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Eyes on XFINITY: Now or Never for Ty Dillon and Brendan Gaughan?

The good news for Richard Childress Racing is that the four-car team reached Victory Lane just five races into the XFINITY Series season.  The bad news, at least as far as the XFINITY championship is concerned, is that Sprint Cup regular Austin Dillon was the one who delivered the win to the team.  RCR’s three full-time XFINITY drivers, Ty Dillon, Brendan Gaughan and Brandon Jones, have not locked themselves into the Chase but have all gotten their seasons off to good starts.

In recent years, Childress’ XFINITY team has been more successful than its Cup team.  Austin Dillon won the championship in 2013 before moving to Sprint Cup.  RCR has claimed ten XFINITY wins since then, but has been shut out of Victory Lane in Sprint Cup since Kevin Harvick’s departure.  The future of RCR, however, clearly rests with the Dillon brothers.  Austin is showing signs of improvement this year, and Childress himself has been making plans for several years to move Ty up to Sprint Cup as soon as possible.  It seems that as soon as Childress can secure sponsorship, preferably for a fourth team, Ty will join his brother in NASCAR’s top division.

So where does that leave Childress’ XFINITY program?  Is 2016 Ty Dillon’s last shot to win an XFINITY championship of his own?  It may not even matter in the long run if the younger Dillon is destined to be in Cup Series.  Yet regardless of where he races next year, Dillon must want to win a championship for his own sake, if for no other reason to keep up with his brother.

Austin Dillon spent two years each in the Camping World Truck and XFINITY series.  He won one championship in each series, both of them coming in his second year.  Ty, meanwhile, followed in Austin’s footsteps, moving into the rides that his brother vacated.  However, he never won a Truck Series championship, and he is still seeking his first XFINITY title in his third year.

If Ty is ever going to be an XFINITY champion, now is the time.  Hoisting the championship trophy in November would serve as proof that Ty is ready for the big time and that he is not moving through the ranks merely because he has the favor of Childress, his grandfather.  The more success Ty has this year, the more justification there will be for his eventual move to the Cup Series, justification that will be crucial for fans and sponsors.

(Photo: Matthew T. Thacker / NKP)
Brendan Gaughan showed promise early in his career but has yet to cement a title for himself. (Photo: Matthew T. Thacker / NKP)

Ty Dillon, however, is not the only RCR driver who could really use a championship in 2016.  When NASCAR visited Las Vegas several weeks ago, rumors began swirling that this year could be Brendan Gaughan’s last season of driving.  Gaughan is a veteran racer who has been active in NASCAR for many years.  He won a pair of championships in the Winston West Series in 2000 and 2001, but he has never won a championship in the three national touring series.  If Gaughan decides to race part time or stop all together beyond 2016, this season would obviously be his final chance at winning a title.

Back in 2003, Gaughan’s star looked to really be on the rise.  He was a championship favorite in the Truck Series for most of the year, but his title run fell apart in the final race of the year.  Unfortunately for Gaughan, he has never come close to a championship since then.  He was not able to entrench himself in Sprint Cup, and RCR has been the closest thing he has had to a long-term home in recent years.  While Gaughan has managed to squeak out the occasional win, he has not been able to display the week-to-week consistency necessary to win a championship.

If Gaughan were to finally win the XFINITY championship, it would fill the void of his lost Truck title in 2003.  While he is at best a sleeper thus far, the elimination-style Chase could play right into his hands.  Points resets will keep the Chasers in close proximity, and Gaughan could take advantage of his less-experienced competitors.  If he does finish the year at the top of the standings, he will fulfill the promise he showed at the beginning of his career.

The stakes are high for RCR in 2016.  Dillon needs a championship to build his career; Gaughan needs one to complete his career.  Moreover, a championship would also ensure that RCR’s XFINITY program remains a strong one.  Childress has a long-standing presence in the XFINITY Series, and that should continue as Brandon Jones develops as a driver.  Yet with the possibility of Dillon and Gaughan departing at the end of the year, there is a sense that RCR, and those drivers, are approaching a crossroads.  Perhaps Austin Dillon’s victory on Saturday will be a springboard for more success.

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kb

Didn’t Austin win the lower series Trophy without wins and a extra long caution etc. to keep Sam Hornish Jr. from winning? The whole WWE finish of that one race was to introduce the sheep “gently” into showing them that “hey look Austin is worthy of driving the NUMBER 3 back into Sprint Cup”. And to promote that BS forward, he “earned” the pole for the greatest show on Nascar’s earth. Lol. ….And the Nascar newswire went crazy with glee for the manufactured and obviously faked “pole”. Lol.

TheNASCARJeff

I was think about this very thing on Saturday, last season everyone was saying that the 2016 Ixfinity Championship was Ty Dillon’s for the taking. If that is so he had better hurry up.

Brendan Gaughan can go wherever he wants to since his family’s business like Menard and Brian Scott before him buys the ride from Childress so the only thing RCR is losing is revenue and the number 62 since Gaughan owns that too.

Since RCR had no fourth charter Ty Dillon will have to race in like the 21 cars does or drive for Harry Scott who will have one when Clint Bowyer moves to the 14 car.

Echo

kb your right on all you said. All Nascar had to do was give Austin and before him, Danica, a bigger spacer at Daytona and bingo your on the pole of the 500.

No xfinity wins in Austin Dillon’s championship year says a lot about Austin. And now in his 3rd year in Cup no wins still either. I’ve noticed Newman and Menard’s cars aren’t running as good as Austin’s this year and makes me wonder if Richard is overspending on his grandsons car and neglecting his other two cars. He better be careful or Menard can take his money elsewhere and then RCR is in a real bind in cup due to lack of sponsors.
Both Dillon boys will never be stars in cup due to drivers like Chase and young Blaney driving good cars too and being way better talents than the Dillons. But fox studio is loyal to Richard so we will continue to hear their names. Funny, last week it was all Austin in the broadcast booth since he won the poll. But polls don’t count and Austin didn’t even lead the first lap before he fell way behind and was never mentioned again.

kb

Thanks you would think a blind man can see this stuff, apparently not. He has had a few good finishes out of a whopping 5, this being his 3rd year. You would think he was the next “Champ”, what the media says. But hey, how this lame ass format is…nothing surprises..and come Homestead we will hear how he is he “best” when maybe if lucky he won one race. I am reminded of Ryan Newman not so long ago with no wins, and a whopping 5 laps lead. And Denise Hamlin, with a plate race win and all sorts of horrible stats. So Austin being talked up at the big “show” would not surprise. And let us not forget our benevolent even tempered “Champ” of last year who had not won a race in months, the day of the show…he was “it”. WWE!

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