Austin Cindric NASCAR HoF / Chase Briscoe Bristol Dirt Transcripts

Earlier today, the NASCAR Hall of Fame officially added a 19th car to its Glory Road exhibit as Austin Cindric’s Daytona 500-winning Ford Mustang was unveiled.  Cindric, along with his entire Discount Tire team from Team Penske participated in the event.  Afterwards, Cindric spoke about the honor and also looked ahead to this week’s race on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway.

AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang – WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE TO RELIVE THAT DAYTONA 500 WIN THIS MORNING?  “It’s certainly cool.  It’s really cool that as a company, Roger really appreciates the history and as far as making this car look showroom ready for an opportunity like this is really special.  It’s obviously special for us to be a part of it.  It’s awesome to get the entire team here.  I think we’re only missing one member of the crew that won that race, otherwise, it’s pretty special and pretty hard to replicate moments like that so it’s good to enjoy.”


DID YOU EVER THINK A YEAR AFTER YOUR ROOKIE SEASON ONE OF YOUR CARS WOULD BE IN THE HALL OF FAME?  “I probably would have guessed it would have been something that flipped or wrecked or some example of that, but probably not a Daytona 500-winning car.  It shows you what’s possible when you drive for Roger Penske and have a team like I have, so those are the things that are really important about having success in this sport.  I think it’s important to have a Next Gen car at this facility, just because of how different and being able to see what we race every weekend, but the visual representation of what Glory Road and the Hall of Fame has really meant to the history of our sport and seeing all the evolutions of that is really important.  To be part of it is obviously really cool for everyone involved.”


DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU WERE ABLE TO BE A ROOKIE AFTER WINNING THE DAYTONA 500 AND HAVING THOSE EXPECTATIONS PLACED ON YOU?  “I think there were some days I didn’t feel like one and there were some days that I really felt like a rookie.  There are some days I still feel like a rookie.  As far as that goes, it definitely changes the year and changes how you go about things.  I think in some it kind of has to, especially being even locked in the playoffs that early with a win.  Those things really do change how you prepare and your ability to kind of process what’s going on around you, but, at the same time, makes my life a lot busier than it probably would be being a rookie.  I had to adjust to that schedule pretty quickly, but it’s how the best have to do it every week, so it’s a good problem to have.”


WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING A SOPHOMORE?  “I’d say it feels normal.  I feel like I’m going into work every day.  It doesn’t feel like, ‘Oh my God, I’m going Cup racing.  I’ve got to figure this out.’  The guys I’m racing against, this and that, yeah, I still feel like I have a lack of experience some days, but I definitely know what I bring to the table and know what I have to work on.  There’s been some frustrating moments already throughout the year.  You start the year off getting put in the wall three races in a row, trying to figure out how to get things going, and then you have two really good weeks and then you have another really bad week. It’s just ups and downs.  It’s so hard now, more than ever, to find consistency in the Cup Series.  That’s where you see drivers and organizations right now really having the most success just being able to be in the game every week.  That’s harder than you all might think.  I respect that, but I want to be there for sure.”


WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE THIS CAR IN THE DAYTONA MUSEUM LAST YEAR AND NOW HERE AT THE HALL OF FAME, ESPECIALLY WHEN PARTS WERE AN ISSUE A YEAR AGO?  “I think as far as from a supply chain issue, obviously we wouldn’t have been able to do it without collaborating correctly with NASCAR and going through the right channels to do that.  I don’t really even have to say how much our team, but specifically Mr. Penske respects tradition and really values tradition, and you see that with his involvement at the speedway and throughout our race team with our heritage center.  We have a restoration center in Detroit all centered around tradition and history and the things that make what we do important and really valuing those big moments.  There have been a lot of big moments for Team Penske, but really being able to appreciate each one individually is really important.”


HOW MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE ARE YOU IN THE DRIVER DEBRIEF MEETINGS BY OFFERING INSIGHT AS OPPOSED TO A YEAR AGO?  “I don’t think that’s changed at all, honestly.  As far as my working relationship with my team, I have zero reservations saying what I think and putting any input that I feel like is valuable for the group.  I feel like we have three drivers that have completely different viewpoints and perspectives and strengths and weaknesses, and I feel like we have a really well-rounded team.  I think that’s been to our benefit, but I would say from my first-ever Cup debrief to now I’m just as vocal or not vocal as I probably would be.”


WHAT ARE SOME CHALLENGES THAT BRISTOL DIRT POSES FOR YOUR TEAM?  “Dirt.  Dirt challenges me.  I’m certainly embracing the challenge.  It’s obviously a discipline and a style of driving that I definitely didn’t grow up being a part of.  I look at it as a great opportunity to not only learn and grow but understand my competitors a bit differently.  Probably half the field raced on dirt to some extent, and when I say dirt I mean short track dirt ovals.  I’ve raced rally cars full drive on dirt.  I feel pretty comfortable slinging around loose surface driving, but it’s definitely a different discipline.  Understanding the track changes and what to do at certain points in time I feel like I’m a lot more prepared this year than I went into last year, just kind of not knowing what I needed to do or how to grow and learning that all on the fly.  When you have heat races and changing track conditions by the time you’ve learned it somebody else has already passed you because then you’re watching how to do it correctly by the car that just passed you.  So, I think being able to show up and be prepared and have some things to already work on is pretty important for me.  I wouldn’t say my expectations are high for this weekend by any means, but I feel really good about how I’m coming into the dirt race this year versus last year.”

Chase Briscoe, driver of the No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang, joins us ahead of this week’s dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Since he was 13, Briscoe has followed in his grandfather’s and father’s footsteps, racing sprint cars on Midwestern bullrings. He brings that background back to Bristol’s dirt configuration, where he contended for the lead to the final lap.

CHASE BRISCOE, No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang – FROM A DRIVER’S PERSPECTIVE, WHAT’S THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HAVING DIRT RACING ON THE NASCAR SCHEDULE? “I think it’s super important. For me, I feel like every single driver in the Cup series has grown up either short-track racing on pavement, late models… we have some road course guys and a lot of dirt guys. But, the dirt guys don’t have any opportunity to go back to their roots. Those other two disciplines do. Everybody says we’re the best drivers, right? Well, I want to see the best drivers challenged on every discipline we have – superspeedways, mile-and-a-half short-tracks, road courses and now street circuits. There’s no reason, in my opinion, for us to not have at least one dirt race. I don’t think we necessarily need more than one, but we definitely need to have at least one just from the side of being able to tie it all together. But also, I feel that it’s important just as a sport and even motorsports in general. There are a lot of people that are introduced to dirt racing because of NASCAR and also vice-versa – there are a lot of dirt fans that probably don’t watch NASCAR, who are kind of against it at times, but because they run on dirt they’ll watch that one race every year. So, if we can turn somebody into a fan of NASCAR because of the Bristol dirt race, they go to a NASCAR event or start watching more, it’s a win-win – same for local dirt tracks because there are a lot of them near everybody. If they watch the Bristol dirt race and are entertained by it, they’re more likely to go to their local dirt track. It helps motorsports in general. So, it’s something I feel is definitely needed on the schedule. I don’t know if it necessarily needs to be at Bristol every year, but the schedule definitely needs a dirt race in my opinion.”


HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR A DIRT RACE AND DO SIMULATIONS HELP? “Truthfully, I don’t think the simulator does the greatest job on the dirt stuff. We’ve ran some laps on it in the past, but it’s not anything that would necessarily run a lot of. For me, I just feel like going and running dirt kind of gets me back in the mindset. All the dirt guys in general, we kind of know that feeling we need when we go to a dirt track. But, it’s nice to go back and get into that rhythm. For me, running the Truck race will give me a read on how the dirt is different this year – how it’s prepped and how it changes throughout the race. But then also, going and running a dirt late model this week – just kind of getting back into that mindset is good. I probably won’t do a lot of sim work, but we’ll definitely try to run as many dirt races as I can leading into this week. I’m testing tomorrow, racing Thursday, practice Friday, race Saturday and race Sunday as well.”


HOW DOES A CUP CAR AND TRUCK DIFFER COMPARED TO A TYPICAL SPRINT CAR OR LATE MODEL ON DIRT? “They definitely drive totally differently. A specifically built dirt car  like a sprint car or late model – that’s what it’s built to do. It’s going to go around the racetrack faster than anything else – that’s just what it’s made to do. It does everything faster, it reacts better, has way more grip, lighter – it just does everything way better. The speeds are definitely way higher. The Cup car, and the Truck even, drive pretty drastically different. Like the Cup car does things maybe a little bit better than the Truck… the Truck is a little bit lazier. With the independent suspension on the Cup car, it seems like you can kind of be a little more aggressive with it. Definitely, compared to a sprint car or late model, the Cup car and even the Truck feel kind of slow-motion. I always say, I feel like having a dirt background can be a disadvantage at these races just because you drive it so differently. The only time I feel like it’s a huge advantage to be a dirt guy is early in the race when the track has a lot of grip, when it’s tacky and more muddy instead of slick and hard. That’s when the dirt guys can sort of shine, because we understand the concept of how to get the car into the corner. It’s so opposite for all these non-dirt guys going into the corner – lift way earlier and be wide-open. We just understand how to get the car to turn when it’s like that, and if it’s anything like last year – running on the cushion and up by the wall and just how you have to run the car – I feel like having a dirt background helps in those situations. But when it’s slick and slow around the middle and bottom, it’s almost a disadvantage to be a dirt guy, because it’s really just a raw, slick pavement track.”


YOU SEE A LOT OF GUYS DO DOUBLE-DUTY HERE BETWEEN CUP AND TRUCKS. HOW BENEFICIAL IS IT? “I don’t know if it’s a huge benefit, because the cars and the trucks drive totally different – especially now with the Next Gen. Before, it was pretty similar – I felt like it was almost the same with the exception of the power. I think now, it’s not totally correlating like it would in the past, but just from a track standpoint, I feel like you can kind of see how the track changes. It could still change totally from Saturday to Sunday just depending on how they prep it or how guys run, but you still have a general idea kind of where to be… where the lanes kind of change, and I just feel like you get a better read on the dirt. As a dirt track guy, you’re constantly watching the dirt throughout the night while other cars are on the racetrack. Actually being on the racetrack, I just feel it might give you that slight bit of edge, just because you know how quickly the track changes. That’s the biggest advantage. Now if you were a non-dirt guy, you’d be going in there just to get laps. But, as a dirt guy, that’s kind of one thing you’re looking for – how the dirt changes and knowing that for Sunday.”


GOING INTO BRISTOL, YOU HAVE GUYS LIKE JONATHAN DAVENPORT AND OTHERS FROM A DIRT DISCIPLINE. ARE THERE BRAGGING RIGHTS ON THE LINE FOR THE NASCAR DRIVERS TO OUTSHINE THE GUYS COMING IN TO DO ONE-OFFS? “Probably not. I feel like that’s a trick question because Jonathan Davenport, for example, is an incredible race car driver. There’s no doubt that he can get into anything and go fast. I’ve seen him run the Chilli Bowl and be pretty competitive having never run any laps in a midget. I think just the experience that we have, we should be faster than him, right? He’s ran dirt late models his whole life and is extremely successful – probably won more money last year than anybody’s ever won their entire life in late models. He can obviously drive a race car. But from the experience side of things – just how we know the Cup car, we understand what it needs to do, granted it’s totally different on dirt – it’s no different, for example, me or Kyle Busch going to run late models this week. Those guys should beat us. Yeah, Kyle Busch is an incredible race car driver, but from an experience standpoint, he doesn’t have the experience in those cars like a Jonathan Davenport, Hudson O’Neal or one of these guys that runs late models year around, one-hundred races a year. I think there is a certain pride that you should beat them from an experience standpoint, but at the same time, when you’re putting incredible race car drivers in cars that are really good race cars, there’s an opportunity for them to go run up front. And I think that’s where the dirt guys, it doesn’t surprise me even going back to Eldora – you look at Bobby Pierce – there’s guys that can go out there and battle up front and for the win. But I also think too, there’s pressure that goes along with that, being in a situation if you’re Janathan Davenport battling up front towards the end of this race… there’s a lot of pressure that comes along with battling for a win in a Cup race. Never being there, I feel like it’s kind of hard to put that behind you. So, just the experience level of a lot of these guys in the Cup series have gives them the edge, but for me being a dirt guy, I’d like Jonathan Davenport to do well just because I want people in the NASCAR world to see how good these dirt guys are. I always talk about Logan Seavey – he’s fully capable of doing it at this level, but he necessarily doesn’t get the opportunity. Same for Jonathan Davenport who is obviously a good enough race car driver to do it at this level. It’s just a matter of getting his name out there.”


HOW WOULD YOU JUDGE THE QUALITY OF CUP RACING AT THE TWO DIRT TRACKS SO FAR? HOW HAVE THE DRIVERS WHO AREN’T AS FAMILIAR TO DIRT RACING ACCLIMATED? “I would say the first year was maybe, a D or D-minus. It was really a struggle. I think maybe NASCAR, truthfully, didn’t know any better. There’s a reason that, when we go dirt racing any day of the year, we race at night. A day show is very rare. When you run a day show, it’s always dusty, it’s always a struggle to see and the track’s not very good. There are just a lot of variables, from the NASCAR and TV side of things, it’s really hard to run a night race sometimes. I think last year’s race was about as good as it’s going to get, but from a racetrack standpoint, you could run the bottom, run the middle, run the top, granted the rain probably helped us quite a bit. So, hopefully we learned something from last year from a track preparation standpoint… maybe going to water it in-between stages or I don’t know what it is. But I do feel like the rain saved us a little bit last year from a track standpoint. But at the same time, it’s hard to give a proper dirt race given the circumstances that we’re in with the car – overheating, the windshield and things like that. It’s hard to put the racetrack how it needs to be because our cars can’t handle that. If we had the opportunity to not get hot and kick the front end out from mud and have the windshield out, you could see a true, proper dirt race, and I think it’d be better. But, honestly our hands are a little bit tied because of the car and things like that. I think last year was an A by my standards – I thought the race was really good from a track standpoint. Going back to the other part of the question, I think the Cup guys… if you’re in the Cup series, you’re a really, really good race car driver. Really good race car drivers figure things out really quickly. When it’s really slick and slow, it’s almost like a slick pavement track and you saw guys like Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano, that have zero dirt experience, be really, really good. But, when it’s like how it was at the end of last year or even the beginning of last year’s racing – when it’s super heavy – that’s when you normally see the dirt guys get to the front and the pavement guys struggle. If it’s slick and slow, the pavement guys are going to be really, really good.”


HAVE YOU WATCHED LAST YEAR’S RACE? WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT NOW? “Truthfully, I haven’t watched it back yet this year. But, I’ve definitely watched back other times and I think for me, it’s one of those things I wish I could’ve done 100 things differently. I wish I would have caught him earlier, so the one lap and one opportunity I had to even make a pass wasn’t the last lap at the last corner. I still think it’s hard to say if I would have done anything different, truthfully. Just being in that moment, your adrenaline’s pumped up, reigning down almost a straightaway in 10/15 laps. This whole time you see him getting closer and closer, your adrenaline and anxiety is getting higher and higher as the laps dwindle down. Being in that position, you’re running dirt and I was running the cushion super, super hard – you get into this mindset that you’re dirt racing. If I would have caught him with five [laps] to go versus the last lap in the last corner, it probably would have been easier to try some different things. But, at that moment in time, I felt like that was my best opportunity to win the race. I went into the corner sliding and really quickly remembered that I wasn’t in a car that you cannot throw slide-jobs from even a half of a car length back. I did everything I could at the time to try to stay off of him. I think Tyler [Reddick] was even talking about that in his interview on how he could hear me running wide-open, trying to stay off of him. For me, looking back on that race, yeah I wish the ending would have been different – not only me, but also for Tyler. Obviously it’s worked out for Tyler – he’s had four wins since then. I think the only reason why I didn’t get a black-eye after that race was because it was a dirt guy I did the move to. If it was someone who wasn’t a Kyle Larson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Christopher Bell or Tyler Reddick in the field, I’m probably getting a black-eye. But all four of those guys understood where that move was coming from. Even Tyler said he would have done the exact same thing, because that’s just what you do in those situations when you grew up dirt racing.”


WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FOR TRACK CONDITIONS ON SUNDAY? HOW DO YOU EXPECT NASCAR TO MANAGE THOSE CHANGING TRACK CONDITIONS? “There’s definitely a lot of weather leading into this weekend – rain, things like that. So, it really depends how they have the racetrack right now – if they have it opened up so the rain’s going to go down deep versus really hard packed, where the water is kind of just running off the top of it. That will change what we have. The Truck race will definitely change what we have. There are just a lot of variables. Without seeing the racetrack, seeing how they have it tilled up and even on Sunday, if we get rain two or three days in a row… if they have it hard packed, as soon as they blow that top layer off, it’s just going to be dry underneath it. It all comes down to the water truck, the grader and things like that. Hopefully we can have a really good race. I know there’s been talks about maybe letting a couple other cars go out there that aren’t Cup cars — like late models to to kind of go out there and blow that layer off so at the beginning of the race, our cars won’t get that much mud but we can still have a good racetrack at the beginning. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s hard to say not seeing the racetrack and what the rain is going to do. Hopefully we have a really good racetrack like we did last year. Racing at night is going to help. Anytime you race at night, it’s better than racing during the day on dirt. Hopefully we can have a track similar to what we had last year.”


WHAT MAKES RACING ON DIRT FUN? “I think, in general as a race car driver, you always love when you’re slipping and sliding around, manhandling the car. You feel like as a driver, you make a difference. There are some tracks you go to, where as a driver – especially on pavement and some of these mile-and-a-halfs – it is very, very car dominant. You know the driver still makes a difference, but not as much. On dirt, you can usually take lesser equipment and run better with it. Anybody who is a motorsports enthusiast loves going out when it’s snowy, slipping and sliding around and spinning the tires. It’s the same on dirt. It’s a lot of fun because you’re manhandling it and driving it. As a driver, you feel like you really make a difference. I think it’s a little bit different for dirt guys versus non-dirt guys because I feel like the non-dirt guys despise this race, but at the same time they have a lot of fun. But for the dirt guys, if the track is like it was the first year, I think all the dirt guys were like, ‘Man, this stinks.’  It’s not what dirt racing is. but last year, all the dirt guys had a blast because it was more similar to what we grew up doing. It’s all rubber to the racetrack, but simply, it’s because you have way more power than you can put on the ground, slipping and sliding around. As a driver, you feel like you make a little bit more of a difference on how you run that day.”


WHO HAS IMPRESSED YOU THE MOST AS A NON-DIRT DRIVER ON A DIRT TRACK? “Joey Logano. I remember saying before we went to Bristol for the first time on dirt that Joey Logano was the guy I think that could go win just because I think his car control is unbelievable. He’s so good at what he does, having zero dirt experience. Kyle Busch has a little bit of dirt experience. But, Joey would be one that really surprised me. Even last year when it was more of a typical dirt track style, I think Joey did a really nice job. I think he was running third or fourth there at the end. He’s been someone who I’ve always, honestly, been amazed by his talent and ability. It surprised me, but really didn’t surprise me. I’d say even Daniel Suarez has surprised me on how good he’s been in the last two years. That’s a guy I typically would think who’d struggle at places like that, and he’s done a good job both years and has been up front, battling to lead laps. I’d say Joey would be my easy answer though.”


WITH TALKS OF RAIN AND THE POSSIBILITY OF IT IN FUTURE DIRT EVENTS, IS THERE A WORK AROUND FOR WINDSHIELDS? “It’s hard because there are a lot of variables – from the track side to the car side. There are a lot of things that can dictate when we can run the race. Some dirt tracks, I’ve literally seen a helicopter try to dry the track, but for Bristol, the jumbotron and all the electric makes it not feasible there. There are just a lot of things. Even Bristol, it’s probably harder for them to get as much rain because they can’t literally get anything up the banking. It’s so banked, it’s hard to even get anything on the track to work it. Then from a car side, I know taking windshields out were a real thing and looked at, but with the safety side and if a piece of lead came out, there is no helmet visor or helmet strong enough to withstand that. They got to keep our safety in mind, too. It’s hard because there are a lot of variables. But, hopefully, we can get the race in. And even if it does rain for example, as long as we can still race at night, that’s the most important thing. Say for whatever reason we had to move it to Monday: We can’t race Monday during the day. It would have to be at night. I think that’s the most important thing here.”

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