Race Weekend Central

2012 NASCAR Driver Review: Austin Dillon

Austin Dillon

2012 Ride: No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
2012 Primary Sponsor: AdvoCare
2012 Owner: Richard Childress
2012 Crew Chief: Danny Stockman Jr.
2012 Nationwide Series Stats: 33 starts, 2 wins, 16 top fives, 27 top 10s, 3 poles, 0 DNFs, third in points

High Point: Kentucky, June. Dillon won both trips to the Bluegrass State in 2012 for the Nationwide Series, but his first one, the first Nationwide win of his career, was in dominating fashion. Dillon started on the pole and led 192 of 200 laps on the way to the victory. The only laps that Dillon did not lead during the event were during one round of green-flag pit stops and one round of caution-flag stops. Intermediate tracks were Dillon’s forte in 2012, overall with an average finish of 4.818 on 1.5 milers.

Honorable mention in Dillon’s high-point category, though ought to go to his help during a Truck test at Eldora. Thanks to the Dillon boys, RCR and Tony Stewart proving it could be done, the Camping World Truck Series will now be running a race at the famed dirt track in 2013.

Low Point: It is hard to pick a low point for a driver who finished every lap but one in the 2012 Nationwide season, but for Dillon, the Iowa race in August unquestionably stands out. Not only was it the only race that he didn’t finish on the lead lap, but it was also coming off Indianapolis, where he’d pulled within one point of teammate Elliott Sadler who was leading the standings.

A vibration in the middle of the race caused Dillon to go a lap down and, due to a pit-road call on the last caution of the race, he never made it back onto the lead lap. From there on out, Dillon never got within single digits of the points lead again, lingering in the background of a battle between teammate Sadler and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Summary: Hype is a difficult thing to live up to, and Dillon has a ton of it to try and satisfy. Not only is he the grandson of one of the most well-known owners in the sport, Richard Childress, but he’s also driving one of its most famous numbers (3). So far, it’s been mission accomplished – he has already won a championship in the Truck Series after just two seasons there and is on track to move up to the Cup Series full-time by 2014. Competition gets tougher as you move up the ranks, as this Nationwide freshman saw, but he was able to handle the new class of competitors with ease.

Dillon, just 22 years old, almost completely surpassed ridiculous expectations by winning Rookie of the Year and finishing third in series points. As mentioned earlier, Dillon completed all but one lap of competition in the Nationwide Series and finished in the top 10 in 27 of 33 races, including the last 12.

Team Ranking: Second of two. Dillon came off of a championship run in trucks and made a serious bid for the title in the Nationwide Series. While he never led the championship standings in 2012, he was within one point of the top spot after Indianapolis in July – a tremendous accomplishment. However, the driver he was behind was Sadler, who had more wins and finished higher in points – thus relegating Dillon to the number two spot on his team.

2013 Outlook: 2013 is going to be a challenge for Dillon, but if history has taught us anything, the 2011 Truck Series champion knows how to get better after spending a year in a series. Dillon’s primary adversary will be former teammate Sadler, who is moving over to the Nationwide Series Evil Empire of Joe Gibbs Racing. JGR has dominated the series for the last five years and most likely will be tough to beat in 2013, as well with two full-time title competitors in Sadler and Brian Vickers.

But the RCR teams were strong in 2012 and, after having a year of experience under his belt, Dillon will most certainly be poised to battle JGR for the top spot in the series. If he repeats his pattern from trucks, he’ll he hoisting the big silver cup in Homestead next November.

2011 Frontstretch Grade: A+
2012 Grade: A

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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