NASCAR Rising Star: Austin Dillon

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

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