day gets us tuned in. The first thing is when we get over here in the garage, get to walk around, I saw the haulers pulling in a few minutes ago, so that was pretty cool, pretty special.
REGARDING THE LOOK OF THE CAR
AUSTIN DILLON: I haven't really gotten to take a real good look at it.
I think we respect everything that the Earnhardt family has to say. Dale Jr. and everybody has been very supportive of it. It's been a good thing so far. Everything's been great. Just continue to move on with what we're going with.
You know, I think there was something about the number and the color. That is one thing my grandfather said from the beginning, that we weren't going to have it black. So luckily the Cheerios car and Dow, everybody, our sponsors, have some black in the color with their sponsor, exactly not a percentage that's more than 50%. I think the most we've got on a paint scheme is 60%. That is one thing. But we're definitely respectful and going to keep it color sensitive.
ABOUT DALE EARNHARDT, JR. DRIVING IN THAT CAR
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I've always appreciated that. Junior is an awesome guy. I've got to spend time and sit down and talk with him and learn so much from him also.
I feel like for me experience is going to be big leaning on the people around me. I've got a really strong family. Leaning on those guys is very important.
TO THOSE THAT HAVE RESERVATIONS, WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THEM?
AUSTIN DILLON: Everybody's got their own opinion. I feel like hopefully we can win them over as time goes on. That's all you can do.
Hopefully they're open enough to take a look at everything that we're doing. I think as far as performance and moving forward, hopefully we can win them over.
HOW MEANINGFUL IS IT FOR YOU TO BE ABLE TO DRIVE FOR YOUR GRANDFATHER AT THIS LEVEL?
AUSTIN DILLON: It's great. To be able to work for a company, every time I cross the railroad tracks in Welcome, North Carolina, it's special. I've enjoyed being a part of RCR.
The other day it was really awesome to be able to be part of the kickoff luncheon. The guys were fired up. I think it's a new life at RCR.
WHAT KIND OF ADDITIONAL RESPONSIBILITY DO YOU HAVE BECAUSE YOU'RE PART OF THIS NASCAR FAMILY?
AUSTIN DILLON: I feel like for me it's really more the employees at RCR that I know. I've grown up with those guys, know how much heart and soul they put into the racecars.
I said it at our kickoff lunch. We have a great house at RCR. When I cross that bridge, that's our house.
When we come here, my job and our teams' jobs are to represent our house. Hopefully we bring our house and represent it well at the track. That's what we try and do every time we bring our stuff to the racetrack.
REGARDING FANS AND THE NO. 3, BEING DELIBERATELY WRECKED
AUSTIN DILLON: It's racing. I think I've been doing it forever. People get into it, have battles, go hard each and every weekend. You have those times when you're racing hard out there and stuff happens.
I think we do a good job of handling it ourselves on the track hopefully.
WHAT DID YOU AND YOUR GRANDFATHER TALK ABOUT TO CONVINCE HIM YOU WERE READY?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think both of us for years now, running the 3 in the last four years, it kind of prepared us for any kind of question or opportunity that arises.
The biggest thing is being respectful to all the family that is involved and also just, you know, taking this opportunity and hoping that fans are embracing it the right way. We're trying to continue the legacy of the No. 3. I think we've done a good job of that so far.
ON LEGACY OF THE NO. 3
AUSTIN DILLON: I think Dale was so important in driving that number. He was the guy that made that number what it is today.
But like I said earlier, Dale Earnhardt is Dale Earnhardt not only because of the number, but because he was a hero and created so many things for this sport. The number for me, hopefully I can continue the legacy that it has and keep on moving on with it.
DO YOU THINK PEOPLE WILL SEE IT COMING UP IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR AND WILL HAVE AN AUTOMATIC REACTION, FEEL INTIMIDATED AND PULL OVER FOR YOU?
AUSTIN DILLON: No, not at all (laughter). I still have a long way to go in this sport. This is my rookie year. One day, if we're winning championships, competing for wins, maybe it will happen.
TALK ABOUT THE ROOKIE CLASS YOU'RE GOING UP AGAINST.
AUSTIN DILLON: I got to stay focused on what my goals are this year. Rookie of the Year in the other two series. I definitely want to accomplish that in the Cup Series. I feel like the competition is stout. I feel like every year I've been in Nationwide or Truck, there's been some really good classes. Then also last year battling for a championship. Hopefully what I learned going through that with the stout competition we had last year in Nationwide will help me this year going forward.
ON BATTLES FOR NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES AND NATIONWIDE SERIES CHAMPIONSHIPS
AUSTIN DILLON: I can't remember the Truck and Nationwide. I was more focused on last year's Nationwide championship battle. Having Elliott Sadler, Brian Vickers, Regan Smith, guys that have full-time Cup experience, battling them in Nationwide was very tough. My battle in the Truck Series, I think Kligerman was there, a few other guys that year, too. I can't remember, though.
HOW DO YOU THINK THE SUM OF YOUR EXPERIENCES, CHAMPIONSHIP RUNS, SERVES YOU GOING FORWARD IN THE SERIES?
AUSTIN DILLON: Hopefully it means something. You know, I feel like the mental stability that you gain going through a championship battle, I think you can never lose that. It's a championship. I feel like that will help going forward.
There's definitely the new Chase presenting a definitely new outcome. I won the championship last year without winning a race. It's a different mentality. I can change the way I go about things, for sure. I'll have to go through that this year obviously.
I'm looking forward to that opportunity. I think it gives a lot of chance and more going after it, more intensity to the races.
It seems the best way I can relate to that is when I go back and run a Truck race with no points, you can really get after the car and really challenge yourself to get everything out of it. Not that you're not getting everything out of the car when it's a points race, but you're definitely grounded in thinking what it means where you're running and the positioning. I think that's where the Chase, the new format, presents a lot of action and pushing yourself.
ON THE NUMBER OF RACES HE WILL BE RUNNING
AUSTIN DILLON: Actually the same amount as far as running my modified, all the races that are available. I might take the last night off depending on where we are in points. The last night doesn't count in points. Hopefully we can win it off. That ends Monday.
For me, as far as the year, I'm going to run some Nationals races during the Summer Nationals, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, then get to the racetrack. I'm still focused on that. I think it really helps me as far as being able to get in those cars and just have some fun.
ANY THOUGHT TO CUTTING THAT BACK GOING FULL-TIME CUP?
AUSTIN DILLON: My grandfather was a little on the edge of us running a little bit. But I talked him into, so...
He knows how important it is to me and Ty to run our dirt cars. He definitely knows the stress that I'm going to be going under this year. So I think I relayed it to him in a way that it's kind of a stress reliever if anything. I can go out to the dirt track, focus on what I have to do.
REGARDING SAFETY OF DIRT CARS
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, there's that for sure (laughter).
Tony is in a Sprint car. That's a difference from where I'm running a modified or full-bodied late model. Not that I'm questioning a Sprint car's safety, but you're definitely carrying a lot of speed in those things. I've never been able to drive one.
We take a lot of safety precautions with our cars that a lot of other people don't. In the dirt world, we plate the interiors and do different things to make sure that we're getting a lot of safety out of those cars.
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM THE VETERANS?
AUSTIN DILLON: You know, I've been through the Truck Series where there were some wily veterans, I guess you could say, and the Nationwide Series. More in the Truck Series I think is where you learn about racing veterans.
For me it's going to be tough because a lot of those guys I grew up racing against, not racing against, but watching on TV. Seeing Jeff Gordon out there, you're still in awe when you're racing against him on the track. And Dale Jr. I'll have to learn that throughout the year.
I think that's the good thing about having those rookie stripes, I learned the first year what it takes to go to the second level the second year. Hopefully I can evaluate after the first year and have a better answer for you.
DO YOU KEEP AN EYE ON KYLE AND OTHER ROOKIES?
AUSTIN DILLON: I think you do. If you don't focus on yourself in the competition, you can't gain points. I think the biggest thing is trying to figure out what makes your team better and how throughout the year that you can develop for the following year.
This year for us, it's such a learning year where we can really go out and attack and figure out where the edge is. I think we need to figure that out at most of the tracks we go to.
WHAT KIND OF STRESS DO YOU EXPECT? HOW TOUGH COULD THIS BE? YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW, BUT HOW TOUGH DO YOU THINK THIS WILL BE?
AUSTIN DILLON: I mean, it can get really tough. You have so many ups and downs throughout the year in the Cup Series where you go through transitions. I think you lean on family and your friends. My family is RCR. My guys are so experienced, I feel like I have a really experienced team. Any one of the guys on my team could go car chief, most of the teams out there.
I'm very fortunate in the fact that I've got a great team. We're going to go out there and definitely work and use them and stay a tight-knit group work within each other.
YOU'VE HAD THE 3 COMING OUT. THAT'S YOUR NUMBER. WAS THERE EVER ANY CONSIDERATION TO CHANGE BECAUSE OF THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE 3 AT THIS LEVEL?
AUSTIN DILLON: There's always thoughts of it. I feel like you go through times, and you don't know what to go through. My family, RCR, all the people there around us, hearing it from Dale Jr. and people like that, is very influential I feel like to where we're at today.
Yeah, I mean, I've looked at other numbers and stuff, too. It wasn't like, That's the number I want to run. Bam, bam, that's how I was going to do it or nothing.
We were very respectful in the fact it was up to my grandfather and the people that were around that number the longest.
So I'm not a kid that says, Hey, this is what I want, this is what I'm going to get. I've never been that way. Hopefully I'm never portrayed that way.
I'm a very respectful person and look to the history of the sport. I feel fortunate I'm getting this opportunity, though.
WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN THE ALTERNATE NUMBER?
AUSTIN DILLON: That's a good question. My dad had run 21 a few times. Ty ran 2 a lot running up through the races. 41 was another one that got taken this year from Kurt that we would have probably looked at. We also had 33 and different numbers. But those aren't really my favorites.
WHAT ABOUT GIVING PAYBACK?
AUSTIN DILLON: Giving payback? That's what payback is, right? I can't think of the polite word to say it (laughter).
I guess if you have to do it, you got to let it be known. Not let it be known, just do it the right way. You get smart and get under their skin somehow. Hopefully we don't have to deal with it too often. But there's a chance of that with the way the new Chase lays out. I guess you just have to look back and see how other people did it throughout the years.
WOULD YOU WRECK SOMEBODY FOR A WIN?
AUSTIN DILLON: When I first started racing, I remember two opportunities where I wish I would have done things differently to win races. I look back on those. Now looking back, the memory of those, no one looks back and would have cared probably because I finished second. If I would have won that race, it might have meant something. I can remember those opportunities. I wish I had them back.
If the opportunity arises, you're there on the last lap in three and four, not necessarily taking them out, but laying your bumper to the end, I think that opportunity's there, you got to take it. You watch some of the Supercrosses this year, what's going on, there's some wild finishes at the end of those.
When you look back it creates a little history and some craziness.
I don't know. It's all about morals in the end, I guess, how you believe you should race somebody, or you be at the end of the race.
WHERE WERE YOU THE DAY DALE EARNHARDT DIED?
AUSTIN DILLON: I was at home. For me, we watched the race. Then I was sent up to our barn where we were hanging out with my brother and some of our friends. My mom came over and got us. We went over to the shop. Everybody came to our house, I'm sorry, the whole shop, and we had a Bible study.