The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Austin Dillon of Richard Childress Racing. Dillon got his first career win earlier this season and is 13th in the point standings with two races to go.
1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?
I would say 60/40 working at it compared to natural ability. I really feel like you’ve got to work almost double what you do as far as natural ability, because it only carries you so far. And if you keep working at it, you kind of get the muscle memory right and you start making the right decisions under pressure more than you do just naturally. It’s more of a luck thing when it comes naturally.
2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and now Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all either retired in the last couple years or will retire soon. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?
Well, I’ve got all the new guys covered as far as coolness goes. I’m a pretty cool guy — just ask me. (Smiles)
I like being real, having fun with my boys, I just like to have a good time. I feel like I’m a pretty honest guy to say it how it is and I want to make NASCAR better when I leave it. That’s another big part of it: I want to give something back to this sport when I’m done with it.
3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?
Definitely just traveling to sponsor appearances. Usually there’s probably one or two every week, just keeping up with those.
And then staying fresh for when you’re asked similar questions throughout the week and you’re just answering the same ones. You’re trying to not get frustrated if you have a week where the same questions are getting answered.
So somebody asks you a question one day about how your season’s going, and the next day it’s like, “How’s your season going” again? That kind of thing?
Yeah, for sure. And if an event happens — like making the playoffs — and you have to do like seven interviews in a row in an hour-and-a-half period or something like that, it’s literally just like I’m repeat. I wish I could get everybody to call in at once and just do one really good interview and that’s where it’s tough, because you’ve got to go through and say the same thing to everybody — because that’s truly the answer. But by the seventh one I’m just dead. I’m like, “I’m OK, the car’s driving good, hopefully we can have a good race.” The first one, I’m pretty witty and fun, but then it gets a little monotonous.
I actually always wonder how you guys do that, because I feel like I’d want to have a recorder I take out and be like, “Here’s what I just told this person,” and just play it, you know?
Exactly, and I think it would be cooler. The ones that I like is when everybody listens in on a conference call, that seems to go pretty well. But when you have to go to different radio stations across the state or a couple of states, it gets pretty bad.
4. Let’s say a fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?
Yeah. I mean, I will sign for anyone. I think the best way to do it for a fan is don’t let me leave the table at the end. If I’m eating, just let me finish and then I’ll sign it. Usually that’s what happens. They’ll like, “Hey, big fan, Austin, can I get an autograph?” “Yes, as soon as I’m done, I’ll come sign.” So that works pretty good, where I’ll come to them if they ask.
5. What’s a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage?
That’s a good question. I think the media could do a better job covering aero advantages you see on other cars, like getting more technical with our sport and finding the differences between cars. Like if you visually see something on a car, putting it out there earlier than what it usually (gets discovered) to help create an even more fair playground.
Then another story is the penalties. There’s no one that keeps tally, I feel like, of minutes of sitting out on pit road (during practice). I wonder who has the most minutes sitting out on pit road this year for being late through tech. And I bet it averages out where the top couple guys are some of the best guys in the sport. So the guys that are sitting on pit road the longest for missing practices or whatever it might be, for rolling around (through inspection) too many times, I bet if you look at that and tallied all those minutes up, it would come out with the pretty good guys at the top.
So it’s actually sort of a good thing because they’re pushing it?
Either that, or it’s telling you that they’re cheating the most to get the most. Is cheating rewarding the guys that are up front?
6. Who is the last driver you texted?
My brother (Ty) about 10 minutes ago. We were talking about fantasy football. We made a trade.
7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?
Entertainers on the track, yes. Away from the track, some of them aren’t entertainers. I feel like some are boring. Some are exciting and funny and have personalities, but some just don’t in my opinion. But all of them are entertainers when it comes to being on the track. Some of the most boring guys out of the race car are some of the most exciting in the race car.
What do we have to do to get the boring guys off the track to be more exciting?
I think make them feel comfortable to where if they do mess up or say something wrong, they’re not just shut down instantly from a fan standpoint. You’ve got a lot of fans supporting one, two, three guys and then one guy steps out of his comfort zone that’s not supported by all the fans, (he shouldn’t have to) feel like he’s going to ruin his career due to a fan base booing him.
8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?
Man, mine flies all the time. I’ve got to do a better job with that, actually. It’s just when I’m mad, that’s just what happens. I know one thing, if I see the middle finger, I really fly hot in the race car because I want to get to that guy, move him or do whatever I can. But I don’t know, I wish I would just wave more. That would be better.
If you wave, people are like, “That could mean something else.”
Yeah, it could mean something else. And sometimes, I’ll throw the peace sign out the window and I don’t know if that’s just worse than the middle finger, like “See ya, guy.”
9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?
Oh, for sure. I think certain guys you put in your head that have given you a break at certain periods of time. Tony Stewart was one of the best at it. If he was having a bad day and you were coming forward and he knew you were there, he would get out of your way pretty quick. But I’ll tell you what, if you didn’t have that same way of driving style on the way back when he was coming through, he would let you know really quick. So I think I knew in the back of my mind, “OK, he let me go really quick, I need to let him go.”
10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?
I don’t know if this counts, but Donald Trump Jr. sat behind me once. Gary Player, I sat with him at a dinner. I don’t know. I’ve eaten with Dale Jr. — he’s pretty famous.
Man, I’m trying to think of somebody outside the sport who would be really cool. Oh, Jimmy Carter — former President. I ate lunch with him. So that was pretty cool.
11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?
My (fiancee, Whitney Ward) says compassion. I need to have more compassion, so I’m working on that.
Like just for other people in general or what?
Yeah, I’m kind of black and white on certain situations, so I should be a little better — just a little easier, I guess, on certain people.
12. Last week I interviewed Danica Patrick. She wanted me to ask you: If you could live on Earth forever and eat the steak that’s on Earth and have your current life that’s on Earth and be happy, would you rather do that or would you rather take a risk and go to another planet where it’s potentially way happier? You don’t know what it’s going be, but you’ll be way happier than where you are now. Would you stay in your current Earth situation or go to this other planet?
And I’m happy with the steak where I’m at right now though? But it could just be way better at the other one? The potential is way higher, but it could also be bad.
Correct, yes. That’s what I understood from the question.
Man. I’m not a huge food guy — like food does not make or break me because I can eat about anything. So I would have to know more details when it came to if my fiancee was with me, if my family was gonna be there, if it was just for me. If my family’s still (on Earth) and I’m leaving them, I would stay. I would be eating the same ol’ steak, chilling. But if I could take my whole crew with me, if there’s an opportunity, I’d probably push for the opportunity.
The next interview is going to be with Landon Cassill. Do you have a question I can ask Landon?
If he could bring three sponsors into this sport to make it better, what would they be and why?