The 12 Questions series of interviews continues with Germain Racing’s Ty Dillon, who finished 11th last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. Dillon’s average finish this season is 20.6, which is up from the No. 13 car’s average finish of 25.6 last year.
1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?
That’s a good question. I think 85 percent of your success is from natural ability, which stems from your alertness and keeping yourself out of trouble. Just the natural ability to be running at the end of a race is a big thing to being successful in this sport.
But if you don’t have that next 15 percent, working hard and studying in the sport, doing all the things that you need to do, you can’t compete at the highest level and be successful. It seems like it’s a smaller percentage, but it’s a very important percentage.
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?
Just get to know me. I’m a pretty interesting guy on and off the racetrack. I’m pretty outgoing, I think. once you get to know me. And I’m pretty aggressive, and I have certain styles that are my own and unique, and as a rookie, you can learn my style and who I am and kind of grow with me as I grow in the sport.
3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?
The hardest part of my job away from the racetrack is just keeping myself relaxed throughout the season, or just keeping my mind in check. With so many appearances and being at the racetrack from Thursday to Sunday, and then you’re at the shop with meetings and on the phone, I think it’s important to make sure that you detox your mind a little and get your sanity checked back throughout the week. That way, you’re fresh every weekend to give it all you’ve got.
I thought you were going to say it was not being able to check your fantasy football team on Sundays.
That’s pretty troubling, too. That’s one of the first things I check when I get out of the race car. (Laughs)
4. Let’s say a fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?
Yeah, definitely. Maybe just wait until I’m not eating, or wait until a good moment. But I always like to meet fans at anytime and I always want to be approachable because I’ve got a lot of people that I’m a big fan of, and I would like them to treat me the same way.
5. What’s a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage?
I think our rookies. Personally, we haven’t gotten as much coverage for how all of us have ran in our different situations. Daniel Suarez has only been racing in NASCAR for a couple of years and Erik Jones has been running up front and competing for wins at a lot of races. And then for my team, we’ve been running the best our team has ran in a long time and led more laps than all the (Richard Childress Racing) cars combined in our rookie season.
So there’s a lot of good stories that kind of get washed under the table with Junior retiring — which is obviously a huge story — and so much going on in our sport. But I think if our sport’s gonna grow and we need these fans to be attached to new drivers, why not the rookie class? And I think there should be more attention drawn to that.
That’s a good point. Honestly, just sitting here thinking about it as you’re saying that, I’m like, “Oh yeah, I forgot you’re a rookie.”
For sure. But I probably seem like the least “rookiest” — I don’t know if that’s even a word — because I’ve been around the sport for a while and kind of paid my dues at every level. I’m still 25 and I’m still a rookie in the sport.
6. Who is the last driver you texted?
Other than my brother (Austin), probably Bubba Wallace or (Ryan) Blaney or Denny Hamlin. We’re all in a basketball league together so we’re constantly talking to each other about stuff outside of racing, mainly sports stuff.
So you’re part of the Hoop Group? Is that right?
Yeah, I’m in the Hoop Group. I led the league in rebounds last year, so I’m not really the offensive star, but I’m a hustle defensive guy.
You’re not one of the biggest guys — but you’re still getting the rebounds?
Oh yeah, I can jump out of the building. I think Blaney and I have the best hops in the league. I’m a little taller, so I can get the rebounds.
7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?
I do. I think we’re definitely entertainers when people tune in on the weekends and are watching us on TV. If you’re being watched on TV, you’re an entertainer. That’s just part of what makes our sport what it is, and what launched our sport into the next level was a fight on the backstretch, and that was entertainment, you know? And some of the things that we’re able to do in the race cars are what really spikes interest in our sport, and that’s all entertainment to me.
8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?
I use it a ton. (Laughs) I probably use it too much. It’s an easy go-to to let somebody know how you feel. Honestly, I think there should be a middle finger cam on the cars, because I’m pretty sure every single driver throws at least four to five birds a race, and it would be pretty interesting.
I’d like to see a tally of that. Like, “Oh look, he just threw his fifth middle finger!”
Just put a camera on each straightaway, because no one wants to do it in the middle of the corner. Some people do it in the middle of the corner and that’s pretty impressive. But you can probably catch them, because there’s enough guys with white gloves and stuff to just keep a tally someday. That would be a good deal for one the TV shows.
A couple drivers this year have answered this question and said it’s an instant wreck if somebody does that to them. Are you worried about that at all?
I haven’t been instantly wrecked yet and I’ve done it a lot, so I’d like to know who that is.
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?
Yeah, I think it goes both ways. I think it’s kind of “Race the way you want to be raced” — the old cliche. When somebody every single week wants to bear down your doors and make it impossible for you to pass in situations in the race where it’s really not necessary, you remember that and you return the favor. And when you’re faster than somebody and you run them down and they get out of your way, you remember it because you race so many laps so many times a year that things like that come back around. So there’s definitely a rolling tally on who’s racing you hard and who races you good.
10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?
That’s a good one. I’ve had some dinner with some really famous people. Probably most recently we went to dinner in Charlotte with Steven Soderbergh, the (director). So that was really cool, really interesting. He produced the Oceans movies and then Logan Lucky that just came out. I was talking to him and hearing some of his stories and talking about his profession was really cool.
11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?
I carry a lot of stress on my shoulders and I really want to be the best at everything I do, and sometimes in racing that makes me a little more stressed out than I really should be. And I allow it to impact me a little deeper than I should. Hopefully, as I grow out of being a rookie and get more seasoned in the sport, you grow more comfortable in what you’re doing and in your ability. I guess to be able to leave the moment in the past every weekend so you can reset and be ready for next weekend.
But it’s really hard in this sport, because it’s so “What have you done for me now?” to not let one bad weekend carry into the next, and I kind of struggled with that this year because it’s been up and down, this being my first season. I think that’s kind of the rookie wall that everybody goes through. So hopefully that’s one area that I can grow in. And I know I will. My wife (Haley) does a good job on keeping me on equal ground and keeping me grounded and keeping my head in the right spot. And with a little girl on the way too, I think that’s gonna help.
12. The last interview I did was with Trevor Bayne, and he said he struggles at times when he doesn’t make the playoffs with keeping his head up and going through the grind of the rest of the season. He was wondering if you have any tips for what you’ve been doing to finish out the season strong even though you didn’t make the playoffs.
It’s kind of hard being a rookie going through it for the first time, but I think my plan, since the Chase has started, is to start building momentum for next year and start racing for next year. That’s kind of how this sport goes: you start preparing for 2018 in August, November, October, that time, and if you start rolling good momentum at the end of this year, it really jump-starts you into next year. So that’s kind of been my game plan.
Next week I’m going to the F1 race in Austin, so I’m going to potentially do a 12 Questions with one of the Haas F1 Team drivers. Is there any question you have that I could ask to them?
Who do they think are more athletic: F1 drivers or NASCAR drivers?