Ty Dillon: 'It's very much a four-car race'
July 18, 2014, Brad Norman, NASCAR.com
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JOLIET, Ill. -- The trio of Regan Smith, Elliott Sadler and Chase Elliott have jostled for positioning at the top of the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings over the past six weeks, like jockeys leading their horses down the backstretch at Churchill Downs.
Their combined four wins and 16 top-fives have allowed for separation from the pack, but not enough to keep someone lurking on the outside from catching up.
The No. 3 Richard Childress Racing team can't match the production of the top three guys in the points standings, yet Dillon remains in the championship picture due to a steadiness no other driver can equal. He's 34 points behind leader Smith, 26 behind second-place Sadler and 21 behind fellow Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Elliott.
"I think it's very much a four-car race for the championship," Dillon said in his hauler prior to Friday's opening practice. "We're right up in it. We haven't shown our full potential yet. Hopefully we hit it this second half of the season. We have the opportunity to get up there and make some things happen."
Dillon has zero top-fives this season and 11 top-10s in 17 races. He is one of just two drivers in the top 10 of the points standings without a top-five.
That's the bad news, though. There's some good as well. Dillon's average finish this year of 10.2 is nearly the same as Elliott (9.6), and the 22-year-old driver of the No. 3 is the lone driver in the series to have finished inside the top 20 in every race.
"I think week in and week out, we've gotten stronger and stronger," Dillon said. "This can be a good weekend for us. It's only a matter of time before we break through and get a top-five and then hopefully get our first win of the year."
He's got a shot Saturday night in the EnjoyIllinois.com 300. At similar 1.5-mile tracks earlier this year, Dillon was fast in Texas and had among the best cars in the field at Kentucky.
His setup this week mirrors what his team used in the Bluegrass State, where Dillon drove his way into the top five on multiple occasions only to fall back in the field due to a couple of pit-road mishaps.
At the very least, he's got speed this weekend. That much was evident when Dillon jumped to the top of the leaderboard during final practice, finishing the 90-minute session third. Is it enough for his first top-five this year? Maybe. Whenever that comes, though, Dillon thinks the dam would burst.
And just in time for the stretch run.
"I think it'll take a little bit of pressure off our team, and we'll be able to relax and really focus after the burden of getting the first win is off our chest," Dillon said. "I think we'll be able to take off as a team and really do some good things."