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Austin Dillon looks to turn the tide at Pocono

June 06, 2015, RJ Kraft, NASCAR.com

Austin Dillon
Second-year driver will start sixth in Sunday's Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400

LONG POND, Pa. -- Halfway through the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season, Austin Dillon admits the results aren't where the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet team wants them in his second season in the sport's top series.

"It'd be like a C-minus on our finishes," Dillon told NASCAR.com at Pocono Raceway, site of Sunday's Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). 

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"As far as on speed compared to last year, we're better. We haven't had the finishes that we want. I think my driving style is fine. We just could be better on the last couple restarts. Our points aren't there because of motor issues and failures. Hopefully, we can get rid of some of those failures."

Those issues Dillon speaks of are an electrical problem in March at Martinsville that led to a 41st-place finish and an engine failure in May at Talladega that resulted in a 35th-place finish. 

"I think we'd be in the top 14, 13 in points if you take away two engine failures, a blown tire in Atlanta. A couple of different things that didn't go our way that we could have back would really benefit where we should be."

One of the hallmarks of his rookie campaign was Dillon's ability to log laps and stay on track. In 2014, he missed logging only 53 laps of the 10,541 circuits. Keeping his car clean and out of trouble had him 15th in points this time last year. This season, he has already been off track for 259 laps of the 4,321 laps run in large part due to engine woes he simply didn't have last year.

Dillon comes into Sunday's race at Pocono 24th in the points standings with one top-10 finish (a 10th-place result at Bristol). With the exception of a 16th-place showing last month at Charlotte, Dillon has finished outside the top 20 in four of the past five races.

On the plus side, Dillon's average starting spot is 17.2 (counting Pocono), an improvement from the 19.9 mark he averaged last season.

That mark was further improved as Dillon backed up his fifth-fastest time in Friday's opening practice (176.561 mph), with a fast lap of 176.526 mph in the final round of qualifying. He will start Sunday's race sixth. This is his third straight start in the top 12 and his best starting spot in 2015. 

The two-time national series champion (2011 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and 2013 in the NASCAR XFINITY Series) has been spending some time in the XFINITY ranks, running the No. 33 Chevrolet for RCR. Dillon has scored two wins (at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March and Charlotte Motor Speedway in May) and seven top fives in 10 starts in that series. The 25-year-old sees great value in the prepaation the extra seat time allows him.

"It's definitely been more beneficial having the laps (in XFINITY) on Saturdays to be prepared for Sundays, the start of the race especially," Dillon said. "We take off a lot better knowing what the track is going to do. We have two wins in the XFINITY cars, so the confidence has been really high. It's been great to have the XFINITY car." 

Dillon's two Sprint Cup starts at Pocono produced an average finish of 16.0 and starting positions of 11th in both races. But the driver is ready for what the Tricky Triangle has to offer and has a Camping World Truck Series win (in 2014) at the 2.5-mile track to boot.

"Last year, both (Cup) races were pretty solid for us. We had one stint where we were really fast in the race last year and we took a similar package here.

"Track position's always big. And if we can keep that, that would be beneficial."