BROOKLYN, Mich. — With 12 races remaining in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season, Austin Dillon is well aware that crunch time is approaching.
Dillon is coming off a pair of finishes outside the top 30, due to wrecks not of his own doing — getting caught up in Kyle Larson‘s incident at Charlotte and taken out by Paul Menard last week at Pocono.
“The last two weeks have been a bummer getting wrecked,” Dillon told NASCAR.com. “To start off the season, we didn‘t really finish outside the top 20. … When you have two bad weeks and a tight points battle, it looks pretty bad.”
Dillon said his Richard Childress Racing team has hauled fast cars to the track each week but capitalizing on Sunday has been a sore spot.
“We keep that up, we can turn it around and really put our season where we feel like it needs to be,” Dillon said. “We feel like we need to be in the playoffs and have a shot to win races each week.”
With NASCAR Salutes in full swing, the hood of a patriotic No. 3 Chevrolet Camaro this weekend — an ode to Dale Earnhardt‘s 1996 Atlanta Olympics NASCAR All-Star Race car — features the names of more than 1,400 military veterans. Dillon also recently received a letter back from his former gasman Tyler Rader, who elected to join the U.S. Army and currently attends basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia.
“He‘s one of my boys,” Dillon said. “He lived with me for a while and when he told me he wanted to join the military, I was really supportive and pumped for him. He‘s just that type of guy that puts our country first. When I got that first letter back from him, you couldn‘t wipe the smile off my face.”
Heading into Monday‘s FireKeepers Casino 400 (5 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM), Michigan International Speedway could provide the perfect opportunity for Dillon to ignite a potential streak of good finishes. Dillon finished fourth at Michigan last August and has four top 10s in his career at the 2-mile oval.
Between a fresh red, white and blue paint scheme, a letter from a close friend and a 12th-place start, it could all provide the jolt that Dillon‘s 2019 season needs.
“We got to; I think there‘s no other choice,” Dillon said. “We have to put everything we have into our race cars and put ourselves in position because we feel like we can compete with the best. We just have to go after it every single week and put ourselves in the best position we can come the end of this regular season.”