News & Media

Champ Dillon surprised, honored at Truck banquet

November 22, 2011, Dave Rodman,

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- Unexpected victory as most popular capped night of celebration in South Florida

Austin and Ty Dillon strolled into the lobby of the Loews Miami Beach Hotel at 1 a.m. Monday, but they might as well have been floating on a cloud.

Carrying Austin Dillon's Camping World Truck Series champion's trophy -- which had just been put on display at a midnight photo shoot at Homestead-Miami Speedway with fellow champions Tony Stewart, who won the Sprint Cup title that night, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who claimed the Nationwide crown on Saturday -- had everything to do with that.

"I'll always remember this. It's the best thing that's ever happened to me and it's really cool."


And with his family's first NASCAR championship in hand, Austin, 21, was in perfect position to quantify just what his season meant --- and just what his overall level of respect for the sport is.

"What an amazing honor, to win the Camping World Truck Series championship," Dillon said Monday night in the grand ballroom of the Loews. "My dream started as a young kid watching Dale [Earnhardt] Sr. dominate races. I'm privileged to run this number [3], it's a great number and I'm really happy to bring another championship to its legacy."

For the third consecutive season, NASCAR celebrated its Truck and Nationwide series champions and award winners in a combined banquet. And a packed house reveled in a celebration of family, history and -- in the case of both series' champions -- youth.

Part of the banquet's video presentation was a still picture of Austin Dillon curled up in his hotel bed, his arms wrapped around his championship hardware.

"That's awesome -- I'm gonna take it everywhere," Dillon said, chuckling. "I like to post Twitter pictures in random places, kind of like the 'Roaming Gnome,' but it'll be the roaming championship trophy. I have fun, man. This is what it's all about.

"I'm very fortunate to be able to have fun and do this."

Dillon, who thrives on social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, has made an impact on NASCAR's fan base that, just like his on-track achievements, far eclipses his physical age. His surprise selection as the Truck Series' Most Popular Driver -- and his reaction to it -- epitomizes that.

"It means a lot, and I still haven't had time to sit down by myself and think about it," Dillon said, nearly five hours after the formal portion of the event had begun. "I about broke down out there when that was called out."

NASCAR's teleprompter system projects the running dialogue of each of its celebrations on the banquet halls' back walls and Dillon, at that point, couldn't believe what he was seeing.

"I saw it on the teleprompter and my eyes were just like, 'Whoa, Most Popular Driver!'" Dillon said. "I'll always remember this. It's the best thing that's ever happened to me and it's really cool."

Dillon thanked the fans again in his remarks after receiving his champion's ring from NASCAR president Mike Helton, saying "the passion you guys show each and every weekend pushes me to work hard and never give up, to help put on a show."

With Ty Dillon, 19, set to move into his older brother's Truck seat next season, youth will continue to be served at RCR and elsewhere in NASCAR. But Austin Dillon wouldn't make a definitive statement of whether or not his championship, coupled with the 24-year-old Stenhouse's, marked a changing of the guard in the upper reaches of NASCAR racing.

"You know, maybe," Dillon said. "There's just a great group of talent out there right now. The older guys are getting older. They're still very good [but] there's just so many young guys out there that are fighting for it, they know what it takes and they're not scared -- they just want to go win races."