Look back at Austin Dillon’s 2022 season, which saw the Richard Childress Racing driver score his fourth career win in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Editor‘s note: This continues the series of season reviews for select 2022 NASCAR Cup Series drivers.
Driver: Austin Dillon
Car: No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Crew chief: Justin Alexander
Final 2022 ranking: 11th
Key stats: 1 win, 5 top fives, 11 top 10s, 24 laps led
How 2022 ended: After earning a “walk-off home run” of sorts — winning the Daytona regular-season finale to take a 2022 playoff position — Dillon did not advance past the opening round. However, even after being eliminated, he scored top-10 finishes in three of the season’s final five races. He led only six total laps in the 10-race postseason run, and his only top-five finish was fourth at Homestead-Miami Speedway, well after he dropped out of championship contention. His 11th-place finish in the championship ties his career best, however, and Dillon closed out the year feeling optimistic.
Best race: As Dillon has proven throughout his nine-year full-time NASCAR Cup Series career, he is clutch — particularly so at the bigger tracks, where he earned his first-ever series trophy at the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2016 and answered with a career-defining moment by winning the 2018 Daytona 500. This year, the 32-year-old North Carolina native earned his only win of 2022 in the rain-delayed Daytona race to close out the regular season. He led only 10 laps in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 but was out front for 10 of the race‘s final 27 laps, including the most important one — taking a blink-of-an-eye 0.128-second win over RCR teammate Tyler Reddick.
Stat to know: Dillon‘s 2022 statistical totals don‘t necessarily tell the whole story of his season despite his first-round elimination. His five top-five finishes are a career-best, and his 11 top-10 finishes marked only the second time in his NASCAR Cup Series career he‘s scored double-digit top 10s (13 in 2016). His 11th-place finish in the standings tied his previous best season mark — scored in 2017 and 2020. Dillon‘s Daytona victory was the fourth win of his career and an important improvement after a winless 2021 season when he didn‘t qualify for the NASCAR Playoffs.
Quotable: “I think it was good progression. It was our best finish in points for the [No.] 3 team and for me at the Cup level. I thought we finished strong. We had some moments that were lulls in the season that we‘ve got to cut out. But overall getting that win was huge for us obviously at Daytona and then now, I‘m looking forward to flipping the page. I‘m gonna miss Justin Alexander but new crew chief in Keith [Rodden] and building his mindset into our team and seeing where that takes us … we‘ll be able to continue to build off of what we did last year. Bringing in Kyle [Busch] and Keith [Rodden], two more racers. You can‘t have enough racers when you‘re building a race team and trying to make the organization fast. And we‘re filling the shop full of them, and we‘ve got a huge asset in a two-time champion coming over.”
Looking ahead: Dillon‘s famed No. 3 team will have new leadership in 2023 with veteran Keith Rodden taking over crew chief duties from Justin Alexander, who moves to RCR‘s Director of Vehicle Performance. Dillon‘s victory in the new car — along with 2022 teammate Tyler Reddick‘s three wins this season — certainly indicates promise the company continues to be headed in the right direction. It‘s the first year RCR has fielded two cars in the postseason since 2017, raising expectations with two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch joining the team for 2023. Dillon will have both a mentor in the veteran Busch and a teammate that pushes the whole organization.