Austin Dillon was fastest in the lone NASCAR Cup Series practice at Las Vegas on Friday, and praised Richard Childress Racing for the effort put into dialing in the new rules package.
“I’m very proud of RCR,” said Dillon. “Eric Warren and Andy Petree have put in a ton of work together, working with our guys in the aero department, really putting a big effort into this new package so we’d come out as the guys to beat.
“I felt like we left the Vegas test (Jan. 31 – Feb. 1) as the fastest car, and I wondered how we’d be today – and I felt like we brought the exact same speed back.”
Warren is the chief technology officer at RCR, while Petree serves as the vice president of competition.
In addition to complimenting Warren and Petree, Dillon also praised his crew chief, Danny Stockman, and Luke Lambert of the No. 8 team. Stockman is reunited with Dillon, with whom he won championships in both the Truck and Xfinity Series, this season, while Lambert has become a veteran atop the pit box.
Dillon paced the Friday practice session while teammate Daniel Hemric was second quickest. Last weekend in Atlanta, Hemric’s No. 8 also showed speed with the rookie running inside the top 10 late in the race before a flat tire derailed his chances at a decent finish.
Expressing optimism not only for his chances at winning the pole for Las Vegas, Dillon also revealed there is a big push to have success early in the season: “Last week, we had one car running really good and our car didn’t, and that was just trying to maximize that first race to see which direction we needed to go with our cars,” said Dillon.
“I felt like we found that with the 8, and we had a good game plan coming here to Vegas. And we stuck with it.
“The biggest thing is game planning, and I’ve been really hard on the guys over the radio the last two weeks because I feel like the potential is there for us to get one of these early races. The stress level is a little bit high: We’ve got the speed, but executing … that can really raise the stress level. I’m really harping on our guys.
“But, the 3 and the 8 teams are going to push each other, I feel like, all year. Daniel is a great driver, and to have him here with me, us working together, I feel like we can accomplish some good things.
“And we’ve got some really smart people behind us both at RCR.”