News & Media

Dillon closes out big weekend with strong finish

July 26, 2011, Joe Menzer,

LEBANON, Tenn. -- Austin Dillon was so fired up about winning a Sam Bass custom-painted Gibson Les Paul guitar Friday night that he came back in hot pursuit of another one Saturday.

Dillon fell a little short in Saturday's Federated Auto Parts 300 at Nashville Superspeedway, but his third-place finish in the Nationwide Series race put a fitting cap on an impressive weekend that included his victory in Friday's Lucas Deep Clean 200 at the same facility.

"Nashville is a cool place -- and you've got the coolest trophy in racing here with that guitar. Hopefully we can come back in the future and get a few more."


Federated Auto Parts 300

2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Ford
3. Austin Dillon Chevrolet
4. Justin Allgaier Chevrolet
5. Aric Almirola Chevrolet

That win in the Camping World Truck Series event was his first of this season and earned him his first guitar trophy. It also moved him to within 18 points of the only driver ahead of him in the Truck Series season standings -- leader Johnny Sauter. On Saturday, Dillon drove the No. 33 Chevrolet prepared for him by Kevin Harvick Inc. to his career-best Nationwide finish. He even led four laps at one point.

Dillon, who said afterward that he hopes to run full time in the Nationwide Series next year, has three top-10 finishes in three series starts this season. One of those finishes came at Nashville, when he finished seventh in the spring race. He also registered a 10th-place finish at Iowa Speedway earlier this season.

"We had a shot at a sweep. That's all you can ask for in a weekend," Dillon said. "We had a great car; we just couldn't fire on that first turn. I can't wait to get back in this Nationwide car. It was so fast. Hopefully we get to run a whole bunch of races in this car next year.

"I think it shows that we can go out and compete against these Cup guys at another level. I really had a great time [Saturday]."

Dillon, of course, is no stranger to success on the race track. As the son of Mike Dillon, general manager of Richard Childress Racing, and the grandson of RCR owner Richard Childress, he's been around the sport his entire 21-year-old life. He said he's hoping the strong finishes he has been posting this season help him secure a full-time RCR-supported ride in the Nationwide Series.

"My grandfather announced it earlier this year that we're going to try to run Nationwide next year, so I look forward to being able to do it," Dillon said. "Full time would be what we want. It just depends on sponsorship, if we can find it. If we keep plugging away on these finishes, hopefully someone will step up and help us out."

Race winner Carl Edwards certainly took notice of Dillon's driving ability on Saturday night. Edwards, in fact, praised both second-place finisher and Roush Fenway Racing teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Dillon for their strong Saturday runs.

"I think Austin did a great job and Ricky does a great job, too. Both of those guys are just driving the wheels off their race cars. I thought Austin did a great job [in winning the truck race Friday] night. He was patient," Edwards said. "[Saturday] when I got to him to pass him for the lead, he was driving for all it was worth. The car was hung out about a foot. So he was really driving hard.

"Both of those guys, I think, are going to have really bright futures in the sport. That's my opinion."

Edwards' car owner, Jack Roush, also offered high praise for Dillon.

"We identified Trevor [Bayne] and Ricky [Stenhouse] for the responsibility of driving Ford race cars going forward. I'd put Austin in the same category as them -- and based on his bloodline, I don't think it's going to be a problem," said Roush, smiling.

Dillon was strong all night at Nashville, but discovered during the Truck race that two tires often worked better for him than taking on four during pit stops. His truck team used that strategy to get to the front and stay there Friday, and then Dillon and crew chief David Hyder used the tactic again Saturday to gain track position and get to the front.

"We wanted two tires to have a shot at the end. So that's what we did," Dillon said. "But I just couldn't turn through that first turn. It was too tight. It would chatter the front end, and then I'd start going and hook the corner."

Dillon said he was mystified as to why he couldn't get the car to turn better on four fresh tires.

"I think it was air pressure. Our car was set up pretty tight, so the two tires would just free us up and let us go," Dillon said. "We just have to learn from it and come back next year and try something different -- maybe something different with air pressure or with the setup."

And make no mistake. Dillon will be back in Nashville to run more races as soon as humanly possible. He enjoys racing on the 1.33-mile track, and it shows. He also obviously has developed an affinity for the guitars that are presented to those who grace Victory Lane.

"This is a really fun place," Dillon said. "Heck, yeah, Nashville is a cool place -- and you've got the coolest trophy in racing here with that guitar. Hopefully we can come back in the future and get a few more."