An Interview With: BRIAN WILSON
THE MODERATOR: We’re going to get right into questions for Brian Wilson, our championship winning crew chief.
Q. Brian, can you tell us about how Austin would manage to improve this year? Obviously up until Kentucky you guys didn’t have the wins and they came in and burst and he ends up with more oval wins than road course wins this year. How did that happen?
BRIAN WILSON: First off, it’s nice to see everybody back. It’s awesome to get back to doing this. Yeah, it’s been honestly it wasn’t just this year. I feel like it’s been a three year process of us working together. Austin does a great job of giving feedback. He does debriefs. We’ve got a long history of notes, very detailed notes. It’s just the work that he puts into it as far as the homework of making sure that he does the debriefs and then the week of we make sure we study them. We’ve tried to build a team around him that really embraces that. Coleman Pressley does a great job. He’s obviously got a racing background. From him being a part of the group, he can really give the feedback to Austin from that side of things, and then just as a group we always do a lot of film review.
So it’s a lot of the work that we do during the week that’s allowed him to really get to this point. And I think the biggest thing is I’ve had to come up with setups that work with him. Previously I would have been basing them off of setups that worked with Brad or Joey or Blaney, but we’ve had to come up with a completely different style of setup that he likes, so that’s really the Kentucky time frame, that’s kind of when it started to click, when we really got that setup where we needed to be.
Obviously that was the highlight of the season, but I feel like the speed was always kind of there. We just happened to rattle them off in a row.
Q. Obviously you heard us asking those guys about Austin and being Tim’s son, and I’m curious you being around him so much, have you ever felt like that has bothered him or motivated him?
BRIAN WILSON: As far as Austin, has it bothered him? Obviously he’s got a great support group around him as far as his family. Obviously they have a long history in racing, so I don’t think that that’s ever been anything that’s bothered him. It’s a great asset.
But I think it’s just the impression. I know when he first started in this garage, he really wanted to prove himself, to prove that he belonged in this garage, and it’s been a long process of getting to this point. I think initially right off the bat guys raced him like they would have a rookie, but any time that they race him a little bit rough, I feel like he might have thought, well, is that kind of because of my background or is it because I’m a rookie, but I think we’ve obviously gotten over that hurdle to where I don’t feel like that’s been anything that’s been in his mind this year.
Q. Brian, just concerning the race itself, was there any debate to leave Austin out there under the last caution?
BRIAN WILSON: Yeah, those are some tough calls. I based that on what I saw in the truck race last night. I’m good friends with Jeff Stankiewicz and I watched him make that call, talked to him about it this morning, and just watching between that and what I saw in the Cup race in the spring where it seemed like tires really mattered. I was pretty nervous when I left him out there with six laps on the tires because there were a couple situations that I saw where even seven laps on tires could have been the difference, but Austin did a great job fighting off in that situation to hold the track position, and then once we had 20 plus laps on our tires, I think at that point I had to make the call.
I was really happy to see that we lined up third in that situation, made it a little bit easier, but overall, I think that call was a little bit easier than the one where I left him out.
Q. I assume there was a lot of question about whether this team was going to I don’t know if I heard Roger say that he thought about shutting down the Xfinity program; was that news to you? Had you heard that? Were you worried about it?
BRIAN WILSON: Well, I didn’t hear that tonight but we’ve always known all along that we don’t pay the bills. That’s the bottom line. And typically we don’t race in anything but premier series. It’s tough, especially when a pandemic hits, especially when you’ve got sponsors that are going through tough times, as well.
We’ve always known that it was kind of right there on the fence the whole time, and we knew that we had to perform. We felt that pressure, but I don’t think we changed any of our process. We believed in that. I think that’s what’s allowed us to kind of stay focused on it even when all that was going on around us.
Q. He actually said he meant that during the pandemic. Do you feel like once it was announced that Austin would do another full Xfinity season, how much of a sense of relief was it for your guys, and did that impact performance at all?
BRIAN WILSON: Yeah, obviously any reassurance during these times is huge. I think for Austin it was a big weight off of his shoulders to know what he’s going to be doing for the next couple years, but it’s also a challenge. That’s typically at Penske we’ve got a lot of resources around us and we know that because we have that we’ve got to perform. It’s the same type of thing here where there’s nothing guaranteed. That announcement was based on Austin. There’s nothing guaranteed that any of our group is going to be able to move up and we feel like we have to earn that right. Obviously putting results up like this goes a long way towards that, but next year we feel like we’ve got to continue doing that.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, Brian. Outstanding season and really good race tonight.
— NASCAR —