Congratulations to Austin Dillon on a great 2016 season. Finishing career best with an average finish of 15.89. If you take out the bad weeks where he was tangled up in someone’s mess his average was pretty close to 12. Making the Chase, now called the playoffs, for the first time gave him valuable experience in racing at the highest level with stress. With Whitney by his side he proved to be the force we know he can be.
For those watching through the season, you saw my projections. Believe it or not, there was a real reason and result behind that. Engine tuner, Frank Mathalia, and I had a weekly wager. If they outraced my projection I would give $5 to Pit Stops For Hope. If I outraced them more than they outraced me, Frank would match. I donated $55 to Pit Stops For Hope at the end of the year, that was matched 3-to-1 by my employer, Miller Electric, through their charitable giving program. That counted for $165. All together we raised $275 to help those children in need.
As 2017 draws ever closer many are looking for Austin to have another great year, people are looking for keys to success, and many will state the obvious. Of course you have to win, of course you have to keep from wrecking the car. No doubt they need to find speed. These are obvious things, but after some thought I think I have a few areas where the team can improve.
ITS NOTHING PERSONAL
If the crew has a bad stop, if the spotter makes a bad call, if the driver slides through the box, it is nothing personal. Everyone is after the same thing, nobody wants to see their team and teammates fail. If everyone pulls together, you row a lot faster. Don’t yell or get upset or frustrated. It wasn’t personal, it was a mistake and mistakes happen. This goes for all the guys. From Richard to Austin to Adam.
FORGET ABOUT THE PAST
Whatever happened last week, last night, last lap, last corner, it’s in the past. You cannot change it now. As Slugger always says, “Rerack and move forward.” The faster everyone moves on from an issue, the better off you are. If you cannot change what happened focus forward. Yes, it’s great to learn but move on and look deeper into it later when there aren’t a ton of cars around.
TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
Austin has great instincts and when he drives on instinct he does the best. Restrictor plate tracks are a prime example. All his senses are feeding him information and he has to react on those long before Andy can make a call. If he drives by these instincts every week, he will find Victory Lane more than you can imagine. Austin isn’t new to racing, he has a long history of it and he needs to rely on his experience and intuition. These aren’t wrong and even though it may not seem the best, it usually is.
TAKE A CHANCE
I know Richard likes getting his cars back unscathed, so do Marty and Freddy, but take a chance, make a move, make something happen. If you don’t take a chance, you can’t win. If you wait for the right time, the right situation, it won’t happen. So take a chance. Not just on the track or in the pits. With the new format, take a chance on strategy. Follow the leader isn’t fun and if you’re going to ride behind them, that’s where they will keep you.
GIVE MORE THAN YOU TAKE
For his last 3 years in Cup, Austin has been out there and worked to not piss people off. He has practiced “give and take.” Well, everyone is giving and you’re forced to take. Start dishing it out, race Harvick and Busch the way they race you. If they dump you, dump them. If they can make you a doormat, they will. This is one case where you’re going to win more fans than losing by fighting back. I think I speak for all fans when I say, give it back to them! We don’t really “hate” these guys, but they are good for a reason. Drivers let them be good, drivers let them get away with pushing them around. They will keep doing it if you let them. I had one driver tell me, “I race them how they race me. If they wreck me I’ll whoop them. I’ll wreck them then find them in the pits and give them a whooping then I will go find their owner and tell them if they are gonna do that, I will put them on their lid every week.”
JUST WIN BABY
That’s it, winning cures all. Quit looking at points. If you win, points don’t matter, you’re in. So I don’t want to hear, “We had a good points day.” No, I want a win before you look at points. It’s the new world of Ricky Bobby. If you aren’t first, you’re last. So go nuts, go push it, go win. Quit trying to have a solid points day. Points only get you so far. If you’re happy with tenth because its goodness or the points, you’ll settle for tenth every time. Dale Earnhardt said it best, “The winner isn’t always the one with the best car, it’s the one who refuses to lose.” So don’t settle for good enough, don’t settle for a good points day. Points didn’t get you into Homestead.
That is just my thought, that’s what I think it’s gonna take for success this year. No matter what, I’m excited for 2017. Let’s kick some tires and light some fires!
See you from the box!