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End Of Season Could Be Start Of New RCR Era

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 16 2012

The extended family of Richard Childress will have an important weekend in Homestead. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

If the skinny surrounding Kevin Harvick’s done-deal exit from Richard Childress Racing after the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season is true, RCR’s future definitely will be all about family.

Brothers Austin and Ty Dillon – grandsons of team-owner Childress – are in the formative stages of their respective NASCAR careers, and Harvick’s departure would only serve to accelerate the inevitable.

Harvick reportedly has signed a multi-year contract to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing starting in 2014 as the organization’s fourth entry alongside three-time/reigning Cup champion Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick. Harvick, who replaced Dale Earnhardt after the seven-time Cup champion’s fatal crash in the season-opening 2001 Daytona 500, has driven for RCR throughout his 12-year career.

Neither Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet Impala, nor Stewart would confirm reports emanating from Phoenix International Raceway last weekend. Childress, meanwhile, was blunt went quizzed on the issue. “If you want to talk about that bull—- what (you) need to do is have somebody from over there to confirm it,” Childress told The Sporting News. “Right now, he’s (Harvick) driving for me in ’13 and we’re still in ’12, so I ain’t even going to talk about it to nobody.”

Austin Dillon appears headed to a third-place point finish in his rookie Nationwide Series season, which will conclude with Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 on the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway. Austin, driver of the No. 3 Advocare Chevrolet, has scored two wins this season while emerging as the Sunoco Rookie of the Year point-leader.

Similarly, Ty Dillon sits third in the Camping World Truck Series standings, 12 points behind leader James

Ty Dillon has been a Camping World phenom. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

Buescher of Turner Motorsports but only one behind runnerup Timothy Peters of Red Horse Racing. Buescher can clinch his first championship in Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200 at HMS with a finish of seventh or better with no laps led; eighth or better with one lap led or ninth or better via most laps-led.

Ty, who scored his first Truck Series victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Aug. 31, basically is a lock to win Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors. Clearly, as Bobby Labonte is to Terry and Kyle Busch is to Kurt, Ty is to Austin – a kid brother driven to meet-or-exceed the NASCAR accomplishments of his older sibling.

The Brothers Labonte each has scored Sprint Cup Series championships during NASCAR’s Modern Era, although Terry holds the upper hand with two for Hendrick Motorsports. While Kyle has emerged as an aggressive front-runner for Joe Gibbs Racing and his own Kyle Busch Motorsports teams in NASCAR’s national touring series, he has yet to match Kurt’s Cup title for Roush Fenway Racing.

Enter Ty Dillon, a rookie tasked with replacing big bro Austin, the 2011 Camping World Truck Series champion on a team owned by his famous grandpa. Chasing a successful sibling in the wide world of sports carries a unique set of expectations – see comparisons of Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks Eli and Peyton Manning – so it helps when the rivalry is conducted in a civil manner.

“Definitely. We didn’t start racing until we were 13- and 15-years-old,” Ty noted, “and we spent every day before that doing different things together. We’ve always had a great relationship. It’s been an inspiration to follow someone who’s so close to me and been so successful. Austin’s always been there to help me with anything I need and answer any questions I have.”

Austin emerged as poster boy of a youth movement that swept the NCWTS in 2011, backing up his family pedigree

Mike Dillon has two sons with big futures. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

by becoming the youngest champion in series history at age 21. Eldest son of Mike Dillon and Tina Childress Dillon, Austin compiled championship numbers of two wins, five poles, 10 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes in 25 starts.

With that, Austin exited the black Chevrolet Silverado with the stylized No. 3 made famous by Earnhardt for a fulltime Nationwide Series ride…and turned the hot seat over to Ty.

“From the moment last season was over, we both started thinking about winning championships and races,” said Ty, now 20, who won the ARCA Racing Series championship as a 19-year-old rookie in 2011. “For us, there’s no other way to go about it.”

Mike Dillon, proud dad and vice president of competition at Richard Childress Racing, said Ty’s mindset is the natural product of growing up around the Welcome, N.C.,-based organization whose operative motto is: “A successful team beats with one heart, the heart to win.”

“Ty’s been around racing his whole life, got to stand in Victory Circle with Dale Earnhardt and all our drivers,” Mike said. “It is an advantage because it is what we do. But anybody in our stable gets the same equipment and effort in everything we do. Funding-wise, I don’t know that we don’t put more pressure on them (Austin and Ty) to perform because we couldn’t do it without the sponsors. They have to sell for their sponsors and whatever is on their car and truck, and they understand that.”

Separated in age by 22 months, Mike said Austin and Ty enjoyed playing stick-and-ball sports as youngsters, with Austin favoring baseball as a second baseman and Ty leaning toward football as a fullback/linebacker.

“Ty was in a different age-group in high school but they did grow up as buddies,” Mike said. “Once they started racing and went out with the dirt-car crew they looked after each other and still do to this day. The only people more nervous about either of them other than their mom and dad is their brother. It’s fun to watch how wound-up they get about each other when they’re competing. It’s neat.”

Austin won NCWTS Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in 2010 and the title in his second season. Ty began the 2012 stretch run with a bonafide opportunity to one-up his brother and reign not only as top rookie but also as champion. After earning his third series pole for Race No. 18 of 22 at Talladega Superspeedway in early October, Ty posted a fourth-place finish to maintain a one-point championship lead over Texan Buescher with four races remaining.

“I figured we’d be running up-front this season,” said Ty, whose No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet is tuned by Marcus Richmond. “We’ve got a great team and notes from Austin from last year. I definitely believe in myself and my guys and so far we’ve been able to back it up.”

Mike Dillon said that while Ty’s relentless rookie pursuit of the title is “pretty amazing,” the kid has been a quick study during a career that began in Bandolero and Legends Chargers alongside Austin in 2006.

“Ty always had the opportunity to watch and learn from his brother in whatever they were doing _ playing ball or any type of sport,” said Mike, who logged a combined 158 starts in NASCAR’s three national touring series between 1995 and 2001. “In racing, he’s seen all the mistakes. On Sundays, we get together at dinner at night and discuss things. You learn from your failures.

“As far as egos, I think you’ve got to have a little bit of one but we’ve got the people here to keep them both in-check. Doesn’t take long to be humbled. Ty is more mature than a typical 20-year-old and I think a lot of that goes back to traveling with the dirt-car team. On the road with guys that are older, you grow up a little bit quicker.”

Mike Dillon noted the career paths of his sons actually were jump-started by Ty after watching an evening of Bandolero racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “They got a little bit of that rubber and fuel smell and it was on from there,” Mike said.

Childress, who collaborated with Earnhardt on six of his record-tying seven Cup championships, recalled delivering on the standing offer he had made to his grandsons.

“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,” Childress joked. “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. They understand _ I don’t have to tell them _ I’m not going to move them to the next level unless we think we’re ready.”

Austin posted his first Truck Series pole at TMS on June 3, 2010 and followed with his first win in his 12th career start at Iowa Speedway on July 11, 2010. Ty, who logged three NCWTS starts at the end of 2011, scored his first series win in his 17th start at AMS against Cup interloper Kyle Busch and the ever-present Buescher.

“We had a fast race car at Atlanta and it (the win) wasn’t given to us. We had to battle for it in all aspects,” said Ty, who posted his first series pole on the 1.5-mile CMS quadoval on May 18. “To get that first NACSAR win meant so much to me, being around the sport so long.

“There’s definitely a lot of pressure at RCR with the history and resources. You’re always under pressure to perform but I take that as a great opportunity and challenge. There’s no reason I should not do good and that’s why I always push hard. (Winning ) the championship would be really cool and a great statement about what my team has done in my rookie year. I think we have every opportunity to win it.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 16 2012
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