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2014 Daytona 500: NASCAR Sprint Cup Post-Qualifying Press Conference - Austin Dillon
Posted by: ASkyler on Feb 16, 2014 - 07:16 PM
2014 Daytona 500: NASCAR Sprint Cup Post-Qualifying Press Conference - Austin Dillon

For the second consecutive time, the Chevrolet SS race car earned front row starting positions for the upcoming 56th running of the Daytona 500, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season kickoff at Daytona International Speedway (DIS). In bringing back the iconic No. 3 to the sport, Austin Dillon won the pole with a lap of 45.914 seconds, 196.019 mph. It was the first pole in just two career starts at DIS for the 23 year-old Rookie of the Year contender.

Martin Truex, Jr. placed his No. 78 Chevrolet SS on the outside front row, marking his sixth top-10 start in 18 races at DIS. Known as the biggest qualifying session of the year; it is also ranked as the most prestigious in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

"Congratulations to Austin Dillon and the No. 3 Chevrolet SS team on clinching the pole for the Daytona 500," said Jim Campbell, U.S. Vice President Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. "Richard Childress and the entire RCR team have been hard at work during the off-season preparing for 2014. It was also special having Martin Truex Jr & the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet SS team lock-up the outside of the front row for the Daytona 500.

"It's a long race but it will be exciting to start the 2014 Daytona 500 with an all-Chevy front row," added Campbell.

Dillon and Truex, Jr. are now the only two drivers to have secured starting positions for next Sunday’s Great American Race. The balance of the 43-car field starting order will be set in the Budweiser Duel at Daytona, a pair of 150-mile qualifying races, which are set for Thursday, Feb. 20 at 7:00 p.m.


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KERRY THARP: Let's hear from our Coors Light pole winner, Austin Dillon. He drives the No. 3 Dow Chevrolet, and what a great sponsor you got, what a great company; Dow is for sure, to have on that No. 3 race car. He's joined by his crew chief Gil Martin and his team owner Richard Childress. This is the fourth time the No. 3 car has sat on the pole, Coors Light pole here at Daytona. Buddy Baker did it in '69, Ricky Rudd did it in '83, Dale Earnhardt did it in '96, and now Austin Dillon replicates that here in 2014.

Austin, this is a big deal, and I know that it's going to sink in here for you the next few days, but just talk about what it means to sit on the ‑‑ to have the Coors Light pole award for the Daytona 500 driving the No. 3 car.

AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, it's amazing. I actually want to start and go back a little bit. You said something about Dow. They've had a good start. They actually just got the first Olympic medal for us in the luge, in the women's luge for a bronze, and now they got the pole at the Daytona 500. It shows that the technology that that group is able to bring, not only as a partner with us, it's a performance partner. So it's pretty cool to see what they've been able to do.

As far as starting the year off with a pole right here, it brings some momentum into our season already to show that RCR cars have speed, and I'm so happy to be working with Gil and all of our guys. I sat down at the test at Nashville we had, and it was fun just to sit back and watch them work. They're so experienced and good at what they do. I know I'm the young guy out of the group, the rookie of the group, and I really think I'm going to learn a lot this year from these guys.

KERRY THARP: Gil Martin, just talk about having the pole sitter, the No. 3 Dow Chevrolet with RCR. Just talk about what that means for this race team.

GIL MARTIN: It means a lot. Like Austin said, it's a tremendous amount of motivation for us and momentum for us. I mean, because every day you drive onto our complex, you see Richard's 3 and you see the heritage of that 3 there, so to be able to be a part of this, it's a dream come true for me, and I know it is for everybody in our whole team and our whole organization because I've watched Austin come from being a little guy to where he's at today, and it's been an amazing journey to watch. And to be a part of it now, I'm looking forward to it. I think it's going to be a great run.

Q. Your grandfather just mentioned you guys came here and you were fast, and you were fast again when you tested and you were fast again yesterday, and it's sort of building it up and building it up for this potential pole‑winning run. What does that feel like when you get in the car? Do you feel like I can't screw this up, everybody thinks I'm going to win the pole?

AUSTIN DILLON: There's a little bit of that for sure. You try and keep the blinders on when you're hitting those shifts, putting on a good line, and these guys made it easy on me. The car drove well. The funny thing is like you said there's buildup to it, and I don't know, my grandfather said ‑‑ me and Gil said, calm down, you're nervous, he said, I'm not nervous, I'm concerned. So now I guess now he doesn't have to be concerned, we're on the pole, and things can a little bit calm down until Thursday. But it's very cool for everybody at RCR and ECR. Yeah, you've got to keep your blinders on and stay focused, obviously.

Q. Gil and Richard, when Danny Lawrence was in here, he talked about an energy that Austin brings to the shop and to the company, and I'm wondering if you agree with that assessment and what is it about him that he's added to the organization?

GIL MARTIN: I think his youth is bringing a lot to us. I know it is for me. He's getting me out of the dark ages. I'm thinking about getting rid of my house phone. I'm going to start texting pretty soon.

But no, his enthusiasm, and again, being a part of this, to watch this happen through his eyes and the things that he's got to that are lying out there for him, it's going to be a lot fun to watch. I think everybody in this room is going to enjoy what's going to go on.

RICHARD CHILDRESS: And for me, the energy that he brings to our whole organization is huge, and just when we started running the 3 truck, it was big. He built excitement winning the championship, and then coming back and winning a championship in it last year. It's real special. It makes me think back to the days. He's been in the shop so long, him and his brother Ty, I can remember Dale pushing them around on a creeper down there in the garage when they were just little babies, so that's how far they go back.

Q. Richard, you've been through pressure‑filled weeks before, but who's going to feel the pressure the most this week, you or Dillon, and who's going to comfort who?

RICHARD CHILDRESS: That's a good one. You know, I don't know. We know what we've got to do. We know what tasks are in front of us. We've got this one behind us. We've got to go race. I've been here many, many years, probably since in the '60s, and this one is going to be special because my grandson is in it and he'll be starting from the pole on the 3, but at the end of the day, we all know what we're here to do, and that's to go out and put on a great show for the fans and try to win the race.

Q. RC, you've had to reinvent this organization several times since you've been at the helm. This just seems like a whole new chapter for RCR, not only do you have the new drivers you brought in but you have a lot of technical partners, as well. Is this just the strongest that RCR has been since the beginning?

RICHARD CHILDRESS: I really feel good about the year. These guys have been testing. We've been doing a lot of work with our technical partners, and that just makes us all stronger. I know we've been at Nashville. We've had other teams over at Nashville, and pool our resources, and that makes us stronger. But I feel good about having Ryan Newman back with us, and Eric Warren and Mike Dillon has just done a phenomenal job of putting the right people together to move forward and try to race for that championship with one of these guys, and proud of everything they've done.

Q. Richard, is this more emotional because it's your grandson, or is it more emotional because it's the 3?

RICHARD CHILDRESS: I think it's the combination of both. You know, the 3 is special to all of us. The family, the Earnhardt family to every one of us, but I think it's special because Austin, our family is in the car. You know, the emotion will fly if the 3 rolls in there on Sunday. I won't hold it back, I promise.

Q. Richard, just wanted to ask you a little bit about the concerns you had going out there today. What were they, and was it ‑‑

AUSTIN DILLON: He had a lot of concerns.

Q. Not with the driver I don't think.

AUSTIN DILLON: We'd be here all day.


Q. Richard, were the concerns, did they gnaw at you when you saw your grandson on the pole and there was still other guys out there waiting to take their shots?

RICHARD CHILDRESS: Yeah, really, I was up there on the wall and back, and we were talking, and I just told them the 78 is going to be ‑‑ Jimmie Johnson, you can't take nothing away from those guys, we were sweating it down to the last car when Clint Bowyer took it. But yeah, I have concerns, and I came out this morning and was asking all kinds of questions to all the crew chiefs, not just Gil, because I know how hard they worked and I wanted them to put it together.

GIL MARTIN: Yeah, it leads up to this: Can you get fast enough to get on the pole, and once you get there can you hold it. I said, can we just breathe a minute?

Q. Obviously people keep mentioning, people in our industry keep mentioning the 3, the 3, the 3. It's a number that obviously you've had your whole race career. Is there such a thing as pressure, or is this kind of just roll off because obviously it's hard to deflect away all of the constant attention to the number, and you're the guy in the car. How do you kind of internalize and deal with all of that stuff and obviously the great interest in the car itself and the number?

AUSTIN DILLON: Well, it was pretty simple last night and today. I didn't have too much scheduled before qualifying, so I slept until about 12:30 and watched a movie, ate wrap with a burger in it, and then walked out to the garage, talked to Gil for a minute, put my suit on and walked to my car, had fun with my guys for a little bit, jumped in it and qualified it.

Today I just tried to keep my focuses on qualifying the car, obviously, and having my ‑‑ you've got to have those blinders because you want to stay focused and run well because that's what it's going to take to ‑‑ you want to perform with the No. 3, and everybody wants to see it perform, and that's why my grandfather is always concerned. You want to go out there and run well.

It's a long season. There's a lot of ups and downs, and this is one of the top points, obviously starting off like this, so you want to carry that momentum going forward. But for me, I just have to stay grounded and have fun.

Q. Austin, you know there's always people that are trying to take stuff away from you or take shots at you. I'm sure you see it on Twitter, and the latest thing today is of course he got the pole, the 3 is going to be on the pole, NASCAR wanted it to be that way. When you hear stuff like that, how do you react? Do you just laugh it off or let it get to you?

AUSTIN DILLON: You just keep your blinders on, man. Keep trucking. It's a part of it. I think you hear it. There's always going to be an opposite side to every story, and luckily we can come out on top with this one I feel like, and it's so important that RCR and ECR had the front row. All of our cars were fast. That makes it even better. So yeah, it's part of this whole life, what you're doing in NASCAR, and it's fun. That's what creates the buildup and anticipation and creates fan base, and that's what NASCAR is about.

Q. Richard, obviously people see Austin Dillon as Austin Dillon the race car driver. You see him from a different light. What's a special or significant moment away from the racetrack that you've spent with him, whether in the big picture thing it really means anything, but it's significant and special to you at some point in your life with him, and Austin, if you can talk about maybe some of your earlier memories of being in the shop when you were young and just kind of hanging out there and things that stand out to you or things that you did there.

RICHARD CHILDRESS: You know, I've got so many; it would be hard to pick. We're a special family. We spend a lot of time together. We all, our whole family loves the outdoors. We love racing, we love what we do. We're a racing family.

But just thinking back, how he's been able, and Ty both, to understand how important our fans are and how important this sport is. Some people think this sport, NASCAR, owes them something. They've never thought that they owe the fans and NASCAR, this great sport, something back. I think that's one of the special things about watching him and just standing back.

They weren't just playing around and listening when Dale Earnhardt and Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer and all the guys, they were learning lessons, and they've wore it well.

AUSTIN DILLON: For me, working ‑‑ not working, but coming to the shop so many days of my entire life, you're talking about a different heir to RCR coming in there, and I feel like I have something invested in it because it's my family. So I really want them to do well, everybody over there, and I know almost all the employees because I'm there every day, I work out with them, I go mess around, and I've had projects for school built at RCR, crazy stuff like that.

Q. What kind of projects?

AUSTIN DILLON: Science projects, anything.

KERRY THARP: Hey, he took a whole wind tunnel to school one day.

AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, luckily I had RCR as my back. The first thing I ever did at the shop there when I worked there in the summer is I worked with our yard like facilitator, so I got to mow, and they didn't let me mow because they wouldn't trust me on the mower, so they handed me a weed eater, and there's a hill behind the museum, and it's just this big hill. You can't even see it, and I got told to go weed eat this hill, and it was ‑‑ it's all monkey grass, so it's this really thick, yellow grass that's like ‑‑ at my age, I was probably only 12 or 13, it was up to my knees, and I weed eated that whole hill that day, and since that day it hasn't been weed eated. So the only time that I weed eated a hill that's not seen on the shop and still hasn't been weed eated, so it's back to monkey grass, and I guess I'll have to work someday back into weed eating again.

But I've been going there for a long time and being a part of it, and I just want to see RCR run well, and I always can keep him honest because everybody tells him every different thing. He's getting pulled all kinds of different directions, and if I can stay in the shop and help Gil, I try and stay away from the cars because I don't want to do anything with that, but just knowing how things are run and how everybody is doing and working together, I think that's really important like with all of our new technical partners and teammates, we've got to work together to be able to be successful every week. That's something I felt like in the Nationwide Series and Truck Series I was able to keep those shops really tight together pulling in one direction because everybody has got to run good and help each other to be better, and hopefully we can do that in the Cup shop.

Q. My question is for Gil: Gil, you've got a demanding car owner, you've got a rookie driver who's shown some good ability, and then you had a car that the rules were changing on dramatically, and you had two and a half months to work in those three areas. Which one was the most difficult, and which one made you smile the most in working through?

GIL MARTIN: We kid around a lot about him and what he does, but he is demanding, and because of the fact that he is, it makes people achieve things that they don't think that they can achieve. It makes you work longer than you really wanted to work, and it makes you do things that you just didn't think you were capable of. Even though we kid about that, that's a good thing.

The driver, you can call them a rookie a lot, but he's so far along where he's at now in his career, that he's the most experienced rookie that's probably gotten in one of these cars, so with that, extremely exciting. The rules are the toughest thing we're having to deal with right now just because they're ever changing and they're unknown. We've just got to keep going each week and deal with it, but I like it all.

Q. Austin, I asked you this question just before it was announced that you won the pole, but how do you plan on staying grounded between now and the green flag?

AUSTIN DILLON: Dirt racing. I'll be at the dirt track. I'm actually going to be late right now. I'm trying to talk RC into getting me a helicopter ride over there if I can, but ‑‑ please.

RICHARD CHILDRESS: You need to keep working here a little while. I'm working on getting you there.

AUSTIN DILLON: I've got to go win a dirt race tonight. That's my next concern.

RICHARD CHILDRESS: Before we even talk about him winning the pole, his brother has won the last two features out there at Volusia, and he's up on Austin, so Austin says I've got to go win tonight.

AUSTIN DILLON: Exactly. He's got two on me, and I've got to get in that big race for Monday night. That's how I stay focused. Wednesday we're going to sit down with Gil, I'm sure, and now that we do have the pole sitting car, we've got to figure out what's the best way to get through practice, figure out what we need in the draft, figure out how our car handles obviously going into Sundays, and then how to race on Thursday to make sure we can bring that fast car on to Sunday.

KERRY THARP: Congratulations to the No. 3 Dow Chevrolet, Austin Dillon, crew chief Gil Martin and Richard Childress for winning the 2014 Coors Light pole for next Sunday's Daytona 500. Enjoy it.

RICHARD CHILDRESS: I'd like to say one quick thing to the press. I'd like to thank every one of you for all your support bringing this 3 back. I know we've had a lot of support put out by this press, and I don't think everything would have went as smooth as it had if we hadn't had the great press we got, so thank you.


KERRY THARP: Our second fastest qualifier for next Sunday's 56th annual Daytona 500 at Daytona and being on the front row for the second time in his NASCAR career, he was a pole sitter here in 2009, Martin Truex Jr., his first year with this race team, and he drives the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet for Furniture Row and Barney Visser. He's joined by his crew chief Todd Berrier, who was the Daytona 500 winning crew chief in 2007 with Kevin Harvick. Congratulations, Martin. Talk about what it means to be starting on the front row for next Sunday.

MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, it means a ton to me. Obviously going to a new team, this is the kind of thing that you look for. Can't say how proud I am of Todd and Cole and Barney and everybody at Furniture Row Racing for what they've been able to do, and it's pretty amazing to not test, run one run yesterday, literally this was only the second time the car had been on the racetrack, and just shows what kind of race cars this team builds, and just proud to be the one holding the gas on the floor today.

KERRY THARP: Todd, congratulations, got a new driver here in the Martin Truex Jr. He knows how to wheel a car and you know how to win the Daytona 500, so how's that combination going to work for you?

TODD BERRIER: It should work good. At the end of the day if we can keep him talking and not practicing, the less we practice the better we're going to be. I'm going to try to sell him on that, so if you guys will help me do that, we'll be good.

Q. Todd, Martin said you're a little superstitious and follow the same game plan that you had when you won the Daytona 500 with Kevin. Can you elaborate, please?

TODD BERRIER: You know, I've came here a lot of times, and there's been several times we've came here and not tested. With that being said it's easy to say we didn't test, but at the same time you've got RCR's group that's testing and doing that stuff, and we're affiliated with those guys and it's an open book when it comes to that.

I mean, if those guys had to test, it wouldn't have even been an option for us. Even previously when we didn't test here, there was cars in the organization that came and tested.

With that being said, I still felt really good about continuing to work in the wind tunnel, continue to work in the shop and do all the detail works that it takes to make the cars go fast. I feel you're better suited to do that work in the shop, and while those guys are down here testing, we were back there beating the car up trying to get just a little bit more out of it. Obviously we should have started a week sooner, I think, but at the end of the day we were pretty close.

Q. Are you superstitious?

TODD BERRIER: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I'm superstitious.

MARTIN TRUEX JR.: That was a good guess. I was just guessing when I said that. That was the only thing I could come up with on why you didn't want to test.

TODD BERRIER: I guess. What is it, $50 bills and green, shoes, I don't know how many races we've run bad or whatever and I leave my shoes at the track and walk home in my socks or whatever. Absolutely.

Q. Martin, despite not testing and the late practice yesterday, were you surprised by how fast you guys ran your lap in the Daytona 500 qualifying?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.: No, not really because yesterday the first run out, out of everyone's first run, I believe, except for the 27, we ran the quickest lap. Everyone that went faster did it on their second or third runs yesterday.

I knew we were in the ballpark, but to pick up whatever it was, fourth tenths from yesterday to today, you just never know. I had no idea. All I do is get in there, hold the throttle on the floor. I thought on the lap that it felt good based on rpm and where it was and the wind was quite a bit different today.

Honestly, you never know. Honestly we were watching TV when I seen that Biffle ran in the 45‑second bracket. I honestly thought that was going to be really tough to beat, and then Newman went out and went fast, and of course that Austin went and put up a big number, and I was like, okay, I think we do have a shot now.

You never know until you go here. There's so many tiny little things that the team do to find that little speed, and fortunately Todd and the guys did a great job of finding some.

Q. Danny Lawrence just said earlier that you're afraid if you knocked Austin off the pole, you might not get as good as engine for the rest of the season.


Q. Talk a little bit about how good this engine is and how close it is to what the Childress guys have.

MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, obviously it's good enough to be on the front row, so it's pretty dang good.

Yeah, I mean, obviously without that, that thing under the hood, we wouldn't be where we're at, so we obviously owe a lot to them, Richie Gilmore, Danny Lawrence, everybody at ECR. It's been quite a few years since I ran an ECR engine. I think last time I did was here at Daytona and I was on the pole. Got a pretty good track record of qualifying here with an ECR engine under the hood, and obviously they're building some big power, and definitely glad I didn't knock the 3 off the pole. That's all I'm going to say. We'll wait until July to get ours.

Q. Todd, you guys have come a long way from Denver to get here with that car. Have you had a chance to get it in the wind tunnel much to get the kind of results you got? You do static or you do rolling road such as over at wind shear?

TODD BERRIER: Yeah, we tested this car a few times, and obviously the week that those guys were here actually on track testing we had this actual car in the wind tunnel again for the second or third time or something. No, we don't do rolling road, but we do static wind tunnel testing. We do it at Aerodyne.

Q. Todd, why the decision to run just one lap before qualifying? Did you already know, or did you just feel that confident?

TODD BERRIER: You know, you really ‑‑ your work is done at the shop. You really don't get them a lot better when you get here. I was raised, Richard taught me not to practice, you know what I mean, so at the end of the day, I pretty much followed suit with that my whole career, and then things have changed because I saw Gil and them practicing every practice, and I couldn't believe that was actually allowed.

Q. Martin, all the teams and the drivers, they've come into the new season with a new slate and upbeat and everything else, but when you get something like this happening right away, does that make a big difference, and how long do you think it'll last for?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I think it'll last until Thursday, you know. That's the good thing about qualifying here; you get to think about it for a few days and not just overnight. Yeah, it's a big deal. Honestly it's a big deal for all the guys that put in the hard work building the race cars, going to the wind tunnel, the guys that drive it back and forth across the country, the engine shop guys.

I think for me it just makes me feel good that I've got a great team that can build fast race cars, and obviously I knew coming in that they were going to be able to do that. They did it last year, and so it's fun to go to the racetrack when you know your stuff is going to be fast. I just hope, again, I can do a great job for them this year. This is a lot different than what we're going to do all year where we need to really be strong, and so this is just the start for us.

We've got a lot of work to do still this week, get the car driving good in the pack, and we obviously want to win the Daytona 500. Qualifying, yeah, you can start dead last and win this thing, so it's not over, there's a lot of work to do. Just proud of the guys, and they should definitely be patted on the back for their efforts here.

KERRY THARP: Martin and Todd, congratulations with the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, and good luck next week.


KERRY THARP: We're going to go ahead and start our post‑qualifying for the 56th annual Daytona 500, which will be a week from today here at Daytona International Speedway. Danny Lawrence, who's the trackside manager for ECR, and certainly is a happy day for this company, built some mighty fine engines, going to be on the front row for the Daytona 500, also had a lot of success here last month at the Rolex, I believe 1‑2‑3 if I'm not mistaken for that, as well, and then also Danny tells me his first time out as engine builder at NASCAR in 1998 when they built the engine for the No. 3 Chevrolet that won the Daytona 500 by Dale Earnhardt, he also was responsible for the engine that went into the 2007 Daytona 500 winning Chevrolet driven by Kevin Harvick, and he whispers in my ear a minute ago, I hope there's a third one in the cards. Congratulations, Danny. Just talk about the great afternoon here today for ECR.

DANNY LAWRENCE: Well, I'm going to tell you, coming down to Daytona, it is our super sport, and we got to be really good friends with Joie Chitwood through the years. I know a lot of you guys don't know, but Joie's dad and Richard were really tight, and in '69, you guys need to get Joie to show you the picture of Richard and Joie's dad. It is really cool, got hair slicked back look like two junior Elvis Presleys.

I'll probably get in trouble for that one, but so, you know, it's always been coming to Daytona, back in the day we would go to Talladega and run for seven or eight days and then come here and test, and it was never good enough because it's all about the details, and it's still that way today. Every little detail matters. You asked me about did you build that engine. Well, our company does this together. Richard has given us the tools and the people. We have aligned ourselves with hiring Dr. Eric Warren and Mike Coughlan from Formula 1. It takes every little thing to be able to do what we did today, so it's not just one person. Austin did a great job. Everybody just puts it together.

You know, really on the sentimental side, I've really been pretty good about this 3 thing, and when I saw that car hit the racetrack today, it kind of tore me up a little bit, but I've got to tell you, Austin is such a good guy that he has been great for our company.

Q. I'm going to stick with the question I was going to ask, but you threw me on that sentimental part. You had such a successful Rolex, and you guys were very, very fast at testing here, and you've been fast for two days now. What kind of preparation has to go in as a company for you guys to be so strong in both series all the way across every time out?

DANNY LAWRENCE: Well, it's the approach you take. You know, you have to not leave anything on the table. I welcome any of you guys to come to our shop and see our facilities, see what Richard has done, the dynos we have in and how we test. Jimmie Johnson actually pushed us all to the next level and Hendrick Motorsports has, too, and we can't use the excuse that we're all Chevrolet, so we have to be better every time. You come down here to the test, and you're either good or you're bad. Last couple years ago we came down here and we weren't very good, so you go back home, you work night and day, night and day, trying to make sure that you're not leaving any little detail on the table. Okay, come down to the test this year and you're pretty good, and you're like, we might have a chance to sit on the front row, so we can't leave any detail on the table.

The way the whole thing works is you do everything that you can possibly do and you make sure that your data's good and you make sure that you don't get any false information and you try to put it all together. The 78 car, they have five miles on that car, and that car was ‑‑ that's the way Richard does things. He gives our technical partners the same thing we get.

I'm going to tell you, I talked to Martin Truex a while ago, and he said, if I beat Austin I probably won't get another good engine for the rest of the year. He said, I ended up exactly where I wanted to be.

But no, everything is about every little detail, every employee, everything everybody does. You have to put it all together because the competition out here in NASCAR is so stiff. You just look how tight the qualifying is. It doesn't take anything at all to have a bad day.

Q. Danny, what's the challenge of taking an engine to the edge here without going over the cliff? We saw issues yesterday. How do you kind of find that balance with getting all you can out of it without creating problems?

DANNY LAWRENCE: Well, the thing is we and all the big engine companies have race simulation dynos, and we actually test these engines for multiple times, but it's still not the racetrack. Things happen on the racetrack that you can't simulate in the shop. When you're sitting here, a good engine from good to bad can be three horsepower off when you're trying to do every little thing that you can to get everything you can out of it, things do happen.

I mean, we're on the edge on these things. If you notice our guys out there, they're pretty much going back, checking every little part and every little piece that we can to make sure that we don't have any issues. As I said, every little detail matters, and you know, a lot of the teams, like I know that we have a car here that we have our package for Talladega in, and actually we'll run it in the 150s and we'll carry it back to the shop and we'll tear it apart. You have to think way down the road.

When something happens, when you have an issue, it's not something that's not thoroughly been tested. It's usually a parts issue or you'll find out that something happened component‑wise. It's generally not a mistake that somebody made; it's just something that happened.

Q. Kind of a two‑part question. The first is last year you didn't really have a great qualifying effort, and then this year it's completely turned around, so many cars there in the top 10. How much pride do you take as the head of the engine program to get that turnaround across, and while it doesn't reflect well to the racing, what does it mean to be able to have strong engines on qualifying day?

DANNY LAWRENCE: Well, I can tell you like this: It's not just ‑‑ it's about every race that we go to, and Richard has always told us the next race is the most important race. We've got guys going home tonight. We've got guys going to Nashville testing, we've got guys going ‑‑ we'll have people pretty much all over the country tomorrow working on trying to make sure that we're good at Vegas and Phoenix and California.

The thing is that we push and we plan way down the road, and we try to ‑‑ once we get our plan together, we execute the plan, and then we go to the next thing. It's not all just about one race. This whole thing comes back to how you end up all together.

I'll tell you one thing that Richard has worked really hard on is making sure that we all communicated better. Our cars, if you notice, our cars are closer together than they've ever been, and that helps everybody. You have a driver that if he's having an issue, if the car is not doing it right, he can actually talk to his teammate and they can be able to make changes on the car, and the cars are exactly the same, have all the same stuff in them so it reacts the same.

It takes a long time to be able to lay a plan out like that to make sure that you do your whole fleet to where it's universal and everything is kind of the same.

I'm not sure if that totally answered your question, but there you go again, it's all about the plan and the execution.

Q. You kind of touched on this a little bit, but if you could extrapolate further about Martin's effort and how proud you are to see them get on the front row, also.

DANNY LAWRENCE: Well, I'll tell you, the way it is now, when they build these cars, and you've got to applaud NASCAR for making the common template. In our fab shop they have a very sophisticated laser system to where they can measure and they start building the cars from the roofs all the way down. They know exactly, Todd and the Furniture Row guys know exactly what setup to put in the car, what their travels will be. Yesterday they made one lap, brand new car, and then they made a qualifying run, and that's all they did, and everything was right there where it needed to be. I don't think they made any changes.

When I sit here and tell you about the details, it's not ‑‑ it's not close, it's right on the money. And that's what we've been working really hard on to try to make sure that we can ‑‑ when we find something that's really good, we can replicate it and make all of our whole fleet better.

Q. Kerry mentioned 1998 and winning the Daytona 500. Can you just talk about how big ECR has become since that time and how you persevered despite losing the guy who really, in addition to Richard, drove all of you to do what you do?

DANNY LAWRENCE: Well, you know, it's no secret when we lost Dale, we rode an adrenaline for a little while there, and Kevin and Harvick did a very nice job being able to get into his seat, and then we had some pretty lean years. When you've got a guy that's driving for you that's your friend and to me the best race car driver out there, it's just about impossible to recover from that.

You know, I really believe that none of ‑‑ anybody in our company has ever given up, but I'm going to tell you, it's a breath of fresh air to be able to see Austin and Ty and Ryan Newman and Martin Truex and these guys that are great race car drivers be able to sit in our stuff, and it took us to while to recover to be will able to get back to where we needed to be. Richard always says, you don't want to hear any excuses and it's all about the results. Well, there we go again. It's been long enough where I think everybody is healed and we've got a little satisfaction of some of our other stuff, and we've been able to execute and we've got that feeling again, and I think that our company is ready to go to contend, and I don't think it's just about Daytona, I think we're going to be good everywhere we go, and if we're not, we're going to go back, we're going to regroup, and we're going to good hit them again.

Just as I said, Richard has always told us the next race is the most important race. Our cars look great, from what I understand, in the wind tunnel, and I know our engines are good for Phoenix, and they're sitting there, and we're very prepared and we're ready to go.

It's just all about the preparation, and I think that we're set up for a great year.

Q. If we'd have talked to you 25 years ago, you'd have talked a lot about horsepower, finding horsepower. How much of your effort today is still about finding horsepower, and how much of your effort in putting together engines is about reliability and last ability in the product?

DANNY LAWRENCE: Well, I'm going to tell you, back in the day, the engines were a little further apart, and you would have ‑‑ I mean, we'd go to put our 500 engine in, and I saw Chocolate just walked in, he can tell you. It's like we really hate to do that because generally it was about 10 horsepower off. You can't compete today if it's 10 horsepower off. But today everything is so detailed. You've got to have every bit of it. You've got to have a durable engine, you've got to make the best power, or you can't keep up. It's just the facts.

You know, the thing is 25 years ago to the day, the amount of equipment, the CNC machines that we have, when we build an engine now, we can make another one exactly like it, and I can look at the sheet and tell you it's going to make this power and be within two tenths. Back in the day when we built the engines, we would run one, like this is a good one, this one is okay, this one is really good, this one is not so good, and you didn't know because a lot of the stuff was done by hand, and I'm talking about, I went to work for Richard in 1985, and '85, '86, '87, we would decide, we always had our engines that were really off, that was our North Wilkesboro engines because you couldn't touch the gas. The engines that were really good, that was our Michigan engines. We've always had a plan, but today they are so, so close, and so when you hear a guy say this engine is way better than that engine, we know, we have so many checks. All these cars were run on a chassis dyno before they actually rolled off and rolled right into the trailer, and they all laid over each other really, really close.

It's just fine tuning every little bit of it.

But there is a big difference from 25 years ago to today. I mean, things are way closer now than what they used to be.

Q. How much of your company's commitment to plate races and the work that you guys put into it still goes back to RC and Dale Sr. racing together and what these races meant to them?

DANNY LAWRENCE: You know, people say a lot of times that Richard is ‑‑ he used to build his own engines and he drove and he did body work, he did it all. People tell me you're lucky because Richard has oil in his veins, he's an engine guy. But really Richard is an everything guy because he can sit here, and you go to a test, and if you have a car that doesn't respond, you go out there and you do things you know to make it go faster, the car doesn't respond and it doesn't pick up speed, Richard will say, well, that's the body. But if we have a car where all the cars run the same speed and they're not good, Richard knows, like okay, maybe we missed it on this, maybe we missed it on that. He still comes through there. He still looks at the dyno sheets. He still is very, very much involved. Richard loves the engines.

He told me about a year ago, I need to come down there and put one of those things together, and I said, they're way different now than what they used to be.

He is so dedicated and so into every little detail, and he's the one that puts that into us, that you would be surprised. Richard knows what spark plugs that we have in the car. He knows every piece of it, and he understands how it works, and it makes my job easier when you've got a guy, when you explain to him, okay, we pushed it a little bit too far or we got a little bit too hot. You can't pull the cover over him, either, because he knows when you're trying to ‑‑ just BS him I guess you could say. I was struggling with that.

KERRY THARP: We'll end on that one, Danny. Congratulations, and maybe we'll see you back here next week.

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