ThatsRacin

4 questions with NASCAR’s Austin Dillon

Austin Dillon finished 12th at Phoenix last week and is eighth in the Sprint Cup standings.
Austin Dillon finished 12th at Phoenix last week and is eighth in the Sprint Cup standings. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Four questions with Austin Dillon, driver of Richard Childress Racing’s No. 3 Chevy, who finished ninth last week at Phoenix International Raceway and is a solid eighth in NASCAR’s Cup standings:

Q. To what do you credit your team’s fast start?

A. Hard work in the offseason is one thing. I think if you look back to last year, we have kind of had this streak going. I really enjoy working with Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) and my group of engineers that are with me. We have just tried to eliminate mistakes and make me a better driver and our team better race cars. 

The work is paying off we just have to keep plugging along and never stop working.

Q. What’s your opinion of the new low-downforce aero package?

A. I (still) haven’t accounted for the lack of downforce. I’m trying to get to the same braking points that I got to last year and it’s been difficult to get to those same braking points. I find myself struggling a little on entry. I’ve got to take into account that the spoiler is a lot smaller and just kind of getting used to that.

Our best finish last year came on the high-downforce package at Michigan. I wouldn’t account it to just the downforce switches or whatnot. I think it’s just better race cars overall and then also working better as a team. 

Q. Can you describe how tire wear differs from track to track?

A. The tire on both sides seems to be freer and our overall balance. So, just working around it and as far as the differences I can help you a little bit. Last week we were at Charlotte doing a tire test all week. Every compound you chose, if it was a softer one you went faster. If it was a harder one you went slower.

Some tracks that is different, but most of the time you want the softest you can get and usually if you have a soft tire it falls off into a run. Soft means a lot of grip for a shorter period of time. Hard means not as much grip, but (the tire will) hold on for a long period of time.

Q. What is your relationship like with crew chief Slugger Labbe, especially after your testy exchange with him on the radio at Las Vegas recently?

A. When it comes to communication with Slugger, we are like two brothers. We are both very aggressive personalities. He is not afraid to tell me when he thinks I’ve messed up and I’m not afraid to tell him when I think he has messed up.

It’s a part of being intense. Slugger is really good at being blunt with things and I’ve learned to be able to take it and he can take it too. That is what I love about him. 

I can tell him right to his face, ‘Hey this is no good.’ He will go to work on it. Same with me; if he thinks I’m not driving right I will go to work, too.

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