Race Weekend Central

Only Yesterday: Austin Dillon Resurrected a Colorful Piece of NASCAR Lore — The Helmet Throw

Some things, over time, become a bit of a lost art.

Sometimes, it gets to a point where when it does happen, you almost forget what it was like.

On Sunday (July 25) at Pocono Raceway, race fans were treated to just such an event. The move was one we all remember, part of NASCAR lore. Some find it perfectly acceptable, and others will tell you it’s a low-down, rotten move.

No, not that move. This is about the helmet throw.

Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick were aiming their cars at a single-car-sized piece of asphalt, and Dillon got the short end of the stick. His No. 3 slammed into the outside wall, destroying the right side.

Dillon was, understandably, not happy about the turn of events (which, by the way, was his fault) and waited at the edge of the track for the field to come around. When the No. 45 drove by, Dillon hurled his helmet at it as hard as he could. He missed, and the helmet bounced over Michael McDowell‘s No. 34 before rolling back down the track, somehow avoiding getting run over.

NASCAR hasn’t announced whether they will penalize Dillon for the toss. He walked onto the racing surface to hurl the lid, and that’s frowned upon, mainly because it’s dangerous. OK, entirely because it’s dangerous.

See also
Dropping the Hammer: Intermediates, the New Short Track

Helmet throwing has become a lost art because of this, but in terms of retaliation, it’s pretty harmless. The person in the most danger is the thrower, because he’s not protected by anything when he walks on track, including the helmet. The throwee gets the message if the helmet (or HANS device or foot heat shields) hits its target. He also gets the message if it doesn’t, but it’s less effective. None of those handy projectiles are likely to harm a racecar, though, so as retaliation goes, it’s pretty mild.

Longtime fans probably have some memorable equipment throws in their memory banks. Most of them probably have a favorite.

Tony Stewart’s two-handed toss at Matt Kenseth seems to be a fan favorite. Stewart hit Kenseth’s car square in the nose.

Robby Gordon has been both tosser and tossee. He made his point to Michael Waltrip at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, apparently not really caring if he got run over in the process.

To nobody’s surprise, Gordon also angered other drivers, in this case Tony Raines, who let him have it. Car in flames behind you? Yeah, but I got him. …

Also to nobody’s surprise, Stewart is a repeat offender. This time it’s his heat shields vs. Kenny Irwin Jr. Never mind that Stewart started the whole thing. Semantics. … Also note that Dale Earnhardt slowed down in front of Irwin to help Stewart pelt him.

Also on the receiving end of a small fit of rage was Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2002 (funny how a lot of these seem to happen at Bristol). He angered Ward Burton by inadvertently destroying his car, and Burton let him know he didn’t like it.

The usually mild-mannered Dale Jarrett let his temper get the better of him at (where else) Bristol in 1993, and let him have the helmet heave-ho right in the window net.

As for the drivers? They agree there’s an art to the toss. Even the ones who have never thrown a helmet have an opinion.

Earnhardt Jr. demonstrated his toss by taking out the least likely driver in the garage to ever throw a helmet … who promptly reciprocated by taking out Junior (don’t worry, they were cardboard). A few others might need to practice. But all agree that it’s a skill to be mastered. Even if it does feel pretty stupid after the fact.

About the author

Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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Here’s another C-lister reality show “star” having a hissy fit. That’s a $4000+ helmet ruined. Why give him any press? It’s a poor example of sportsmanship and a total lack of respect.

NA$CAR and their minions from the press condone these “lowlight” moments and use past poor examples to excuse the most recent embarrassment. Yet, they get all high and mighty with demands for harsh punishment when a fan throws something over the catch fence.

It’s about time these children learn some self control.



Best headlines, Dillon throws helmet or Hamlin drives dirty again and gets away with it !

Kurt Smith

Robby Gordon…wow, I remember that guy. A truly world class jerk.

Bill B

a.k.a. as “the moving chicane”. I forget who called him that… Stewart maybe?

Edit: I just googled it and it was Dale Jr, not Stewart.

Last edited 8 months ago by Bill B
Bill B

I don’t know. It brought back a lot of memories from the past. I have to say it’s a better way to deal with payback then to purposely wreck them with the car (especially since no one is sure where the line is for payback after Hamlin whined and had Elliott suspended). A helmet is a lot easier and cheaper to replace than two wrecked cars.

Last edited 8 months ago by Bill B

You have to remember he threw the helmet AND he believes he has to get even for something he is responsible for.


I wonder if it’s the Dillon boys mother or father that is the moron !


Remember the show All In The Family? Time to check the family tree!

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