Austin Dillon on tribute to Lane Frost and his brother’s ‘upset’ reaction to Daytona crash

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After climbing from the wreckage of his No. 3 Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway, Austin Dillon put his own spin on informing the crowd of his well-being.

Rather than the standard wave acknowledging the support of fans, Dillon made a dual motion with his hands, which he explained Tuesday was a tribute to legendary bull rider Lane Frost.

“He’s probably one of the best bull riders of all time,” Dillon said. “After we won the (Xfinity) race Saturday night, I thought it was a cool tribute to him to kind of start doing that and just embrace it because he was one of my heroes.

“Sunday after the wreck, I thought it was appropriate because that was a pretty wild ride.  I had actually texted one of my buddies.  He’s a bull rider.  His name is Luke Snyder, and he had texted and asked if I was all right and everything.  I said, ‘Yeah, man, screw riding bulls.’  But he’s like, ‘I don’t know about that.  Maybe screw racing.’ and I said, ‘No, I love what I do. ‘

“But it’s fun to kind of look back at the way I have now because that was a really crazy wreck and just got to thank NASCAR and the good Lord above for taking good care of me.  They did a great job to make our car safe, and I’m here today talking to you guys and feeling pretty good.”

Dillon said he spent much of Monday looking at photos and replays of the airborne crash, which tore down a 60-foot section of the Daytona catchfence.

“I checked out a little bit of everything,” he said. “I looked at photos, I looked at fans’ videos on YouTube. I’ve looked at a little bit of everything, like I said.  At first after getting through the infield care center, I didn’t know if I wanted to watch it.  After I took a shower, cooled down, I was like, ‘All right, here we go, let’s start watching them.’

“I watched a lot of videos, and just watching it in live speed, it is violent looking.  It’s a wicked crash.  When you see the fence, the thing just blows apart.  But for me, I think it kind of set in when I got to talk to my brother (Ty).  I already got into the infield care center, I was pretty much fine.  I wasn’t shaken, and I was just kind of telling my parents, ‘I’m OK, I’m OK,’ and talking to them.  You could see how upset they were, and I hadn’t seen the real footage of the wreck.  I knew it was bad but I didn’t know how bad.

“When I talked to my brother, it was was another level because he was upset, and hearing him on the phone upset, it was like, ‘Man, I’m going to have to watch this,’ because he’s a tough guy, and to hear him be upset about it and worried about me, it was like, all right, I need to look at this wreck.”

During a Tuesday teleconference with the national media, Dillon addressed several topics related to his wild ride at Daytona.

On the nature of restrictor-plate racing in the wake of disparaging comments by teammate Ryan Newman:

       I have to make my own opinion, first of all, and I have a lot of respect for everybody at NASCAR and the drivers.  Going through something like that, there’s other drivers that have gone through wrecks similar.  This is probably one of the most violent ones, obviously, and I feel like my opinion was I’m here today talking to you guys, and right now my groin is a little sore, my tailbone is a little sore, but other than that, my head and my neck, which is the most important part to me, I have no headache, I have ‑‑ my traps are like a little sore just from tightening up before the wreck, you know, making sure I was tight when I hit the car so I wasn’t too relaxed when I hit the fence.

But I think it’s pretty impressive to see how far we’ve come after learning from other wrecks, the black box that NASCAR takes and looks at to see the impacts and how far we’ve come to change the different chassis bars in the car to strengthen the roof.  The roof looked like the cage itself held up well.  The catchfence did its job.  It kicked things back into the track where we needed to.

A lot of things have innovated to make everybody still safe today.  Luckily the fans are all in good shape.  We’re obviously going to probably enhance more safety after this, and we’ll keep developing as our sport grows, and I think NASCAR has got the people there to do that.

I will definitely be another advocate for safety myself.  If I can help them in any way, I’ll do that.  But I’m just happy to be in the position I am.  I’ve had worse injuries playing football growing up and stuff like that.”

On how his team handled the aftermath:

           I came to the shop yesterday, talked to a few different people.  I talked to my interior guy that kind of bolts everything in.  I think that’s probably one of the worst fears for a guy that does interior is the safety of the driver.  It’s what his main focus is, and I went and thanked him this morning as soon as I got here for keeping all the bolts tight, doing his job.

Different guys you see are shaken up more by it, but they’re proud of their work and glad it was safe and that I’m safe and we get to go race this weekend at Kentucky.

On if the involvement of the No. 3 in a Daytona crash was unsettling because of its link to Dale Earnhardt (killed in the 2001 Daytona 500):

          Yeah, I haven’t talked to a lot of people about that.  Had a few different questions about it, but the way I look at it is I think from what I’ve learned from those crashes, for instance, what happened to Dale, our sport has taken a whole turn of 360 degrees, and it’s all about safety, and we’ve been able to learn from our mistakes in the past, and that’s what you have to do.  You have to learn from history and develop and innovate new ways to make our sport safe, and technology has come a long way.

The safety, from the Dow foam in the car and everything, every little bit goes a long way.  I think just what we’ve been able to do to look at a horrific crash like that and be able to develop from it, and we’ll develop from this one just like we have in the past.

On if having fans injured for the third time in three years at Daytona tarnishes the track:

           I sure hope not.  I think that just adds to what it is at Daytona in some way.  I think when you go there, you’re going to see some wild and crazy things happen.  It seems like there’s always a story line at Daytona, no matter if it comes from qualifying, practice, race, there’s always going to be a story line there.  I don’t know what it is, there’s something magical about the place.  Things happen there.  For me, I think we just keep developing our sport into new ways.

You can’t blame things on Daytona.  I feel like it’s a racetrack that has done its job to put on good races.  We just have to keep developing to keep our stands safer, our drivers safer, and do what we can as a sport to develop and bring new technology, like I said, to keep it safe.

But for me, I think you can’t tarnish Daytona.  For me even after wrecking like that, I got to experience one of the greatest things in winning there the night before that, and it’s a part of it, and I still had a good finish on Sunday.  I finished seventh.  That was pretty cool.

It’s a wild place that you have lots of up and downs and you have to be able to ride them and have a good attitude going into it.

On grandfather Richard Childress’ reaction:

         Yeah, I think I just ‑‑ going back to watching it in live speed, I think it was way worse for everyone at home watching and for him watching it.  He had a good view of the wreck.  And then also, the worst part for family members is you want to let them know you’re okay after a wreck through the radio because they’re listening, and the radio cord had ripped or something had ripped to make it ‑‑ I could hear them but they couldn’t hear me, so it was one of those deals where I knew they were upset and I felt bad because I couldn’t get to them.  The steering wheel had done its job, it kind of had released and was up in the roof.  I grabbed it and pulled it back to me and keyed the mic to let them know I was okay, but they weren’t able to hear anything.  It was just kind of a ‑‑ I was saying I’m okay, I’m okay, but it wasn’t going through, and I could hear in their voice how scared they were, and they were saying, Talk to me, Buddy, talk to me, and I couldn’t respond to them, so that was a time for them I’m sure it was just painful because they didn’t know how good I was.  Luckily the guys had gotten there fast enough, gave everybody the thumbs up to let them know that I was fine.

On if future crashes can be prevented:

            I think we can do some things to prevent these accidents for sure.  I think we need to, and we can.  And that’s why I said that they’ve taken the car to NASCAR and they’ll look at the car and figure out ways to keep them on the ground.  I think we’re trying to keep them from getting in the air, and we’ll do what we can.

The way the racing is set up now, it prevents ‑‑ it doesn’t prevent, it breeds these kind of wrecks.  It’s three‑wide pack racing, and at Daytona it’s tighter than Talladega, there’s less room.  I think if you’re at Talladega, this wreck might not happen because it’s a little bit wider.  But it’s just a part of the racing that we’re in right now.

I think we can do things to help slow down some of the wrecks and might keep us from catching air, but we’ll just have to see the direction that NASCAR goes, and maybe they’ll ask the drivers their opinions, and we can give them a good opinion to kind of go together to make the racing still stay the same.  I feel like we can create good racing because up until that wreck we had some really good racing Monday morning, but I think the wreck kind of tarnished a great race.

We’ll work and develop ways to make it where we’re not flying through the air.

On rival team members coming to his aid:

            The first guy that got to my guy was the GEICO crew from Casey Mears’ team, and it was kind of funny, I almost laughed. Because when he first got to my car, I thought it was Casey Mears.  I was like, ‘How did Casey Mears get out of his car and get to me that quick?’ because it felt like six seconds, seven seconds before the first crew had got there, and it sounded like Casey and had the same GEICO suit and everything.  I was like, man, Casey got here fast.  That’s crazy.

But it was one of the crew members there.  And I couldn’t ‑‑ there was someone on the right side, but I couldn’t tell who it was, and it was obviously Junior’s crew.  But it was cool to see all those guys get there.  Some of my guys even got there and they were pretty far down pit road to get to me, and it was special to have those guys get there.

On his speed during the crash:

       I’ve heard numbers.  I don’t know ‑‑ I don’t have factual information.  I heard 198 from one of my friends.  I’d say you’re anywhere between 190 and 198 is probably accurate.  But I don’t have a true reading.  I will give you that when I have factual information to tell me how fast we were going.

 

Xfinity playoff grid after Indianapolis

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Chase Briscoe‘s continued dominance of the Xfinity Series over the weekend on the Indianapolis road course ensured no additional drivers locked themselves into the 12-driver playoff field.

Through 13 races, Briscoe and four other drivers have qualified for the playoffs via race wins. Briscoe, who has five race wins, leads the field with 28 playoff points.

The last two drivers currently in the top 12 are Riley Herbst (+19 points above cutline) and Brandon Brown (+6 points).

The first four drivers outside the top 12 are Myatt Snider (-6), Alex Labbe (-32), Jeremy Clements (-49) and Josh Williams (-57).

Cup Series playoff grid after Brickyard 400

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With Kevin Harvick‘s victory Sunday in the Brickyard 400, no additional drivers locked themselves into the Cup Series playoff field.

But there was some movement at the bottom of the playoff grid as drivers jockey to make the 16-car field.

After he missed the race due to his COVID-19 diagnosis, Jimmie Johnson fell from 12th to 15th on the grid. He’s now 36 points above the cutline.

Matt DiBenedetto earned stage points in each stage before finishing 19th. He moved from 14th to 12th in the standings.

After earning stage points in both stages Sunday, Austin Dillon has cracked the top 16, moving up one spot. He has a six-point advantage over Erik Jones, who crashed out of Sunday’s race and had a 14-point advantage over Dillon entering the weekend.

With his ninth-place finish Sunday, Bubba Wallace is now within reach of the top 16. He sits at 19th, 42 points back from 16th.

Here’s the full playoff grid.

Oval or road course? Cup drivers address future of Brickyard 400

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For 27 years, the Cup Series has competed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with its annual Brickyard 400. All 27 of those races have been run exclusively on the track’s traditional 2.5-mile oval.

But following Saturday’s Xfinity Series race on the track’s 2.4-mile, 14-turn road course, an obvious question has been raised:

Should the Brickyard 400 remain on the oval, where passing is made difficult due to a combination of the rules package and the design of the track, or should moving it to the road course be considered?

“I would never vote for that,” Kevin Harvick declared last week before he won his third Brickyard 400 on Sunday. “I love everything about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For me it is all about the oval … racing on the traditional track because for me I am kind of old school and I think that the Cup cars belong and really started the Brickyard 400.

“That was kind of what it was always meant to be, that iconic one-off, just the Cup cars event. I think with the Xfinity cars and the trucks and (ARCA Menards) cars and all the things that used to race at IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park), it was a great event. Hopefully the road course can kind of take that role that IRP used to have and be able to bring the Indy cars and NASCAR together to add to that event at the Speedway. For me personally, I would never vote for the Cup cars to not run on the oval.”

Harvick is joined in that camp by his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Aric Almirola, who finished third in Sunday’s race for his first top five and top-10 finish at Indy.

“I hope that we never stop running the oval,” Almirola said. “I just think it’s one of these places that regardless if it puts on the greatest race or not, it’s historic. It’s just a special place. It’s hard to explain when you don’t grow up a racer and you don’t aspire to come to race at Indy.

“But for me, I grew up watching stock car racing and dirt sprint car racing. I grew up watching Thursday Night Thunder, seeing so many guys go from USAC racing and sprint car racing to racing at Indy. It’s something I’ve always kept up with, always dreamed about getting the opportunity to race here. I get that opportunity now.”

Matt Kenseth, who finished second Sunday in his 20th Brickyard 400, said the Cup Series “should be” on the oval. But the Chip Ganassi Racing driver is open to the idea of Cup using the road course in some manner.

 “I think it’s one of those racetracks that we need to race at as long as we can,” Kenseth said of the oval. “It’s arguably the most famous speedway in the world, or one of them.

“To be able to race on the ovals with the Cup cars, which is the highest form of stock car racing here, we should be on the big track as well. I don’t think it would be bad to maybe test the road course and look into it, maybe do a second race on a road course, kind of like the IndyCars did this week.

“I really do think the Brickyard 400 has a lot of prestige. It’s not a southern race, but similar to the Southern 500, races like that. I think there’s a few of those races you sure would hate to see disappear.”

Crew chief describes ‘frightening’ scene on pit road at Indy

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Crew chief Todd Gordon said it was “frightening” to see rear tire changer Zach Price hit on pit road and then try to scoot away from cars during Sunday’s Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Price, who changes tires for Ryan Blaney’s team, was injured when he was struck by Brennan Poole’s car during a melee near the entrance of pit road early in the race.

Gordon, speaking Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, said indications are that Price’s injury was a “fracture someplace in the knee area.”

Price was treated and released from an Indianapolis hospital on Sunday night and traveled home with the team. Gordon said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Price was scheduled to see a doctor Monday.

“Just hope to get him back and get him back going again and healthy,” Gordon said.

Gordon described what he saw as cars made contact.

“A really frightening moment for me,” he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I was really terrorized when I saw (Price) drag himself back across the pit box arms only for a while there. As the situation kind of progressed and the medical staff was working with him, I could see in his face he was better off than I thought he was to start with.

“Fortunate that the guys got up and got at least in the air. The jackman (Graham Stoddard) got on top of the car. Just one of those terrible situations. I felt like those accidents happened mid-pit road. That’s why I picked way back there to be behind it.”

Said Justin Allgaier, who was involved in the accident on pit road that led to six cars eventually being eliminated:  “The No. 15 (Poole) actually got in the back of me. I didn’t know if I got the gentleman on (Blaney’s pit crew) or not. Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled-up there, one car after another were getting run into.”

Indianapolis’ pit road is the most narrow of all the tracks the Cup Series races. The two travel lanes are 24 feet wide. The pit stall for each team is 15 feet wide.