Austin Dillon has been headlining lists of top NASCAR prospects for a couple years now, and the early returns show nothing but a rapidly filling reservoir of untapped potential. Coming from a lineage of veritable NASCAR royalty – his grandfather is the legendary Richard Childress, his father is former NASCAR racer and current RCR General Manager Mike Dillon – Austin certainly has been primed for future success from an extremely young age, but his results in his first few years of organized competition prove that it is far more than mere nepotism that is thrusting young Dillon into the spotlight.
Despite his early success, Dillon and his handlers are taking a cautious approach when it comes to moving up the NASCAR ladder – evidentially hoping to learn something from the plights of recent racecar phenoms such as Joey Logano, who was rushed up to full-time Sprint Cup competition as a teenager amid much fanfare, but who has yet to find much success through four seasons driving the #20 Home Depot Toyota.
Dillon first gained attention as a rising star in 2008, after his performance in the K&N Pro Series East Series, a developmental circuit sanctioned by NASCAR, earned him a couple of starts in the Nationwide Series – one of which he cashed in for a fourth place finish.
By 2010, Dillon was racing full time in the Camping World Truck Series, where he earned his first NASCAR victory and was named the series’ Rookie of the Year following a season where he put up two wins, seven top 5s, and 16 top ten finishes. For an encore, Dillon returned to the Truck Series in 2011 and won the championship, and also earned a start in the biggest of the big leagues, the Sprint Cup Series.Soon after it was announced that not only would Dillon be moving up to the Nationwide Series in 2012, but he would have the honor of driving the #3 car that racecar legend Dale Earnhardt made famous.
Dillon’s performance in the Nationwide Series thus far has only fueled speculation that he will soon be joining the big boys in the Sprint Cup Series. He recorded his first Nationwide win in June (though his car failed a post-race inspection) and currently sits at #4 in the standings.
Despite this success and the fact that he is part of a family that can only be described as NASCAR royalty – his grandfather is Richard Childress – it was recently announced that Dillon will be returning to the Nationwide Series in 2013. He will, however, be competing in a handful of Sprint Cup races next year and if he continues to build on his success, we can anticipate him competing for spots in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship as early as 2014. And, interestingly enough, he may be joined soon after by his younger brother Ty, who has been competing admirably in the Truck Series this year.
After jumpstarting one NASCAR family dynasty — the Earnhardts — Richard Childress just might be doing it again, this time with his own grandsons.
Article contributed by Jack Payton
Two-car tandem racing has become a feature at Daytona and Talladega, with drivers working together to gain the highest speed possible around the track. In this two-car collaboration the trailing driver pushes the lead car around the track. Due to the position of the cars, the driver doing the pushing has a limited view of the road ahead and relies on the leader to make the right moves. However, the close proximity of the two cars can lead to overheating, and so the pusher needs to trade places with the leader from time to time. The temporary breaking of the pusher-leader partnership causes a dramatic reduction in speed for both cars and is potentially hazardous.
Three days of testing at Daytona saw NASCAR trying to break this two-car tandem racing pattern, and revert to the pack racing format that auto racing fans enjoy the most. During the testing, Kyle Busch clocked a 205.813 mph in a pack racing format, while Regan Smith and Kurt Busch formed a two-car tandem, with Kurt Busch clocking an incredible time of 206.058 mph.
Bearing in mind that NASCAR has traditionally been against exceeding speeds of 200 mph, four-time series champion Jeff Gordon reportedly queried the high speeds being achieved on the track, and was assured by NASCAR officials that they have no problem with the new record speeds. Nevertheless, with pack racing bringing in the fans, in November last year NASCAR Chairman Brian France made it clear that he wants drivers to move away from two-car tandem racing, so in addition to a series of changes to rules governing aerodynamics of racing cars, driver-to-driver communications over their scanners has been banned.
While a number of changes have been made during testing, with drivers and their teams kept informed all along the way, it is very likely that more changes will be made before the much anticipated Speedweeks begin, with the iconic Daytona 500 taking place on February 26. NASCAR vice president Robin Pemberton noted that while there may be some loose ends to tie up as they make final plans for Speedweeks, and was reported as saying that “everything is going according to plan.”