Dillon on track for historic debut season
With seven races to go in the 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series season, including Saturday's 300-mile event at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, has a shot at making NASCAR history. Dillon heads into this weekend's event third in the series championship points standings, 34 points behind leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
Dillon claimed championship status in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2011, and if he's able to overcome his 34-point deficit over the course of the final seven races in Nationwide competition this year, he would become the first driver to ever win the Truck Series title and Nationwide Series championship in consecutive years. Given his deficit, it's a lofty task, but not impossible.
Risks are involved every week.
"I think with the way the points structure is set-up, you have to take risks now to run up front," Dillon said of his championship hopes. "The way teams take two tires at the end of the race is a good example. Risks are involved every week, and we'll definitely be taking some risks to win it. You want to do whatever it takes to be up front at the end and have a chance on that last restart to go after it. If we do our job at Richard Childress Racing, we'll be there at the end of the season and shouldn't have to take more risks than we do every week. That's our plan, to be there at the end."
Actually, should Dillon move into the top spot by season's end, he'll make NASCAR history two times over, as he'll also become the first driver to claim the series title in his rookie season. The one exception to that being the first series champion in 1982, but of course, everyone was a series rookie that year.
Dillon already stands poised to join an elite group of drivers, even without claiming a championship this year. As long as Dillon at least maintains the third spot in points for the duration of 2012, he'll become only the fifth driver in Nationwide Series history to finish out a rookie season second or third in points. He'll join Kyle Busch, Steve Park, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards in that club.
If Dillon is to make up ground on the two drivers in front of him, including RCR teammate Elliott Sadler in the No. 2 Chevrolet, the Kentucky race is the perfect time to start. Dillon has one-career win in Nationwide competition, a win that came in dominating fashion when the series last visited Kentucky Speedway in July.
"I really don't know," Dillon said when asked why he's so good at Kentucky. "I think my dirt racing background plays a factor. I get through the bumps really well. The characteristics of the track help me. I think we definitely have a shot at having another dominating performance. Our car was really good at Kentucky Speedway in July, and I think it's going to be even better this weekend. RCR has a really strong 1.5-mile program, and I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to gain some points this weekend."
By the way, neither Stenhouse nor Sadler have won at Kentucky.
Story by: Amanda Vincent