Dillon Would Love To Celebrate Another Big Victory at Brickyard 400

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, June 2, 2017 – Austin Dillon’s house had a distinct, unusual smell earlier this week, but he didn’t think for a second to call the cleaners or open a cluster of air fresheners.

Dillon returned to his home in North Carolina in the very early darkness of Monday morning, May 29, where his friends were waiting in his barn to celebrate his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory a few hours earlier in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Dillon was unable to perform a celebratory burnout at the start-finish line because his No. 3 Dow Salutes Veterans Chevrolet ran out of gas shortly after he executed a daring fuel strategy to win.

So Dillon took a look at the Chevrolet Camaro sitting inside his “man cave”/barn and decided it was time to do that burnout, after all. His friends all but dared him to do it, so clouds of gray tire smoke then billowed through the barn.

“My Camaro was there, and I said, ‘I’m burning it down,'” Dillon said. “They said, ‘You won’t do it.’ And that’s all it took, was one person saying, ‘You won’t do it.’

“Now my house smells like tire rubber, but I’m OK with it.”

No doubt. NASCAR XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series champion Dillon finally broke through with his first Cup Series victory in his 133rd career Cup start. The victory had even more meaning for Dillon and the entire Richard Childress Racing organization because it was the first win in the famed No. 3 Chevrolet for RCR since Dale Earnhardt in 2000.

Dillon’s grandfather, RCR owner Richard Childress, didn’t use the No. 3 in the RCR stable after Earnhardt’s death in the 2001 Daytona 500 but decided to restore it starting in 2014 for his grandson. Dillon faced mounting pressure to win in that famous number, as Earnhardt and Childress had combined to put that famous number into a Cup Victory Lane 67 times.

“I think definitely the pressure is there, but I wouldn’t have it any other way because right now this win means so much more than just driving another number,” Dillon said. “It adds to it. It’s what makes it special.

The doubt, should we (use that number), all this doubt, it goes all away when you get this first win, and it feels so good and rewarding to give back to those who love to see this number out on the track.”

One of Earnhardt’s most famous and prized victories in the menacing, black No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet fielded by RCR came in the 1995 Brickyard 400. At the time, The Intimidator called it the most prestigious victory of his legendary career. The win was surpassed only by his emotional first triumph in the 1998 Daytona 500, ending a 19-year drought.

RCR also won the Brickyard 400 in 2003 with Kevin Harvick and in 2011 with Paul Menard. Only Hendrick Motorsports (nine wins) and Joe Gibbs Racing (five wins) have won this race more among teams.

Dillon, 27, is keenly aware of that history and wants to add to it Sunday, July 23 in the 24th annual Brickyard 400 on the 2.5-mile oval. He has two top-10 finishes in four career Brickyard 400 starts, ninth in 2016 and 10th in 2014.

“It’s one of the coolest tracks that we go to all year long,” Dillon said. “I’ve been pretty good there. We’ve had some good runs going. Things haven’t gone our way. But there’s some good history for RCR.

“There are crown jewels in our sport. You have the Coke 600, Brickyard 400, the Daytona 500 and the Southern 500. To be able to win another one of the crown jewels, that would be so cool. The history there. I’d like to get another one.”

The victory at Charlotte erased any doubt in Dillon’s mind that he could win at the highest level of the sport. But a frank discussion earlier in the week with Childress about his car’s performance and a change to new crew chief Justin Alexander before the Coca-Cola 600 helped to lay the groundwork for the breakthrough victory.

“I think it was good for me to talk to my grandfather and get a conversation in,” Dillon said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

Alexander’s low-key, engineering-based mentality was a change for the fiery Dillon, but the relationship clicked immediately. So Dillon didn’t bristle or question when Alexander mapped out a daring fuel strategy late in the race at Charlotte that kept Dillon and a handful of other drivers on track when fellow contenders Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. headed to the pits on Lap 368 of 400.

That call paid dividends when Jimmie Johnson ran out of fuel with less than three laps left, handing the lead to Dillon. His Chevrolet was on fumes when it reached the checkered flag.

“I said it during the race he had ice in his veins to make those calls,” Dillon said about Alexander. “There’s a lot of trust going there. You run out of gas in your first race, that’s not a good start. But you know what is a good start? Winning the race.”

Alexander’s calm, quiet strategic acumen also may be needed during the Brickyard 400. The race will feature three stages for the first time as part of NASCAR’s new-for-2017 event format.

The first stage will end at Lap 50, the second at Lap 100 and the third at the checkered flag on Lap 160. The stages will increase the amount of strategy needed to succeed at IMS, as Dillon said drivers who are slightly off the pace will come to the pits earlier than the caution periods between stages to get tires and fuel and hopefully gain track position.

But one aspect will remain constant from the previous 23 Brickyard 400 races, even with the new stage format. Indy remains a driver’s track, with its long straightaways and relatively low banking in the corners by NASCAR standards. The Brickyard 400 remains one of the toughest tests of driving skill on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.

“Indy is very line-sensitive, so you really need to focus on hitting your marks and using the right amount of gas at the right time,” Dillon said. “You have to drive that track, you really do. Traffic can be a bear, but when you have a good car, you can actually make a lot of good moves.

“I enjoy it. Long straightaways. It’s all about getting on to those big straightaways, setting yourself up for that. I can’t wait. Indy’s always one of my favorites to get to.”

Visit IMS.com to buy tickets for the Brickyard 400 and Lilly Diabetes 250 weekend, to buy tickets for the other remaining events in 2017 at the Racing Capital of the World – the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational, Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim and the Red Bull Air Race – and to renew tickets for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 Presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on Sunday, May 27, 2018.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com


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