News & Media


Stenhouse Jr. leaves lasting impression on Dillon

June 01, 2012, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had one of the fastest cars at Charlotte despite early mechanical problems. (Autostock)

DOVER, Del. -- RCR driver unhappy with hard racing at Charlotte but vows to leave it behind

Austin Dillon is willing to forgive any issue he might have had with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at Charlotte Motor Speedway last weekend. But that doesn't necessarily mean he'll forget it anytime soon.

Dillon wasn't particularly pleased with the way Stenhouse raced him, especially since Stenhouse returned to the track several laps down after having mechanical issues. Dillon and grandfather Richard Childress, who also owns the car, had an animated discussion over the radio about how Stenhouse was mixing it up with the race leaders.

"Me and Stenhouse are good friends, but I'll always remember how he races me, and he'll always remember how I race him."

--AUSTIN DILLON

One week later, things are fine between the two championship contenders, at least on the surface. Neither expects the issue to carry into Saturday's 5-hour Energy 200. But don't think for a second that Dillon hasn't filed the incident in his memory bank.

"Me and Stenhouse are good friends, but I'll always remember how he races me, and he'll always remember how I race him," Dillon said before Friday's practice. "I haven't talked to him or anything yet, so it's not a big deal. I'm not worried about it. We'll just go on and see how everything works out."

In Stenhouse's defense, his car still was one of the fastest on the track. Plus, the repairs allowed him to keep a bad points day from getting worse.

After 11 races, Stenhouse leads Elliott Sadler -- Dillon's teammate -- by 13 points and Dillon by 28.

"We were testing stuff that we wanted to see on the race car, so I can't just ride around," Stenhouse said. "I need to go see if it's better and see if I can race around people, pass people.

"If it was 15 laps to go, I would have given him a lot [more room] and wouldn't have passed him. But we passed him and pulled away by about a half of a race track, so I don't think there's much of an issue there."

The one thing Stenhouse wants to convey to Dillon -- and to the rest of the field -- is that he understands the need for "give and take" on the track. His focus now is on how to limit the downturn in his momentum to one race -- after finishing fourth here last year, he is hoping to improve on that performance this weekend.

"I try to give the same amount of respect to everybody out there," Stenhouse said. "If I thought I was doing something wrong, then I wouldn't have done it. I think we did what we needed to do. We learned a lot last week that should help us for future races."

Dillon, too, would rather pay attention to Dover than revisit Charlotte. Getting a setup that will allow the car to maintain consistent speed in the race -- but is fast for one qualifying lap -- is critical.

And that becomes harder to do every year, because the concrete surface is getting rougher with age, according to Dillon.

"You have to step it up when it comes to qualifying," Dillon said. "But it slows down a little bit in the race, so you have to have a good setup for race pace, and that's what we'll be working on."

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