Austin Dillon to surpass 250 Cup starts following Michigan

When Austin Dillon completes this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series doubleheader races at Michigan International Speedway, he will achieve a significant milestone of his racing career. By taking the green flag for the first Michigan race on Saturday, August 8, Dillon will reach 250 starts as a Cup competitor. He will then surpass his 250th start the following day on Sunday, August 9.

A native of Welcome, North Carolina, and the eldest grandson of NASCAR championship owner and Hall of Famer Richard Childress, Dillon made his debut in NASCAR’s premier series at Kansas Speedway in October 2011, driving the No. 98 Curb Agajanian/Reagan Centennial/Camping World/Curb Records Chevrolet. By then, he was a full-time NASCAR Truck Series competitor for Richard Childress Racing and vying for the championship in the iconic No. 3 Chevrolet Silverado. He started and finished 26th in his Cup debut.

The following season, Dillon made one Cup start at Michigan International Speedway in June. By then, he had achieved the 2011 Truck Series championship and was a rookie Xfinity Series competitor for RCR in the No. 3 Chevrolet Impala. Driving the No. 33 American Ethanol Chevrolet for RCR and led by veteran crew chief Gil Martin, Dillon started 22nd and finished 24th.

In 2013, while entered as a full-time Xfinity Series competitor, Dillon made his first Daytona 500 career start in February. Driving the No. 33 Honey Nut Cheerios/Kroger Chevrolet SS for RCR, Dillon started in eighth and finished 31st. Over the course of the season, he competed in four more Cup races in RCR’s No. 33 Chevrolet and in four races in Phoenix Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet. He also made two starts in the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing as an interim competitor, filling in for the injured Tony Stewart. His best Cup result throughout the 2013 season was an 11th-place run at Michigan in June. At Talladega Superspeedway in October, while driving Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet, Dillon was running in third place on the final lap and was prepared to establish a race-winning move until he was involved in an accident on the final lap, where he was launched in the air after being hit by Casey Mears before he landed on the ground on all four tires. He ended his race in 26th place.

In December 2013, a month after winning his first Xfinity Series championship, Dillon was named driver of the No. 3 Dow Chemicals/Cheerios/Bass Pro Shops/American Ethanol Chevrolet SS for the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series season led by Gil Martin. Dillon’s entrance as a rookie Cup candidate also marked the return of the No. 3 car in NASCAR’s premier series since the 2001 Daytona 500, where the sport’s icon Dale Earnhardt lost his life following an accident on the final lap and where Childress opted to retire the number following the race.

Dillon’s first run in the No. 3 Chevrolet in the Cup Series started off on a high note by winning the pole position for the 2014 Daytona 500 with a pole-winning lap at 196.019 mph. Dillon’s accomplishment marked the first time the No. 3 car started on pole for the Daytona 500 since 1996 as he also became the 40th competitor to start on pole position for the 500, fourth to do so driving the No. 3 car. He also became the fifth rookie candidate to start on pole position for the Daytona 500 and the youngest pole winner of the 500 at age 23 years, nine months and 27 days old (a record that was supplanted in 2016 by Chase Elliott). During the main event, Dillon rallied from being involved in a late multi-car wreck to finish ninth. Throughout his rookie season, Dillon achieved one top-five result, four top-10 results, 10 laps led and an average result of 17.5. He concluded the season in 20th in the final standings and fell short of the Rookie-of-the-Year title to Kyle Larson.

For the first 15 races of the 2015 season, Dillon achieved only one top-10 result and was situated in 23rd in the regular-season standings. The following race at Sonoma Raceway, veteran Richard “Slugger” Labbe replaced Gil Martin as Dillon’s crew chief. The following race at Daytona International Speedway, Dillon was involved in a harrowing accident on the final lap on the frontstretch, when he was launched into the air past the finish line and smashed into the catchfence before coming to rest on his roof and being hit by a spinning Brad Keselowski. Despite the accident that demolished the No. 3 Chevrolet, Dillon emerged with a bruised tailbone and forearm. Amazingly, he was able to finish in seventh place before the wreck. Finishing the year with Labbe, Dillon recorded a top-five result, four more top-10 results and an average result of 21.0. He concluded the season in 21st in the final standings.

Dillon started off the 2016 on a strong note, finishing ninth in the Daytona 500 before achieving two back-to-back top-10 results at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and at Phoenix. He went on to achieve his second Cup career pole at Auto Club Speedway in March before finishing fourth at Martinsville Speedway in April. By then, with four top-10 finishes under his belt, Dillon was ranked in seventh in the regular-season standings. Dillon went on to record six additional top-10 results and enough consistent results to make his first appearance in the Playoffs. By then, he also surpassed 100 Cup career starts. Dillon would conclude the season in 14th in the final standings, but he achieved a career-high four top-five results, a career-high 13 top-10 results, two poles and a best average result of 15.9.

For the first 11 races of the 2017 Cup season, Dillon achieved only one top-five result and was situated in 22nd in the regular-season standings. For the upcoming race, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Justin Alexander replaced Slugger Labbe as Dillon’s crew chief. In his first race with Alexander, Dillon survived on low fuel to achieve his elusive first Cup career win at his home track and in his 133rd series start. To August 2020, Dillon is one of 33 competitors to win across NASCAR’s three major division series. The victory marked the first since October 2000 where the No. 3 car won a Cup race and it guaranteed Dillon’s team a spot in the 2017 Playoffs. Finishing the year off with Alexander, Dillon achieved three top-five results, four top-10 results and an average result of 18.6 before concluding the season in a career-high 11th place.

The 2018 season started off on a high note for Dillon, where he dodged a late carnage and took the lead on the final lap following an incident with Aric Almirola to win the 60th running of the Daytona 500. In addition to achieving his second Cup career win and becoming the 39th driver to win NASCAR’s prestigious event, Dillon’s first Daytona 500 triumph came on the 20th anniversary where the late Dale Earnhardt won his first and only Daytona 500 in 1998. The 500 win was also the first for RCR since 2007 and in the first Cup race for the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. For the remainder of the season, Dillon achieved another top-five result and seven more top-10 results along with an average result of 17.5 before he concluded the season in 13th in the final standings.

In 2019, Dillon reunited with crew chief Danny Stockman Jr., whom he won the 2011 Truck and 2013 Xfinity titles with Dillon. Following the first seven races of the year, Dillon reached 200 Cup career starts at Texas Motor Speedway in March. Though he won three poles, he achieved six top-10 results and an average result of 19.5. Missing the 2019 Playoffs, Dillon concluded the season in 21st in the final standings.

This season, reuniting with Alexander, Dillon has achieved two top-five results, five top-10 results and an average result of 16.7 through the first 20 Cup races. He has also recorded a win, third of his career, at Texas Motor Speedway in July and is one of 10 competitors to be guaranteed a spot for the 2020 Playoffs.

Catch Dillon’s milestone start in the first Michigan International Speedway race on August 8, which will air at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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


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