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No longer a rookie, Dillon plans to be the champion

January 19, 2013, Kenny Bruce,

Driver thinks he's learned from last year's close call

The 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season won’t get under way for another five weeks, but Ty Dillon already has a plan in place. And a strategy that’s as sound as it is simple.

“My plan is to not make it a close race by the end of the year,” the Richard Childress Racing driver said. “Not make the last race close, so nobody has a chance to beat us.”

Dillon, 20, has been in the series for only one full season, but he made sure the competition knew he was around. He won for the first time (at Atlanta), won three poles and led the points battle late in the year en route to winning Rookie of the Year.

"I think the only way we can follow (last year) up is to win a lot more races."

-- Ty Dillon

The opportunity to win a championship, however, slipped from his grasp in the waning laps of the final race of the season.

“Even going into that last race (at Homestead) we had a chance; almost down to the last lap we had a chance at winning the championship before a little bit of misfortune there,” Dillon said.

Contact from Kyle Larson’s truck inside of the final five laps sent Dillon into the wall, ending his title hopes. For the third time in the final four races, Dillon finished 15th or worse.

The closeness of the heated battle left its mark. Lessons were learned.

“We just made too many dumb mistakes that kept the championship too close,” he said. “Dumb mistakes that could have been avoided.”

Crew chief Marcus Richmond returns, having taken over the duties after the 2012 season had already begun. The two meshed quickly and the results continued to improve as the season wore on.

“We weren’t running too bad,” Dillon said of the crew chief change. “But we thought we could be better. As soon as we put Marcus in there we definitely did pick up our finishes -- from top-10 finishes we started getting top fives. Then getting our first win. … I think it was the right move. It was tough, but sometimes that’s what you’ve got to do to stay on top.”

Richard Childress has a unique relationship with both Ty and older brother Austin, who competes in the Nationwide Series. Not only is Childress the owner of their respective teams, he’s also their grandfather. Austin won the NCWTS title in 2011 before making the move up to the Nationwide Series at RCR last season.

“I think he had a good season for his rookie season, winning a race and winning Rookie of the Year,” Childress said of Ty. “He was three laps from having a chance at the championship. He was right there all year long.”

Dillon will likely compete in 10-12 Nationwide races this season as well. He made three Nationwide starts last year, finishing in the top 10 in all three.

But his focus, he said, is the Truck Series crown. And after a solid rookie campaign, Dillon appears ready for what lies ahead.

“I think the only way we can follow that up is to win a lot more races and win the championship,” he said. “That’s definitely what we have our mind set on. I think we were so close last year to winning the championship anything less would be a failure to us.

“Still, it’s going to be a tough year; you never know what’s going to happen. But I think we’re very capable of winning the championship.”