The Frontstretch: 2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Austin Dillon by Mike Neff -- Monday December 2, 2013

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2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Austin Dillon

Mike Neff · Monday December 2, 2013

 

2013 Ride: No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
2013 Primary Sponsors: Advocare
2013 Owner: Richard “Pop Pop” Childress
2013 Crew Chief: Danny Stockman

Stats: 33 starts, 7 poles, 0 wins, 13 top 5s, 22 top 10s, 1 DNF, 1st in points
Best Finish: 2nd, three times (Iowa – June, Kentucky – September, Charlotte – October).
Average Start: 5.0.
Average Finish: 8.8.

2013 Team Ranking: 1st of 3. Winning the title in the Nationwide Series locked Dillon into the top spot amongst the RCR teams.

Austin Dillon

High Point: While clinching the title at Homestead could easily be listed as Dillon’s high point for the season, the run in Miami was more about survival the excellence. The defining moments of Dillon’s season came over an eight day stretch at the end of September and beginning of October. Dillon scored back-to-back sixth place finishes at Dover and Kansas while his title rival Sam Hornish Jr. only managed 17th place finishes in both races. Dillon went from 15 points out of the lead to eight points ahead of Hornish and never relinquished the top spot en route to his first Nationwide Series title.

Low Point: Dillon completed 99.2% of the Nationwide Series laps in 2013 which equated to 46 unfinished laps. 40 of those came at Richmond in April. Dillon was caught in a lap 211 accident with his teammate Brian Scott and Justin Allgaier. When the checkered flag flew Dillon found himself in seventh in points, 37 behind leader Sam Hornish Jr. It took 12 races for Dillon to climb out of the hole and grab the point lead after Indianapolis.

Summary: The 2013 season started off less than stellar for Austin Dillon with a 21st place finish at Daytona. He clawed his way into the top three in points after Texas in April, only to have his only DNF of the season the next week in Richmond, falling back to sixth in points. Despite six consecutive oval track poles from Charlotte through Daytona in the middle of the season, Dillon was still winless and fifth in points. Back-to-back top three finishes at Loudon and Chicago poised him third in the points race, eight behind Hornish. Overheating for Hornish at Indianapolis and a 19th place run for Regan Smith allowed Dillon to vault into the points lead for the first time during the season.

After a strong run at Iowa, 12th and 21st place finishes at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio dropped Dillon back to third in points. Nine top 10s and six top 5s over the next 10 races put Dillon eight points ahead of Hornish heading into Homestead. The final race of the season saw Hornish run in the top 5 for 95% of the race while Dillon was mired in the teens and 20s for much of the event. As the race came to an end, a wreck on the front straight laid down an oil slick that resulted in 12 laps of caution eating most of the last 17 laps of the event. When the race went green, Hornish was unable to get higher than eighth in the running order while Dillon managed a 12th place finish. The end result was a championship in the second of three national touring series for Dillon in three years.

Dillon won the Truck Series Rookie of the Year in 2010. He followed that with a series title in 2011. He moved to the Nationwide Series in 2012 and was again crowned Rookie of the Year. He again followed with a series title in 2013. Dillon became the first driver to win a title in a NASCAR National Touring Series without winning a single race during the regular season. Dillon is headed to the Cup Series in 2014. The battle for Rookie of the Year is going to be heated but Dillon will be in the mix for sure.

Off-Track News: Dillon killed a 6×7 Elk Wyoming in November. Dillon and his brother Ty spent many days during the year helping support kids through the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma.

2014 Outlook: Dillon is reportedly moving to the Sprint Cup Series in 2014 to drive the No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing. If he makes the move he’ll be running for his third Rookie of the Year title in five years. Returning the fabled No. 3 to the Cup Series will certainly stir mixed emotions in the legion of fans who supported Dale Earnhardt for all of the years he drove the number and made it famous. Dillon will undoubtedly have to handle the backlash from fans who dislike the idea while trying to live up to the expectations of the fans who expect it to run up front every week. Dillon has embraced running the number since he came to the national touring level in 2010.

The battle for Rookie of the Year is going to be intense with Kyle Larson, Michael Annett, Justin Allgaier and Dillon all reported to be running for the award. While the challenge will be daunting, Dillon has never shied away from a challenge on or off of the race track.

*2011 Frontstretch.com Grade: * A+. *2012 Frontstretch.com Grade: * A. *2013 Frontstretch.com Grade: * A+. – The goal of most race teams is to be the best in their sport. Winning the championship in the series that you run or at the track where you compete is a direct indication that you are the best. For 2013, Austin Dillon is the champion of the Nationwide Series which garners an A+ grade from Frontstretch. There are obviously going to be detractors that are going to point out he didn’t win a race all season. When winning a race becomes a requirement for the title, then it will be a factor in the grading system. In the meantime, Dillon was the best in the Nationwide ranks this season and he earns the highest grade possible in our book.

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