RCR Gives Fans 3 Reasons To Support Dillon
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas – Austin Dillon will graduate into NASCAR’s Nationwide Series in 2012 as the future of Richard Childress Racing, albeit with a bow to the organization’s legendary past.
Dillon and Richard Childress Racing will campaign the “stylized” No. 3 – the number forever synonymous with seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt – fulltime beginning with the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway in February. Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet Impala will carry primary sponsorship for 20 races from AdvoCare, an award-winning health and wellness company based in nearby Plano.
RCR will return fulltime to the Nationwide Series in 2012 after a one-year hiatus with Dillon, team-owner Childress’ 21-year-old grandson. But Dillon will first head into the season-ending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race later this month as the championship points-leader. Driver of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Silverado, Dillon has a 20-point lead over Johnny Sauter following a second-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway Friday night. Dillon, 21, is poised to become the youngest champion in NCWTS history at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 18.
A former NASCAR driver, Childress is fully aware of the emotional ties to the No. 3 and Earnhardt, who was killed on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
“I think there is a lot of stock in a number,” said Childress, who fielded the Chevrolets in which Cap E
won six of his seven Cup championships. “It’s something that we’ve really taken serious. We gave it a lot of serious thought before we even put it on the very first race car with RCR (for Dillon), going back to the Bandoleros days.
“You know, I don’t think it’ll make you win or lose. I know when I put the No.3 on my car the first time the reason I did it was it was cheaper to do one number than the No. 96. The No. 3 has so much winning tradition from Junior Johnson to all great drivers. I got it from Ray Fox. Dale made that number famous and if you come into our museum (in Welcome, N.C.) or look in our offices, there’s a picture, one I’m really proud of. Austin’s standing on the Daytona 500 trophy in 1998, holding his fingers up right next to Dale. I know he’d be proud to see it.”
Dillon was 11-years-old when Earnhardt was killed at DIS. “I remember some moments with him, like being in Victory Lane at the Daytona 500 when he won in 1998,” Austin said. “Every time I get in the truck it’s more for the fans and my grandfather. Every time I get in that truck, it’s a lot of pressure and it’s fun at the same time.”
Childress added he sought the approval of current Cup star Dale Earnhardt Jr., who earned back-to-back Nationwide Series championships in 1998-99 driving the No. 3 Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Inc. Junior also scored Nationwide victories in the No. 3 for RCR in February 2002 and July 2010, both at Daytona International Speedway.
“Dale Jr. is absolutely excited to see Austin take the next step,” Childress said. “He’s really proud of what he’s accomplished and couldn’t be prouder to see the No. 3 back.”
Childress added he currently has “no intentions” of taking the No. 3 back to the Cup Series with his grandson, who made his debut in NASCAR’s top touring series with a 26th-place start/finish at Kansas Speedway in October. Childress said Austin could make from one to three Cup starts in 2012 with an alternative-numbered car.
Dillon is a son of former NASCAR driver Mike Dillon, vice president of competition at RCR, and wife Tina, Childress’ daughter. The NCWTS Rookie of the Year in 2010, Austin has a combined 12 poles and four wins in his two fulltime Truck Series seasons sporting the No. 3 originally campaigned by Mike Skinner.
“I want to thank my mom and my grandmother for giving me all my talent,” said Dillon, joking with
Childress during a news conference. “It’s just great to be able to represent my grandfather, and a great team-owner in NASCAR. I don’t know if I’ve really given him joy or given him a heart attack. I try and make it as easy as I can on him. I’ve got to thank all my family for putting me where I am today.”
Dillon made his Nationwide Series debut in 2008. In 11 series starts, he has earned two top-five and four top-10 finishes. “The Nationwide Series is something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” Dillon said. “I feel like I was in a fortunate situation, taking our time and making sure that we were winning races and doing well in the series that we run. I feel like now is the time to go to Nationwide. We ran really well earlier this year with KHI (Kevin Harvick Inc.) in four races.
“I feel like what we’ve done in the Truck Series the past two years is really going to prepare us going forward. Hopefully we can seal this (2011) championship off and step forward into the Nationwide Series.”
Dillon’s stock car career has been on a methodical rise since he began racing in INEX Bandoleros and Legends Cars in 2006. He moved onto dirt Late Model cars in 2007, winning three races before switching to asphalt Late Models.
“We had a plan for Austin and Ty both,” said Childress, referring to Austin’s brother and recently crowned 2011 ARCA Series champion. “Ty called me when he turned 13 and said, ‘Austin and I are ready to go racing now.’ That was the most expensive phone call I ever got. So we had a plan. Mike and I sat down and made out a plan of how we wanted to see their careers move from the Bandoleros.
“I think the way we’ve laid the plan out, we didn’t want to carry him too fast. I’ve seen so many good,
young talented drivers come along and being pushed into the series. We wanted to watch him run some in the Nationwide this year. We watched him and felt he was ready.
“The thing I’ve done with Austin and Ty, it’s not that I want them to prove theirselves, but I want them to go out and do the best they can with their equipment. From the grandfather’s side of it, I just want them to be safe in every race and come back safe. I’m not making them prove themselves. They understand – I don’t have to tell them – to go to the next level, I’m not going to move them to the next level unless we think we’re ready.”
Austin agreed that the program laid out for him – and the quality equipment he’s driven – accelerated his learning curve. “Running the short tracks, I feel like my grandfather put me in the right place to run –and that was in the dirt cars,” Dillon said. ”We were able to go out and run race cars that have 800 horsepower and weigh 2,300 pounds. And when you get in one of these things, it’s quite a bit…when you can drive an 800-horsepower race car weighing 2,300 pounds and you get in one of these, it actually makes it easier, I feel like.
“They put us in the right steps. The dirt series are so tough, the competition is. When we moved over here (to NASCAR) it was almost like taking a breather. It was hard running those dirt cars. You get in an asphalt car and really enjoyed running them. I want to thank them for putting me in the right cars moving up. I’ve always had great equipment; I just have to go out and prove it every time I get in it.”
RCR has earned 56 Nationwide victories and five series championships since its first season in 2000. Kevin Harvick won overall championships (driver and owner) in 2001 and 2006. Harvick and Sauter won the owner’s championship in 2003; Jeff Burton and Scott Wimmer won the owner’s championship in 2007 and Clint Bowyer won the driver’s championship in 2008.
That title-winning consistency helped sell AdvoCare’s management on backing RCR. Since 1993, AdvoCare has offered more than 70 exclusive nutrition, weight loss, energy and sports performance products developed through research and backed by a scientific and medical advisory board.
AdvoCare tested the NASCAR waters as title sponsor of the AdvoCare 500 Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Labor Day Weekend. AdvoCare also is a platinum sponsor of Operation Homefront, an organization dedicated to providing emergency assistance to those serving in the military and their families. AdvoCare’s national spokesperson is Super Bowl MVP quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.
“A full season with Sprint (Cup) is beyond our means right now,” said Richard Wright, AdvoCare’s president/CEO. “We looked at Sprint and Nationwide. The Nationwide tracks fit the footprint of our business a lot better than the Sprint tracks do. That’s why when we started to entertain offers, both from an economic standpoint as well as the series standpoint, Nationwide made the most sense for us. This is a one-year deal. Richard said he doesn’t know where this thing is going to go and we don’t either. But we’re thrilled to be in on year No. 1. We think it’s an historic year for RCR and for Austin.”
To that end, Dillon said he plans to finish off his Truck Series career with an aggressive effort at HMS. “As long as we continue to run up-front, we’ll be OK,” said Dillon, who has two wins, 10 top-five and 15 top-10 finishes this season. “That would be the perfect two years in the Truck Series – win Rookie of the Year and the championship. I don’t think you could write a script better.”
– John Sturbin can be reached at email@example.comNo Comment