Austin Dillon may not have the famous last name, but he’s quickly building his own claim to fame as the grandson of legendary car owner Richard Childress. With a best finish of 12th in six combined Nationwide and Truck series starts this year, the 2008 Camping World East Rookie of the Year is taking his lumps in adjusting to a higher level of competition.
So after getting his feet wet in NASCAR’s higher echelon, what does 2010 have in store for this talented 19-year-old? Our own Jeff Meyer got the scoop, discussing everything from hunting to handling high expectations as he sat down with one of the sport’s likely future stars.
Jeff Meyer, Frontstretch: Being the grandson of Richard Childress, you’ve grown up in a racing family. Take a moment to tell your fans just how you got your start, and how that’s led up to racing in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series.
Austin Dillon: Well, I really didn’t start racing until later than most young kids that are aspiring racecar drivers. I played basketball, baseball and different stick-and-ball sports [when I was growing up].
Then, my brother and I were watching this one little series on TV one day, it was the Bandoleros, and we came to our grandfather and asked him we could go racing and kinda get into the family business. I’ve been racing ever since. I’ve been running dirt cars, legends cars, a little bit of everything. I got to run the NASCAR Camping World East Series last year and was very successful in it, getting Rookie of the Year honors. Now, we’re running the Nationwide Series, so that’s kinda how it’s progressed since.
Meyer: As you were growing up, do you have any special memories of attending races with your Grandpa?
Dillon: Yeah! Definitely the Dale Earnhardt win at the Daytona 500 was really cool. I was able to be at that. I don’t really remember too much from when I was really little, but I do remember being yanked up by my Grandmother, taken to victory lane and doing the “hat dance,” so that was really cool. There’s plenty of memories at the racetrack, staying with MRO and some of the kids I used to know… it’s really cool to have the chance to be able to do some of the things that my Grandfather and Dad had the chance to do.
Meyer: Have you ever been treated differently, in any series that you’ve raced in, since you are the grandson of Richard Childress?
Dillon: You know… I don’t know. There’s sure to be skeptics but every time, once they get to know me, I think they know that I’m just a regular kid. We ran the dirt series with lots of different people and have become buddies with lots of different racers out there. I think they show respect for me out there on the track, especially once they’ve gotten to race me once or twice and know that I’m not going to do something stupid.
Meyer: Aside from the sports you mentioned earlier, what other activities do you like to do when you’re not racing?
Dillon: I love to go hunting, actually. That’s my biggest deal. I’m looking forward to this winter, to go deer hunting out in Montana, so….
Meyer: All the BIG deer are here in Iowa, ya know?
Dillon: Yeah! I actually shot my first deer here in Iowa, so that’s pretty cool.
Meyer: If you couldn’t pursue a racing career, what other type of work would you consider?
Dillon: Umm… I don’t know. I’d still like to be involved in racing. Probably some form of communications or marketing. I really like the marketing side of the business. I think that’s really cool – being able to deal with big time sponsors like there are in NASCAR.
Meyer: Has there been any one special driver that has given you invaluable advice on driving in these upper series?
Dillon: Oh, I don’t know. You get bits and pieces from different drivers at each track. All the RCR drivers have been very helpful. I always like to say that one of the coolest things my grandfather always told me was that, “When you’re in trouble, stay in the gas!” That’s one quote that he’s always told me, so that’s pretty cool.
Meyer: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever been asked to autograph so far?
Dillon: [Laughs] I don’t know… I’ve autographed a few shoes so far. That was pretty weird, but I guess that’s about it.
Meyer: When you’re driving down the street in your personal car, what CD gets played the most?
Dillon: I like Ricky Nelson, Johnny Cash… a little bit of everything. Nickelback is pretty cool too.
Meyer: What’s on your plate in the future, racing-wise?
Dillon: I don’t know. We’re looking forward to next year. At least a double-digit amount of races in the Nationwide Series, or as many as we can get. Hopefully a full season if we can get it. Being able to race a little bit of everything… just to progress. That’s the main thing.