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
Dale Earnhardt Snr was one of the greatest NASCAR drivers, known for his aggressive style of driving. Known by numerous nicknames such as “The Intimidator”, “The Dominator”, “Big E” and “Ironhead”, Dale Earnhardt was one of the most popular drivers in NASCAR. Aside from his distinctive personality and driving ability, Earnhardt earned his place in autoracing history with his Winston Cup Series victories and as the winner of 7 championships.
Ralph Dale Earnhardt was born on 29 April 1951 in Kannapolis of North Carolina. Born into a family where his father, Ralph, was a top NASCAR short-track driver, it is little wonder that Dale became interested in the sport. Dale Earnhardt, Sr. debuted in the Winston Cup in the year 1975, and in his first race driving an Ed Negre, he passed the finish line in 22nd place. In 1979 Earnhardt joined Rod Osterlund Racing, and during his rookie season, he won Rookie of the Year after gaining four poles and several great finishes. 1980 was filled with success for Earnhardt and he clinched the Winston Cup championship. Earnhardt moved to Richard Childress Racing in 1981, and although he had a bad season in 1982, he came back with remarkable strength in 1983. He gained his second Winston Cup Championship in 1986. Earnhardt saw a grand victory in 1986, once again winning, by 288 points.
The 1990s were off to a good start when Earnhardt won the Winston Cup for the 4th time in his career. He repeated this victory again in 1991, 1993 and 1994 – a total of 7 Winston Cup championship wins. He suffered a grave accident in 1996 which led the NASCAR officials to mandate the “Earnhardt Bar”. Fortunately Dale Earnhardt survived, although he had several broken bones. In 1998 Earnhardt finally gained victory at the Daytona 500, a win he had been aiming for for some 20 years. Earnhardt excited the crowds in 2000 with two thrilling wins, neck-in-neck with Bobby Labonte.
Sadly Dale Earnhardt Sr. was involved in a terrible accident in the 2001 Daytona 500 and lost his life. The death of Dale Earnhardt led to much media speculation, extensive coverage and great public concern. Following his death, NASCAR placed greater emphasis on safety with better restraints, safer barriers, strict rules for vehicle inspection and the development of a roof escape system.
Dale Earnhardt Sr. received many awards in his lifetime for his exceptional role in NASCAR, and in 1998 was placed second in NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers. Earnhardt was named Most Popular NASCAR Driver of 2001 and was an inductee of the Motorsports Hall of Fame Of America in 2002. Recently, in 2006 he was also inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. His son Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues in his father’s footsteps as a successful driver. Earnhardt also left behind three other children, namely, Kelley King, Taylor and Kerry. Dale Earnhardt Snr was certainly a force to be reckoned with on the race track and will always be remembered for his grand achievements.