A black and white no.3 seems like it would be an uncommon sight to the fans of dirt track racing. Something to be seen only on Sunday’s from the comfort of ones living room or occasionally from the grandstands of the nearest NASCAR sanctioned event. But that no.3 has been a common sight on all ends of the spectrum in recent years since Austin Dillon began turning laps.
The grandson of Richard Childress and the son of former driver Mike Dillon; one would think that Austin and his brother Ty’s childhood was spent in preparation for them to take over the drivers seat in the family business. But such was not the case for the Dillon boys, instead their childhood was spent focused on other sports, in fact Austin played in the 2002 Little League World Series, an accomplishment very few ever achieve. But even at a young age playing baseball and basketball, Austin Dillon realized his passion laid right where generations before him had found it, in auto racing. “When me and my brother wanted to go racing we had a very good in with my grandfather.” Joked Austin, “My brother [Ty] asked him one night at dinner if we could get a test. We tested a Bandolero at a ¼-mile track behind Lowe’s Motor Speedway. After the test we wound up racing Bandolero’s for a year and then moved to Legends cars”.
From the Legends the Dillon brothers began competing in Dirt Modifieds at the urging of both Richard and Mike. For Austin, that guidance has been what he believes to be the biggest key to his current success. “I think it was a good route because of the horsepower you get in these dirt cars” exclaimed Austin, “The way they drive and the way you sling them in, it’s just a good learning curve. I think that if you can run good on dirt then you can run good in anything, it meant a lot to me to be able to go out and race with and learn from the guys that run so well each and every week on dirt and be able to gain their respect!”
For the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion racing is more than a job, it is a true passion and whether he is racing in the NASCAR Nationwide series; where he is vying for a title and is currently in 4th place only 35-points behind leader Elliott Sadler, or tearing up a local dirt track in a Late Model or a Modified, there is no place he would rather be than behind the wheel, “I love being in a racecar!” Commented the 22-year-old Lexington, N.C. native, “I learn something every time I am in a racecar. As a racer you learn tricks and different ways to approach restarts and things like that. Each time you are in a racecar there are little things you pick up on and learn. I just find I don’t much care for anything with two or more seats!”
Dillion, who has shown unbelievable talent in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and in the NASCAR Nationwide Series would be the perfect candidate to leave his dirt roots behind; but such has not been the case.
Dillon is proud of his accomplishments on asphalt and recalls some key moments with incredible joy, “Racing at Talledaga and Daytona is pretty exciting” Recalled Dillon, “Running in the draft and pushing Dale Jr. to the lead at Daytona was really exciting as was being able to run up front at Talledaga. I love those tracks and drafting is exciting to me”.
Of course capturing his first ever Camping World Truck win at Iowa, the 2011 Camping World Truck Championship and most recently his first NASCAR Nationwide win at Kentucky Speedway on June 29th where he led all but 8-laps are definitely highlights for the young driver, but that success hasn’t shaken Austin’s naturally humble demeanor.
In a few short years Dillon planted roots deep into the clay surfaces of dirt tracks throughout the region and although his dreams may take him far away Austin says they will never keep him from getting down and dirty on a Saturday night, “My goal is to keep winning races and one day be in the Sprint Cup series. If we could accomplish that it would be awesome. But I still love staying in tune to my dirt racing. It is something Ty and I both love to do. I’m going to do this as long as I can. As long as I get a weekend off now and again I will be running dirt”.
As for the times when Austin is not behind the wheel, you can usually find his ready smile easily, “I enjoy hanging out with the fans at the track and when I am away from it I like to hang out on the beach, party a little, and in the off season you will find me in a deer stand, as that is what I love to do!”