Richard Childress Racing
February 17, 2012
Dillons in Full Swing
"It's been really busy, kind of reaping the benefits of running well last year."
BARBERVILLE, Fla. -- Austin and Ty Dillon are poised on the verge of what arguably is the biggest season of either of their professional racing lives.
Never mind that Austin's only 21. And that Ty will turn 20 the day after the 2012 Daytona 500.
Each is coming off a season in which they won a significant racing championship: Austin the Camping World Truck Series title and Ty the ARCA Racing Series crown.
It figures the grandsons of legendary team owner Richard Childress would have an appropriate warmup -- for Austin, his first full season in the Nationwide Series and for Ty, a step up and into the trucks his brother drove to the Truck Series' championship -- and that warmup would come in a race car.
How about a full, seven-night championship series in UMP dirt modifieds at the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park about a half hour west of Daytona International Speedway? The young men are so committed they're staying at the track, which is truly out in the boondocks in West Volusia County, for the duration of the modified series.
"I'm committed to winning this championship," Austin said. "I've finished second [in points] three years in a row and blew up while I was leading last year -- that was the only reason Clint [Bowyer, who at the time was his Richard Childress Racing teammate but owned his own dirt cars] won it. I won three [features] but he didn't blow up."
Dirt racing caps a truly wild first seven weeks of 2012 in which the brothers have crisscrossed the country traveling to special events -- some racing-related and some definitely not.
"Oh man -- this is my favorite time of year -- I love this," Austin said. "This is what I come for every year -- my favorite time of the year, no doubt about it."
Austin's the more emotive of the Dillon boys. It's hard to describe just how ebullient he was following a second-place finish in the opening night at Volusia. When Ken Schrader, wearing a wide grin, came into the Team Dillon Racing hauler to exchange notes and jibes on his side-scraping battle with Dillon that ended with Schrader in sixth, it only put an exclamation point on the night, and the sheer exhilaration all three men feel in this clay-smeared environment.
"Oh man, have we [been busy]," Austin said of less than a six-day stretch that included two trips to Nashville with returns to North Carolina, then a 7 a.m. curtain call Tuesday for a Nationwide Insurance and ESPN ad shoot for a spot with defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. that will run throughout the 2012 season.
"They cut the shooting off at 2 [o'clock], I jumped on a plane and got [to VSP] just in time for the drivers' meeting," Dillon said. "It's been busy but I love it."
While Austin was negotiating their future races with Schrader, Ty was outside the hauler communing with his team, which is led by a pair of veteran dirt-racing brothers, Dale and Shane McDowell.
"It's been really busy, kind of reaping the benefits of running well last year," said Ty, who scored seventh-place finishes in his first two modified starts. "It's been nice living it up a little bit, but we've been trying to prepare ourselves for this weekend and this season coming up."
The Childress and Dillon families spent Christmas at Childress' spread in Montana, which Austin said is an annual occurrence. Once the New Year began, he also had a test at Walt Disney World Speedway outside Orlando, Fla.
Their grandfather teamed up with sponsor Budweiser to engineer a VIP trip to the NFL Super Bowl for his grandsons -- who both said they were big football fans -- and their girlfriends.
"It's the first time I've ever been to the Super Bowl," Austin said. "That was awesome, a real-life experience because everyone watches the Super Bowl and I'll always remember [my first]."
Then it was mostly back to one aspect of racing or another.
"Media week was crazy," Austin said of the Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, which ran from Jan. 23-26. "I was back-and-forth to Charlotte [from Lexington, N.C.] about six times, I think. We did two or three commercials -- but it's been fun.
Both Dillons agreed they were beyond excited to be racing, which they'll do all but one night through next Tuesday, when the modified series ends. Austin's ardor was blunted Wednesday night when he crashed while running seventh and coming to the checkers, which he crossed in 13th. Nationwide and Truck series practice opens next Thursday.
It was no coincidence all of Ty's highlights concerned racing, although he said the Super Bowl trip "was a lot of fun."
"I couldn't imagine not doing this," Ty said. "I'd be so bored out of my mind. I wouldn't know what to do. To get back in the car and race felt really good. We love it so much -- it's addicting, like a drug to somebody else but it's what we want to be doing and it's hard to get away from."
"We just have fun doing what we do," Austin said. "This is kind of like a ritual we have, to get started for the year -- to get us tuned-up for the big races. Heck, if you can drive these cars I feel like you can drive about anything.
"It just gives you confidence each time you go out there and run well, because the competition here gets better and better -- it's better this year than it's ever been, I feel like. We have to work real hard because we weren't one of the best cars here [earlier] by any means, so this makes you think and it makes you work."
Kenny Wallace, who'll compete with Austin for the Nationwide championship this season, seconded that opinion Wednesday evening when he won his second A-Main since he started racing in Florida last week. The first came on the weekend at East Bay Raceway in Gibsonton, Fla.
"Every night is a big race -- this isn't any old feature," Wallace said after taking the series points lead with his win. "What makes [DIRTcar Nationals] wins special is when you have the best modified racers in the United States. This is like a championship race every night."
The boys' father, Richard Childress Racing vice president of competition Mike Dillon, certainly subscribes to that sentiment.
"These cars really train you to drive anything," Mike Dillon said. "They are 750 horsepower and they don't have much tire, so you really have to have a good feel to do well."
Bottom line, Austin said he was glad the season had begun.
"It has to [relax a little], I think," Austin said, shaking his head. "It'll slow down, here, hopefully [because] I just want to focus on racing, and take all the other distractions away."
To read Dave Rodman's article, as it appeared on NASCAR.com, CLICK HERE