Coming off two wins during the regular season, Richard Childress Racing drivers Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman have advanced to the inaugural NASCAR Playoffs, kicking off next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. Dillon and Newman join a group of 14 MENCS drivers that will now vie for one of four spots to compete for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
With Newman scoring the early win at Phoenix Raceway in March and Dillon earning his first-career MENCS victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, the pair of RCR Cup drivers earned their spot in NASCAR’s first Playoff.
After celebrating the regular season finale Saturday night at Richmond Raceway, both drivers know the focus must now shift to being the best team possible over the final 10 races of the year.
“I think we’ve got a great team,” said Dillon, who makes his second-straight appearance in NASCAR’s post-season. “I think we have a great solid group of guys and we have been working hard all year to try and get more speed in our race cars.”
Newman enters the NASCAR Playoffs as the 11th seed and on a hot streak, earning four-consecutive top-10 finishes. Proud of their efforts, the veteran driver understands the entire No. 31 team will need to improve as the title competition ramps up.
“We are not where we need to be, but we are in a spot where we’ve got a chance,” said Newman. “We continue to work on it and make the cars better, get out pit stops better. I’ve got to improve, qualify better and everything else. So, it takes everything, but I mean obviously finishing third and having four top 10’s in the last five races has been a good streak for us. But you’ve got to win. We’ve got to put ourselves in a position to win to get that guarantee buy to the next round.”
Entering the NASCAR Playoffs in the 14th position, Dillon also knows the organization will have to be as strong as possible, but they also enter the postseason as underdogs, which is not necessarily a negative.
“We’ve got nothing to lose. I feel like we are on house money this year,” he said. “We fought and scratched and clawed for everything we’ve got and some of these guys have won a lot of races, the No. 78 (Martin Truex Jr.), No, 42 (Kyle Larson), some guys have got some bonus points, so we’ve got to go for it. We’ve got to try and win races in the Playoffs to get ourselves to the next round. We will be aggressive on plays and strategy and see what we can do with that.”
The NASCAR Playoffs kicks off Sunday, Sept. 17 at Chicagoland Speedway, with coverage at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.