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Dillon’s Pole Win Has NASCAR Nation Wondering

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, February 17 2014

Austin Dillon is on the pole for the 2014 Daytona 500 but the feat has left some people wondering. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Tom Copeland)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

There is considerable belief around NACSCAR Nation today that for the second year in a row, the pole position for the Daytona 500 has somehow been gifted to a competitor. That belief is that pole qualifying for the biggest Sprint Cup race of the year is becoming little more than a chance for the series to jack up interest in a sport which has fallen on hard times.

Whether it’s true or not, it is pretty clear that on some level, NASCAR has a credibility crisis on it hands. A crisis that has not been tempered by this winter’s unveiling of a highly admirable transparency campaign against the traditional vagueries of its rules-making and penalization processes.

Social media and the blog world blew up on Sunday and Monday after Austin Dillon won the pole for the 2014 500.

Dillon is a Sprint Cup rookie who is the grandson of Richard Childress. And Childress is the man who owned the car in which Dale Earnhardt Sr. – perhaps the most popular American driver ever – won six of his seven Cup championships.

During those championship runs – and the Man in Black/The Intimidator hoopla which grew around them – Earnhardt drove cars with the No. 3 on them.

After Earnhardt’s fatal crash on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, the No. 3 became a symbol of Earnhardt the man, and also Earnhardt the face of old-school, blue collar stock car racing.

Nominally owned by Childress, the No. 3 has sat in Cup storage for the past 13 seasons.

But in recent years, Childress has allowed Dillon to use the number on his Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series vehicles.

After Childress decided that Dillon was ready to make the jump to Cup, the announcement was made the No. 3 would be on the doors of his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

That announcement was not made quietly. In the two months since, there have been roll-outs, photo ops, blogs, comments, columns and press conferences. Heading into the new year, it made list after list of “stories to watch in 2014″.

During last week’s Speedweeks Media Day at Daytona International Speedway driver after driver was asked about it during pressers. And story after story was turned. In print, on the net and on television.

Speedweeks 2014 had its “talker”. Best of all for the sport, it was a crossover “talker”.

Just like Speedweeks 2013 had its crossover “talker” in Danica Patrick, a personality known more for her looks than her driving abilities.

On qualifying day Sunday, the “talkers” went 2 for 2. Dillon, just as Patrick had done the year before, took to the historic 2.5-mile oval and shot to P1 on the pylon.

The disbelieving couldn’t help but notice the similarities between Dillon and Patrick’s stunning qualifying runs.  Nor could they help but notice the benefits that winning the most important pole in stock car racing would yield for NASCAR – a racing series that has gone from red hot to warm enough to touch with bare hands over the last half decade.

Benefits that, in the end, turn extremely financial for a lot of people in the sport.

Cynical sords like “scripted” and “fixed” have colorfully decorated the comment sections on stories about Dillon’s run over the past hours.

And in a way, that is understandable. In times like these, cynicism ranks right behind breathing on the list of human reflexes.

Some of that raceing-brand of cynicism has found its way into the shops and garages.

Rather unintentionally, Richard Petty last week laid bare the relationship between racing and the business of racing when he said, “…the race is secondary, because all the rest of it is buildup, buildup, buildup.” Petty wasn’t criticizing “buildup” at all. In fact, he called it necessary. But that could be even more troublesome for people who watch racing to see racing and not buildup.

Whatever. Sunday’s result has the old-schoolers wondering: Is the fact that the No. 3 is on the 500 pole with a rookie driver who happens to have strong contact with Earnhardt’s legacy and in a car with engines that have been second tier  in recent years racing, or is it buildup for a sport that has become reliant on buildup?

The hope here is that all is on the up and up. The strong hope is that a wonderful story also happens to be a true story.

If not, well, perhaps NASCAR should opt to hold an internet vote when it comes to determining the pole winner for the Daytona 500.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, February 17 2014
12 Comments

12 Comments »

  • Rob in Idaho says:

    Prediction. Bubba Wallace moves up to Sprint Cup and wins Daytona pole. Think its all that impossible with this bunch in charge?

  • Rita Jean says:

    All the RCR cars practiced well & qualified well (heck, even Brian Scott). They came with a good package. There is no further conspiracy about it.

    The whole Danica-thing a year ago is over with and I don’t even care anymore. It was a fluke. Her entire season of quals and finishes was abysmal.

    Like many of you, I was watching the NNS race with the #3 Wrangler car and it could look scripted except for the fact that Dale Jr. is a very good draft racer. It was easily feasible for him to come home with a win regardless of the paint scheme.

    I disagree that Nascar has a crisis on their hands. I feel it is a safer bet to ride the PR machine with Austin (a proven driver), over the mess they created for themselves last season by putting all their eggs in Danica’s basket. And yep, whatta MESS that was.

    • NASCAR Nutered Fords says:

      Bwaahahahaha

      Proven driver Austun Dillon. What ever you are drinking or smoking you need to pass it around.

      • Rita Jean says:

        What’s your problem?
        He drove in trucks and NNS.
        Meaning, he’s been around Nascar. He wasn’t plopped into a free ride without ever being in a stock car before (hint, hint).
        Take the comment IN context to the rest of the paragraph.
        Thanks.

  • Jim Sullivan says:

    Spot on.Enough said,the fix is done.It’s almost embarrissing to talk about.

  • RACING EXEC says:

    Remember Bill Elliot winning pole on Dodges much publicized return to NASCAR? New program, development cars and engines immediately better than everyone else. Add that one to the Danica and Austin poles

    .

  • Ed Woodson says:

    Jr. wins the 2001 summer race at Daytona. Was there anyone who really thought anyone else would win it?

    First race at Dover after the events of 9/11. Jr. won it in a car that looked like an American Flag. Was there anyone who really thought anyone else would win it?

    RCR and Teresa Earhart put a #3, Blue and Yellow Car in the Nationwide race with Jr. driving it. Was there anyone who really thought anyone else would win it?

    Danica Patrick get the pole for last years Daytona 500. Was there anyone who really though anyone else would win it?

    On Sunday, Austin Dillon put the #3 on the pole at Daytona for the 500. Was/is there anyone who really thought anyone else would win it.

    Conspiracies in NASCAR? Nah! Why would anyone believe that there are conspiracies in NASCAR.

  • Ken says:

    If you listened to the shows before qualifying, it was clear that the #3 was going to be on the pole. NASCAR has an amazing string of luck when it comes to fairy tale endings. How gullible do they think we are. It seems the writers are either in the tank for NASCAR or the most gullible paople that ever sat down at a computer.

  • KYBOY says:

    You people need help! Conspiracy? lol

    • NASCAR Nutered Fords says:

      So you think Junior winning the first race at Daytona after his father was killed there was all on the up and up?

      Juniors own team over their team radio kept telling Junior to slow down, Junior replied he was only running half throttle. He was passing packs of drafting cars all by his self.

      Jimmy Spencer stated after the race it was fixed and quickly back tracked after NASCAR sat him down. Everyone knows NASCAR gave Junior a bigger plate than the rest of the field all Junior had to do was keep the car out of the fence and hope he did not a mechanical failure. NASCAR got their dream finis that day.

      Last year Sparkle Pony won the pole but could not do the rest. This year Sparkle Pony was not even a factor for the pole.

      This year the number “3″ is brought back and what do you know all of the sudden not a single car can beat the car with the magic number “3″ on it. I suspect Dillon won’t be able to close the deal just like last year with Sparkle Pony girl.

      Trevor Bayne was the real deal, he did not win the pole but he stayed out of trouble and won the race by being smart. He car got no special treatment from NASCAR.

      There are many ways NASCAR can and has fixed the out come of races and even championships.

  • ann says:

    I don’t need to go to Lourdes for a cure. Lake Lloyd sounds like it would fit the bill, lots of “miracles” happen this time of year.
    Sad sarcasm from a person who can’t believe that some actually believes this pole to be true. It all about money, big money not racing. The groundwork was layed for the lemmings last year at the NW finale. Sam was robbed of the Championship, you had Helton, Richard, and the father telling the world the 3 was back in Cup next year and everybody can be happy to see it because they will think of Sr. blah blah blah. Dillon is the “fastest” at testing, the “fastest” at Speedweeks, and shazam..The Pole! Come on. Last year great feminist news with Sparkle Pony. Seems from some talk around that it was supposed to be Dillon and Jr. on the front row, only Jr. didn’t quiet make it. LOL. Nascar does have a credibility problem and they keep churning out these absurd scripts.

  • NASCAR Nutered Fords says:

    There is no doubt NASCAR has a hand in this. They think the number “3″ is going to make people flock back to the tracks. They are wrong. As for the number NASCAR should have done the same they did with Richard Petty when he tried to get the 43 retired. Petty did not run the number one year and NASCAR told him either run it next year or it is being reassigned.

    Sorry but the majority of fans have no respect for NASCAR anymore.

    The number 3 should have been put back into the pot after the first year of Dick Childress not using it. As for the Dillon boys, they are just a couple of rich kids who grand daddy has paid there way. Money buys speed, always has always will. You can bet Dick Childress made sure they had only the best equipment while those they raced against had to make do and worry about paying the bills before pouring more money into the stock cars.

    Harvick told the truth last year when he went off on Dillon and what was going on at RCR. No neck Newman is going to find out the same thing.