William Byron and Jeff Andrews Press Conf. Transcript

MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES

TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT

OCTOBER 11, 2018

WILLIAM BRYON, DRIVER, NO. 24 CAMARO ZL1, ALONG WITH JEFF ANDREWS, VICE PRESIDENT OF COMPETITION AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, met with members of the media to discuss the move of Chad Knaus to be William’s crew chief starting in 2019. Full Transcript:

HAVE YOU WORKED CLOSELY WITH CHAD? HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW HIM?

William Byron: “When I first started at Hendrick Motorsports probably two years ago in terms of just getting in the system, I met Chad and I spent some time around the No. 48 team going to the races and sitting in the pit box. I feel like, if I have a good idea of anybody in the company, I feel like it’s him, which is a good thing. We’ve already had a few sit downs with meetings and going to lunch and things like that. Just the observations I’ve had this year with working next to Jimmie and his team, I can understand a little bit of what he’s about and I think that’s going to be an exciting start.”

WHAT IS IT ABOUT CHAD KNAUS’ STYLE THAT GETS YOU PUMPED UP?

William Byron: “The results speak for themselves, but in terms of my short racing career, I’ve worked with a couple people that have similar traits as him. It makes me excited. It makes me look forward to it. I feel like I do well in that environment and it’s going to push me to do better. That’s what I need and I feel like going into my second year, I’ve learned the ropes of the Cup Series and I can go out and our goal is to win.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY GOING OUT TO WIN?

William Byron: “I think just doing whatever it takes. I think also holding people accountable and being a team leader is important. Obviously, I’m 20-years-old right now so it’s difficult for me to do all that on my own and I think that Chad helps establish that environment around the team.”

CAN CHAD BE INTIMIDATING SOMETIMES?

William Byron: “I think so, but I’ve worked with people, Rudy comes to mind in the Truck Series, he worked with Kyle and his expectations are pretty high. He expected a lot of me so I didn’t bring my feelings to the racetrack and I tried to just approach it like we were there just to accomplish the same goal. As long as you’re there to accomplish the same goal, I think you can handle that.”

CHAD THINKS YOU CAN WIN THIS SEASON; DO YOU THINK YOU CAN WIN THIS SEASON?

William Byron: “Yeah, I think that our cars are improving a lot. Chase has shown what our cars are capable of and that team has shown what it’s capable of. This weekend is a great opportunity, and then when I look towards some of the races coming up, that’s our goal. We don’t want to go winless, so that’s our goal.”

EMOTIONALLY AND MENTALLY, WHAT’S IT LIKE GETTING ONE OF THE GREATEST CREW CHIEFS OF ALL TIME? HOW LUCKY DO YOU FEEL?

William Byron: “It’s a blessing. This year, I’ve learned a lot, there’s been a lot of things that I’ve had to go through and experience. It’s a huge honor and blessing that I get that chance to work with somebody like that. Mr. Hendrick’s given me unbelievable opportunities. He’s laid it out for me and that’s all you can dream of as a driver.

DID RICK TALK TO YOU ABOUT THE CHANGE?

William Byron: “He’s responsible for the decisions. We go with whatever he feels is best and also the other people that are underneath him and are able to see what’s going on. Jeff Andrews, Marshall, everybody else has asked me how I can handle things better and allow me to grow. Ultimately, I leave those decisions up to him and he makes the calls.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE REACTION TO THE CHANGE?

Jeff Andrews: “The reaction was excitement. I think change within an organization brings an unknown and with that unknown, there’s a bit of excitement with that. We want to win, we’re a competitive company that has pretty high standards for itself and it’s no secret that the last couple years, we’ve been making great strides to make improvements. I think this is just another step in that and another great opportunity for a lot of people outside of Chad and Kevin, but Darian. Great opportunity for Darian to be promoted into this technical director position. Looking at our company in the offseason or towards the offseason, after a year of change that we had last year, there’s a couple of key areas that we really need to have someone with a high technical level and have their hands on that. And that’s Darian. Change brings excitement for us.”

HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO PEOPLE SAYING YOU’RE BREAKING UP BRADY / BELICHICK TYPE RELATIONSHIP?

Jeff Andrews: “I have a theory on that. The Chad and Jimmie story, that’s a great book, right? If you were to sit down and write that book from cover to cover, and you were to sit down and read that, you might think you might know how the last few chapters of that is going to go. But within a great book, when you get to the last five or six chapters, there’s change. There’s an unknown surprise there that really makes the book of Jimmie and Chad story even more special. To say there was shock, I don’t think there was shock within the company. Like I said before, brings an excitement, an unknown and a challenge for all of us. We’ve all got a lot to adapt to with this change.

BECAUSE CHAD AND JIMMIE HAVE BEEN TOGETHER FOR SO LONG, DO YOU THINK THAT IT WAS A DIFFICULT DECISION TO MAKE FOR THE ORGANIZATION?

Jeff Andrews: “I think anytime that you have two guys that essentially came up through this business, set records and won championships, I don’t think that’s ever going to be equaled in this business. To say that you’re going to set off and break up, our goal wasn’t to split that up. Our goal was to figure out how to take these two amazing talents and apply them to new goals within the company. Same roles, but with different teams so to speak and independently keep that success that they both had going.”

FROM YOUR STANDPOINT, WHAT STOOD OUT THE MOST ABOUT KEVIN?

Jeff Andrews: “When you start talking about a caliber of Jimmie Johnson, there’s a lot of names that start coming up and there’s a lot of things to consider when we make those decisions. One of the most important things to us is to take someone we see as a natural talent like we saw in Kevin years ago. Not sure if you realize it, but Kevin was very instrumental in many of Dale Jr.’s wins alongside of Steve Letarte. That was the guy. He was a heavy contributor to that team. To send Kevin off to get nurtured so to speak as a crew chief at JR Motorsports, it’s important for us to show that we’re a company that breeds that internally. I think for us we really sat down to talk about this, Kevin just quickly came back to the top of everybody’s list because of how he’s handled himself through our company. He started in our chassis shop as an engineer, he was a race engineer and he wanted to be a successful crew chief in the Xfinity Series. It’s just a natural fit. He and Jimmie are so much alike in terms of their personality and their persona. We’re just really excited to welcome him back. I’m excited for him to get the opportunity with someone like Jimmie.”

INAUDIBLE:

William Byron: “Yeah I think so. I think you’ve got to have that banter and ability to lean on each other. You have to be honest with each other that’s really important in any competition. I think Chad is going to be brutally honest with me and I’m okay with that. I want to succeed in this sport, that’s my number one goal and I’ll do whatever it takes to do that.”

HOW CHALLENGING WILL IT BE TO BE BRUTALLY HONEST WITH CHAD?

William Byron: “That’s probably what I’ve learned in the Cup Series in general this year is how to not get run over and how to do those things, and go about sticking up for yourself. It’s a necessary part of the sport. You’ve got to stick to for yourself. I think, within that hauler, within that team, we’re going to have a chemistry that is honest with each other and it’s not going to go outside of that hauler and this team. If we build that strength from within, like we have in general at Hendrick Motorsports, then we’re going to be stronger together.”

Do the rules next year favor you at all?

William Byron: “I think adapting to it will be a little bit easier. I like the rules package that’s in the cars right now but I think the rules package next year will be less of an adjustment for me so I think it will favor me a little but honestly the same guys are going to win every week and you got to compete against those guys.”

Aside from winning next year, in what areas are you looking to grow as a driver and what boxes do you want to check besides winning?

William Byron: “Chad and I have talked about that a little bit already. Just establishing some goals, some statistical goals as well as some hypothetical goals/things that are less numbers. The biggest thing for us is learning each other. I think we’re going to get off to a quick start and get ahead on some communication. But honestly, I want to succeed. Whether it’s finishing consistently better or doing different things to be more competitive.”

What does it mean to you that part of the future of Hendrick Motorsports is on your shoulders?

William Byron: “First of all, I’ve enjoyed working with Darian (Grubb, crew chief) a lot. He’s given me a new perspective. There’re some things he’s had from past experiences working with older drivers, whether it’s Tony Stewart or Denny Hamlin, guys like that, that I can look back on that were good for me. I also feel like change is sometimes a good thing. So next year, it looks like all four teams will be very strong and that’s all you can ask for. Chase (Elliott) is already the bar to shoot for. He’s winning races and we can all shoot for that.”

Sounds like you and Chad (Knaus) have met and spent some time together especially with all this developing. What aspects about the relationship that you two have that will see success?

William Byron: “It goes back to the guys that I worked with in the past and some of the mentality there was very similar. His success speaks for itself and I think I can look back on some of those things. Honestly, I see a lot of good things. It’s going to be very exciting.”

How are you and Chad alike?

William Byron: “Probably attention to detail. Type A personality. I don’t like excuses so that will fit well”

You mentioned learning how not to get run over this year. Is there an example or things that stick out that happened to you this year?

William Byron: “There’s probably a couple examples. Getting called out for blocking. I think you have to take it with a grain of salt. Learn from it. If there’s something you can do differently, adjust to it. You have to stick up for what your instinct tells you to do because that’s what got you to this point. When guys race against you for the first time it’s a little bit of a shock so there’s an adjustment period for both of you guys in that situation. You kind of got to break through that mold.”

CHAD’S TALKED BEFORE ABOUT WANTING TO GET OFF THE ROAD AND HE’S TALKED ABOUT MANAGEMENT. [INAUDIBLE]

Jeff Andrews: “I think that is ultimately Chad and Mr. Hendrick’s decision. We’re committed to this relationship right now and I know that Chad wouldn’t commit to doing it if he had short-term plans about it. He knows that it’s going to take some level of commitment. The commitment is going to be possibly years to get the success out of it that he expects and that we expect out of it. Again, I think that comes down to Mr. Hendrick and Chad whenever they decide that time is right.”

YOU’VE TALKED BEFORE ABOUT RESTRUCTURING. OBVIOUSLY, THERE’S BEEN A LOT OF CHANGE WITHIN THE ORGANIZATION BUT, WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE CHANGE FOR THE MOST PART, IT WAS PEOPLE MOVING, PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN VERY SUCCESSFUL IN WHAT THEY’VE DONE AND OBVIOUSLY DESERVING AND SHOWING THEIR ABILITY TO MOVE UP TO A HIGHER LEVEL. FOR THE MOST PART THERE HAS ONLY BEEN ONE PERSON WHO CAME FROM OUTSIDE THE ORGANIZATION (ALBA COLON). YOU HAD ALL THESE SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE AND EVERYBODY MOVED UP A LEVEL, EVERYBODY IS IN PLACE. WHY HAS IT BEEN SO TOUGH THIS PAST YEAR WHEN IT’S BEEN A LOT OF THE SAME PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN HERE WHEN THE ORGANIZATION HAS HAD SUCCESS?

Jeff Andrews: “I don’t think it just started this year. I don’t it just started when we got to Daytona in February or Atlanta or Vegas. This has been a trend with us that we did not like before the start of 2018. When you start to make changes of that magnitude, these things take time. It’s not just about people, it’s the tools and equipment. It’s a work in progress and on top of that, we started with a brand-new race car we had zero track time on. We started with a different inspection system from NASCAR. We had never had that race car in that inspection system. A very steep learning curve that went on there in February through June, July time frame. The learning curb is still steep. We feel we got a long way to go to get back to our standards. Again, I go back to the question about the behind the scenes nuts and bolts. We’ve identified some key departments within the company to continue to elevate the product that we need to put a focused hand on, or a sharp mind, and that person is Darian.

WHAT MAKES THIS THE RIGHT TIME?

Jeff Andrews: “I think for us, this time of year especially when you look at these two programs sitting outside the playoffs, from a people and personnel side we’ve always felt like let’s get this out there, let’s get these changes made, let’s figure out who the key players are in these changes and let’s get a jumpstart on 2019 so to speak. I don’t know if there ever is a perfect time. You might think, okay as soon as Homestead is over we’re going to really shake things up. For us, our philosophy and getting ahold of it early and making those changes so we’ve got a little bit more time to adjust. Chad needs some time to get his hands around that race team and I’m sure he’ll be watching the last five or so races on that race team and their performance, as well as Kevin. Honestly, he’ll be paying a lot more attention to the 48 team now than he did before. From our perspective, the timing is right to do it now and to get an earlier start.”

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