Prior to the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Austin Dillon had one top-10 finish in 2017, coming at Martinsville Speedway (fifth). He had led just seven laps all season and none since February’s Daytona 500.
Five days after one of NASCAR’s biggest events, it’s a whole new world for Richard Childress Racing’s top young talent.
Dillon won the 600-mile event, stretching his fuel mileage to go the distance in his first race working with new crew chief Justin Alexander. Leading just two laps, the 27-year-old accomplished something many NASCAR stars never did. The list includes Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, and even Cale Yarborough.
Five days post-600 victory, Dillon has rung the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange and given a speech to the employees at Richard Childress Racing. But overall, the victory has not particularly sunk in.
“I don’t think I have slowed down enough yet to really just know that I’m a NASCAR Cup Series winner,” Dillon said Friday. “It sunk in a couple of times, like those opportunities I’ve had with my grandfather [Richard Childress] and the race team. Those are the most special times, but going through my phone and Twitter, I’m still kind of going through my phone right now and thanking people. That is cool.”
While in New York City, Dillon ran into Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato, by “fate,” where the two drivers had dinner and took pictures with their victory rings. By Thursday, it was back to business, as Dillon participated in the Drive for Autism Golf Tournament that Dover International Speedway puts on every year.
However, winning for Childress and then celebrating with the NASCAR Hall of Famer remains an accomplishment that won’t fade anytime soon.
“[Childress] bought a bottle of champagne and he said ‘let’s toast to the Coca-Cola 600 champion,’” he said. “That was pretty emotional and cool to hear my grandfather do that and kind of nod his head at me, it felt good.
“Then at RCR, I got to speak in front of the whole company and that was probably the most emotional I got was just thanking those guys who have always been there for me. I told them, this is what it’s all about and all the hard work and effort they have put in and the support of myself throughout all of my racing career. Just seeing some of those faces, it was really cool to share that with them and have Victory Lane there at the shop. We kind of recreated it; that was awesome.”
Now that Dillon is a Cup Series winner, he expects more. Ranking 21st in the championship standings, the team may have a playoff position nearly locked up but has plenty of room to improve.
“I feel like we just want to win again,” he said. “We’ve got a lot left to accomplish. That was the first one. We want more to come and to get ourselves solidly into the playoffs.”
About the author
Dustin joined the Frontstretch team at the beginning of the 2016 season. 2020 marks his sixth full-time season covering the sport that he grew up loving. His dream was to one day be a NASCAR journalist, thus why he attended Ithaca College (Class of 2018) to earn a journalism degree. Since the ripe age of four, he knew he wanted to be a storyteller.