Transcript: Matt Swiderski – 2.25.24

THE MODERATOR: We’re going to get started here with our post-race press conferences. We’ve been joined by our race-winning crew chief Matt Swiderski. Obviously Daniel won the Ambetter Health 400 today at Atlanta Motor Speedway, three-wide finish. This is your third Cup Series win from the crew chief position but the first one with this team and this organization.

Tell us about your view from the pit box and what it means to get the 99 in Victory Lane so early in the season.

MATT SWIDERSKI: Thank you. Yeah, I knew that going to Trackhouse eventually we’d win together. I didn’t know it would happen this quickly. But we were on pit road repairing damage on lap 2, so just incredibly proud of the group of people that we have put together at Trackhouse, and able to recover from that and be in the position to win and then actually execute the win.

Q. Could you talk about how you got from lap 2 accident into position to win and then a little bit about how you saw the last lap develop.

MATT SWIDERSKI: Yeah, so we were barely settled in on the pit box when we were going straight into damage repair mode, and the first time we repaired the damage, the tape started flying up, and had to get some more pictures of it and come up with another plan and had to work on it again at the stage, but everybody kept their heads in it and stayed calm.

We were able to get the car back to where we felt we were pretty decent and could be competitive.

As far as the final lap, we’ve been taking time with Frankie, our spotter, and Daniel and myself each week to review film, and we watch the whole race together in the same room so we can talk about it and talk about different moves. It’s something that I knew Frankie knew how to coach him through, so I was able to kind of sit back and enjoy it and watch, and felt like it was going to be really close, which it was, and glad we came out on top.

Q. What does this win do you think do for Daniel? You talk about a guy who seems like — there’s so many drivers at Trackhouse and a lot of people felt like he needed to win and not on a road course to maybe prove himself.

MATT SWIDERSKI: Yeah, thank you. This year coming in and starting to work with Daniel, he’s been extremely confident and very positive about this year. I think he believed that we would get here.

But to get this out of the way early I think allows him to relax a little bit but really start to focus on the playoffs.

It’s huge for him. It’s huge for the whole team. I think it proves to him if he had any doubts in the back of his head that he didn’t belong, those should all be gone now because he definitely belongs and he can run with these guys.

Q. I talked to Ross in Victory Lane after the race, and he said that Daniel never gave up last year. He just kept working, and he outworked him, and he worked so hard that it made Ross want to work harder. Do you get that sense, that they just push each other? One does well and then pushes the other, and it’s just making the whole organization better.

MATT SWIDERSKI: Absolutely. It’s impressive across all levels how between Phil and myself at the crew chief level or Daniel and Ross at the driver level or all our engineers continually push each other. But there’s no secrets between any of the teams. Everybody works together, shares all the information.

It’s really impressive to see how well they work together and how they continue to push each other forward.

Q. You’ve worked with a handful of drivers, had a couple of wins I know before with A.J. What has the dynamic been like or how has it been different for you working with Daniel than some of the other guys you’ve worked with in Cup when you were at Kaulig?

MATT SWIDERSKI: So I spent a lot of time with A.J., so Daniel is definitely more calm. I’m sure at some point he will yell at me, but so far we haven’t had that yet.

I’ve just been really impressed with how hard Daniel works. He really focuses on his craft. When we have our meetings every week or go to the simulator, he comes in prepared. He asks questions. It’s just really impressive. He really wants to be at the top of this series and puts in the effort to get there.

Q. Drivers are talking about changing conditions. A lot of air moving in the pack. What was it like just on the box, the challenge of trying to keep up with all that?

MATT SWIDERSKI: One of the big challenges is it was so different if you were out front versus back in 20th or so, and knowing that the way the race cycled, then you would spend time flip-flopped one way or the other, it’s really tough to find a balance for both.

That was a challenge to make sure we had the balance right at the end, with all the fuel-only stops and such, you don’t have a whole lot of opportunities to work on it, even being a 400-mile race, so just being precise on the few changes we had to make sure that if we were out front at the end, the balance would be what he needed, was the challenge.

Q. I don’t want to take away from this moment, but obviously the sport doesn’t stop; there’s another race in a week. Because the superspeedway racing is so hard to kind of tell things, what are you curious to see starting next week at Las Vegas once — I’m not going to say the real season begins, but you get a better handle of things?

MATT SWIDERSKI: Absolutely. It’s a weird year having these back-to-back superspeedway kind of unique races. With the Fords and Toyotas having updates this year, we’re all curious to see what we have when we unload at Vegas, and then when we go to Phoenix and have a new aero package to work with, that’s another curve ball for us.

Right now nobody really knows what they have, so we’ve been spending a lot of time on the simulator working through it, but until we get some real-life data, we’ll all find out together on lap 1, I guess.

Q. In the 30 or 40 seconds that NASCAR took to formally make the decision, timing and scoring showed that you guys won. Did you know, or what was that 40-second period like for you?

MATT SWIDERSKI: I saw on TV and timing and scoring that we had won, so I wasn’t going to accept anything different. I was convinced myself.

When they showed the first slow-motion video as it started to come up, I started to get a little bit of doubt, and the angle I had, it didn’t look great. But when they finally froze it there and showed it, I felt fairly confident that we had it.

I don’t know why sometimes I’m a bit of a pessimist, so I’m surprised that I was optimistic that we won that one.

Q. In talking to all the other guys who were involved in that finish, every single one of them added at one point, I’m so happy for Daniel. What have you noticed in working with Daniel that makes everyone, even rival teams, kind of root for him?

MATT SWIDERSKI: I think two main reasons. One is he’s an incredibly nice guy. He’s friendly with everybody. I think he’s well-liked around the garage.

Number two, I think everybody sees the work he’s putting in, and from their perspective, people like what they see that hard work pays off. I think that’s the added benefit to his personality that everybody seems to latch on to.

Q. You mentioned having to go into immediate damage control and then take some pictures and formulate a plan. What was the damage, and what was the difference in the car after you were able to get back into it after the stage?

MATT SWIDERSKI: The biggest issue we had that we were working on was the hood was bent up around the radiator exit ducts, so we were working on trying to seal that and trying to seal the hood back down to the fender tops. We believe that there could have been a little bit of splitter damage, but from the pictures we saw, that seemed to be pretty minor. Our main focus was to fix everything on the hood, and Daniel was able to see that damage along with the pictures, so we used that information to fasten everything back down and seal it back down.

Q. Why did you go to Trackhouse to work with Daniel?

MATT SWIDERSKI: So I had a strong relationship with A.J. at Kaulig. I was at RCR before I left for Kaulig Racing, and I kind of did some part-time races as an RCR employee for Kaulig.

I really enjoyed working with A.J., and when he went full-time, I was dead set that I would stay there. If he was still full-time in the Cup car there’s a chance I’d still be there, but that didn’t work out, and I’m thankful that I had this opportunity to go there. I didn’t really know Daniel too well before then, so I didn’t know what I was getting into, but after spending time, I’m definitely pleased where I ended up.

Q. It’s a pivotal race when you come back here to Atlanta Motor Speedway in September. How much are you looking forward to that being the opening race of the playoffs, and how much different do you expect the track to be?

MATT SWIDERSKI: Yeah, we were thrown a little bit off guard to be honest here. Even though it’s a little bit colder than what it was in the summer race last year, we thought that the track was going to wear out a little bit more, so I might have come here and had a bit too much downforce and not trimmed out enough.

But when we come back, if it’s hotter, I expect it to be a little bit more of a handling race. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have to change up our setup a little bit and make some different choices on our body builds.

The race might play out a little bit different, too, with another summer beating down on this track.