Transcript: William Byron, Rudy Fugle, Jeff Andrews – Press Conference – Las Vegas

William Byron

Rudy Fugle

Jeff Andrews

 

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our race-winning crew chief, Rudy Fugle. Rudy, looked like a pretty dominant race by your team this weekend. Tell us from your vantage point what you thought.

RUDY FUGLE: Yeah, no, it was just a really good weekend. Started yesterday with practice, and pleasantly surprised how much pace we had, long-run pace, short-run pace; qualified well; car was handling well.

Made yesterday making decisions for how we were going to race the car today pretty easy, and then just super fast car all day long.

We had one sequence where William went out the box a little hot, and we hung a left front coming off a little bit and got to fourth, and if it goes green, we finish second to the 5 because of that, but we got a chance here. It always seems like it always happens in Las Vegas, you get one last shootout at the end. Pit crew did an awesome job getting us off pit road second, and we were able to pass the 19 and hold everybody else off.

  1. Yesterday your competitors were saying you guys had the fastest car. Did you go into this race just thinking if we don’t screw it up, we’re going to have a hell of a day?

RUDY FUGLE: Yeah, we knew we had a good car, but I think we see — I don’t know that we’ve seen a dominant race car at a mile-and-a-half track since we’ve come out with this Gen-7 car. From green to checker, I don’t know if we’ve had somebody lead tons and tons of laps like we had with the old car yet.

You never know what you’re going to go through. You think you’re going to have ebbs and flows and how the track changes and whatnot. If you lose track position for any reason, it seems really hard to get it all the way back.

Happy to go through what we did and have a good car from start to finish.

  1. What did you tell him before that last restart?

RUDY FUGLE: Yeah, just told him what he had there, and he needed to get connected to the 11 behind us to get a good push. We got a decent push from him, and the 19 he almost got too good of a push, they got disconnected, and then the two right side tires paid off through the center of the corner by the time we got back to getting the white, so it was great.

  1. Were you shocked that more people didn’t try to stay out there at the end, and if you guys didn’t have such a fast race car and you were like 15th or something, would you have tried to stay out and go for it?

RUDY FUGLE: Yeah, most of us had 40 green laps on our tires. I thought there would be some more, yes. I thought we would be restarting row 3 if we pitted with rights. I expected three or four. I don’t know if they just weren’t good enough or whatever.

Thankfully it worked out that way, but yeah, it’s a super hard decision with only two laps to go, how hard it is to break that first row up. I think somebody potentially could have won if there would have been enough people staying out, but there wasn’t.

  1. You mentioned and it’s a great point that we haven’t really seen domination on an intermediate from one car. What’s changing? Why are we seeing stuff like we saw today?

RUDY FUGLE: Yeah, I think we’re all getting better, period. We’re finally figuring out more and more what this car needs to make it race.

You saw some cars run really good the entire race. Ross was pretty dominant last week, period. I think he almost led half the laps.

You see that happening more. You hit on it; it’s just going to keep evolving. You’re going to see some top cars hit on it and be able to do some things. The lack of cautions also helps you to be able to dominate, as well, so you don’t have multiple pit stops to have mistakes or somebody try something different.

THE MODERATOR: We’re now joined by president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports, Jeff Andrews. Jeff, it’s been a pretty action-packed weekend for you guys. How did today go for you?

JEFF ANDREWS: Today went a lot better than the last time I was sitting in this seat talking to this group.

Yeah, fantastic day for Hendrick Motorsports and the one, two, three finish. I should say first and foremost obviously our thoughts are with Chase and everything he’s going through right now, and we sure missed him being here at the track with us today. Can only imagine being a young guy like that and what that must have felt like to have to watch that at home.

Certainly thinking about him and missing him here today, but really proud of all of our cars and the effort that’s gone into our cars and race teams in the off-season. Certainly felt like last week we had good cars and capable of something similar, but various issues and things kind of took us out last week, so very gratifying to come back this week and be able to execute like we did today, and obviously very proud of Rudy and William, the job they did today. Dominated that race for the most part, and glad to see them get the win at the end.

  1. Rudy, did you expect that long green flag run there?

RUDY FUGLE: After we got through the first stage and we got that long run, then Stage 2 looked that way, sometimes you get that feel. Here the cautions usually happen after three or four laps on a restart, and if they don’t happen then, then you’ll get that, a long green flag run.

Once that set up, we were expecting the run to the end. We were going to run out of time to catch Kyle, but we got lucky and got the caution and had a chance to perform and execute to get us a win.

THE MODERATOR: We’re now joined by our race winner, William Byron. Looked like you had a great day today. Tell us what it was like from your vantage point.

WILLIAM BYRON: It was a great day, obviously. I felt like in practice we had a good car. I was a little bit nervous about the wind today and how that would change what we had going on and whether or not we’d be as strong, but just kind of the consensus, I guess, in the garage and then talking to some of the drivers, they were pretty confident about what we had going on. I was happy about that.

Yeah, started the race good. I thought Kyle was really strong. He could stay close to me for a lot of the runs in the first and second stage, and I felt like I was a little bit tight, but just trying to navigate lap traffic and navigate the wind and how that would change the handling.

Yeah, just happy with getting the first win of the year. It’s been a while since we’ve won. It’s been almost a year, and it’s nice to kind of just get back to what I feel like we’re capable of. Yeah, it’s been up and down, but I feel like this is what we’re capable of every week.

  1. How would you evaluate Josh’s performance in the 9? I know it was very last minute for him, first time in the Next-Gen car. Seemed like his lap times were respectable for his first time in the Next-Gen car.

JEFF ANDREWS: Yeah, Josh did an amazing job for us given the circumstances, and given the fact he’s not ever been in one of these Next-Gen cars before, really happy with what he did for us today.

We’ve got some things to work on. We think we had a little bit of an issue there that was causing him a little bit of — some issues with his throttle there during the race that we’ve got to get fixed and remedied, but really, really pleased with the job he did for us today.

  1. Rudy, the late run that we had without a yellow, how were you prepping for any eventualities that might have gone on at that point, and when that first yellow came out and you lost the lead, how are you fixing everything and tweaking to try and get yourself back to the front?

RUDY FUGLE: Yeah, no, it’s hard. You’re making a pit stop assuming that you’re going to come back out with a lead. These cars have a huge difference between leading and into traffic. As soon as you lose the lead and then you’re going to be more aero tight, so you’re like, oh, shoot, what are you doing there.

Then you do a green flag run, so you’re trying to adjust for that green flag run, but you’re not going to be in as heavy traffic, so you don’t want to be too free on that green flag run.

I thought we did a good job there our second half after the green flag stop. As we were catching the 5, our car was stuck pretty well, was catching him. If we could have got around the 11 a little bit quicker, if I would have pitted us one lap earlier, maybe we would have been able to catch the 5 under green.

But anyway, then you’re preparing, and as you get to 15 to go, you’re talking to your engineers about, okay, caution comes out, what are we doing? Are we staying out? Are we taking rights? Are we taking four? If we’re taking rights, what are our air pressures? So on, so forth.

Nonstop always just trying to communicate inside the box; if this happens, what do you do, so you’re not surprised.

  1. William, how important do you feel it was for Hendrick Motorsports to win today, considering everything that happened this weekend?

WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I mean, that’s a good question. I think just shows the strength that our teams have and the ability to come together in tough situations.

I think I speak for everyone in the fact that we miss Chase out here. He’s a big contributor to feedback and our debriefs and he’s a great race car driver. Has a lot to offer there.

I think there was a void there, but I think we were able to fill it with just kind of coming together as a team, and having Josh come on board, he’s obviously a great race car driver, too, and I know him from the past.

Yeah, it was an important day. I felt that for sure. I texted Mr. H. after practice and felt really good about the car and just wanted to reassure that we’re going to go out there and try to win for him because it was a tough week.

Yeah, just shows the strength of our team to be able to come together.

  1. Do you normally text Mr. H. after practice?

WILLIAM BYRON: No, I don’t. I don’t normally text him unless he texts me or unless we’re talking about other things outside of racing. I just felt confident and just felt like we had a shot to win.

  1. For Jeff, any decision on the 9 car driver yet for next week?

JEFF ANDREWS: No, not yet. Obviously we’ve got to get together tomorrow morning and make some decisions pretty quick. We’ve obviously got to get a seat in the car, and then our haulers are planning on leaving late Tuesday afternoon, first part of the evening. We’ll be making that I would say early part of the day tomorrow.

  1. William, you were dominating the race and then you lose some spots and then just dirty air. It looked frustrating for you. At that point how do you stay mentally checked in and not let that frustration, that situation and possibly losing the race at that point take over?

WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I think that’s kind of what I’ve been working on. I think I’ve — I feel like I’ve got less experience than some of these guys in terms of my overall racing career, and I feel like for me that evolution has come in the mental side of just kind of understanding how to approach an entire race.

In that instance I was just kind of leaning on the stuff that I’ve worked on in trying to just make sure that I stay focused on the task at hand, just making good corners, making good laps, and try to be as efficient as I can to get back towards the front.

At that point I was just focused on okay, how can I make this long run as good as I can, and then what do I need to tell Rudy feedback-wise to get a car a little bit better because there was such a discrepancy between clean air and dirty air. So trying to get the balance back to where we needed it. I felt like Kyle had a balance that was perfect for dirty air probably, and he got out front and he was a little bit too loose.

I think we had tuned our car all day for clean air and then we had to kind of adjust there, but I was just happy with how we showed resilience through that whole process.

  1. Rudy, you said there about everybody is getting better as we saw the dominance today. It seems like the early trend is that Chevrolet is above everybody looking at high speed today, high speed at Fontana. Is there something that sticks out as to why that is? I don’t expect you to give secrets away, but is there anything common in the Chevy camp that you guys have hit on?

RUDY FUGLE: I think since the beginning of last year, Chevrolet has had a really good product, a really good car. That group just did a really good job of giving us a good body. We have great engines. Either camp you get engines, they work together.

Then we’ve got good teams, and the teams are working together better now than we ever have. I think there’s something to be said for that. Eric Warren is pushing all of that, and just really proud of the Chevrolet bunch and how they’re pushing us to work together to get better as a group.

  1. For you as well as William, William, you had said on TV that you guys had spent a lot of time in the off-season on the simulator and going through things. What were the things this team was trying to hone in on?

RUDY FUGLE: Yeah, we’re just trying to get our setups tuned in better, and then try to get our knowledge for changes to what William feels and how that responds.

Really just working together to solve problems. You get in the season and it’s super hard to get in there to the simulator and put the time in that we want to. In the off-season we put a lot of work in. Through these first few races, it showed off last week having speed right away and then showed off this week.

Hopefully it’ll keep paying off and we’ll keep working on it.

WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, honestly just it was nice to have his voice on the radio at the sim. Just kind of work through that feedback.

It’s really similar to any other sport, just going out and practicing, so just kind of getting that feedback correct.

We felt like last year was really topsy-turvy for us. We had obviously a couple wins, but then we were really up and down, and just didn’t really understand this car quite as good as we needed to. We needed to change some of our vocabulary when we talked about this race car versus he and I have worked together in the past and we’ve worked on cars that have a different tire and different grip levels, so we just had to change some of the words that we used and kind of talk about the car.

  1. William and then Rudy, what does this mean for you to win a race early, and what do you feel like this means for your season going forward?

WILLIAM BYRON: Well, first thing I thought about was back in the All-Star Race, so that was good. I don’t think I was locked in because I won before the race last year. That’s a good kind of self-check, that I got that done.

Yeah, it’s just good for our team because we can keep building in the future. I think it shows that it’s kind of a measuring stick of where we are. Felt like going into this weekend that we were there, but we haven’t shown that result-wise.

Needed to show that with a result to kind of get that satisfaction as a team.

I think it’s just hopefully more of the same. We don’t want to have any slumps this year. We want to just dig all the way to the end of the year. It’s a grind, but we’re going to fight hard all year and try to keep this performance up.

RUDY FUGLE: Yeah, it’s huge for a couple reasons. But he said it. You just want to find that success again. We had success in the playoffs last year, but we had so much struggle during the summer that you kind of reassure yourself that you can do it.

Then two, the start of the year is really, really tough on our crew guys, on the road and the shop guys. They are working their tails off. These West Coast races and all the stuff that we’re doing, we got cars late again this year, and they’re tired. They need a morale boost, and one, two, three will boost the morale in the shop, so that’s going to be huge. We’re happy that we can provide all of them with that boost and keep us going and keep building us good cars.

That’s huge to be able to do that this early and going through this tough part.

  1. Just to follow up off the previous question, you guys had won obviously races early in the season in recent years, but do you think the difference between reaching your full potential as like a team and a driver is to be able to do that throughout the course of the season? As Rudy pointed out, you ran well in the playoffs, but still without the win, it was much more difficult to advance.

WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, for sure. I mean, that’s what we’re focused on is just trying to perform throughout the entire year. We know we have the stamina as a team. We know that we communicate well, but I think in the past you get that sigh of relief from a win that you’re doing what you need to do, and I think this assures us that we can just keep doing the processes. Did a lot of prep work going into this week and woke up on Saturday feeling like we were prepared. That’s a nice feeling.

We’re going to try to do that 36 weeks and see where that puts us.

  1. Rudy and William, I know clean air and dirty air are always a thing, even last year, but I feel like we didn’t hear about it quite as much last year on the intermediates? Why now? Is the field just closer again? Why is it making a difference again in such a big play?

WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I personally think just from being out there, everyone gets more dialed in to what the track and the car needs. I think there was so much unknowns last year that it created guys bottoming out, wrecking, guys making big mistakes that you don’t normally see at this level with how good everyone is.

Now the drivers are back to understanding what they have, and these are the best guys out there. You don’t make mistakes. To race against Kyle Larson, he doesn’t make any mistakes that really cost him time.

It’s just kind of the excellence on display of the teams and drivers.

RUDY FUGLE: Yeah, I think the cars are a little bit closer together. When the track is gripped up like this, too, it’s cool out there, so track temp was down. Track temp was under 70 today. Beginning part of the year you’ll have some of this that I think will fix itself as we start to warm up.

  1. Jeff, not to put these two on the spot, but how have you seen William grow under Rudy’s tutelage?

JEFF ANDREWS: Well, I think over the last two years and these guys working together, both of them just have this rapport with each other and a trust in each other that you need in this business. Their margins are so small, and the human capital is one that Mr. Hendrick will talk to us about. It’s all about the people and it’s all about relationships and communication.

That level of communication between Rudy and William has never been higher, and we commend them because they continue to work on it. They’re never satisfied with it. They worked real hard on it in the off-season. You heard William talking about how they worked in the simulator together, and having Rudy’s voice in his ear during that.

We commend them, and really all our race teams, couldn’t be more proud of the way our group, our company is working together as a whole across four race teams. We’ve never had that. It’s never been as good as it is right now with that communication level with all four of our teams.

  1. William, this is the first time in your career that not only have you won the race, but you also won Stage 1 and Stage 2. What does it mean to accomplish something like that?

WILLIAM BYRON: No, it’s cool. I think I haven’t really dominated — I’ve led a lot of laps in a couple races, but to be this good in a race with our team is definitely a good sign.

I think it’s just a different feeling, I think, for me, just having a team around me that can execute that well on pit road that well, strategy that good on adjustments. That’s just a team effort.

I think that’s a different — something different than I’ve had in the past in terms of wins, so that’s nice.

THE MODERATOR: Guys, thanks for coming in. Congratulations, and good luck next week.

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