Race Weekend Central

Hunger to Compete for Wins Fuels Ty Dillon’s Return to Trucks

It doesn’t feel that long ago that Ty Dillon was competing for wins in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

Yet over a decade has elapsed since his last full-time Truck season in 2013. In two full-time seasons driving for his grandfather Richard Childress, Dillon captured three wins that aided points finishes of fourth in 2012 and second in 2013.

Since then, Dillon’s NASCAR path has been unconventional compared to older brother Austin Dillon, who has competed in the NASCAR Cup Series full time for Richard Childress Racing since 2014.

Instead, Ty has sought to blaze his own path after three full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series seasons that saw him net one victory for RCR. In 2017, he joined Germain Racing in Cup, with whom he competed until the team ceased operations following 2020.

After spending 2021 part time between all three series, Dillon returned to full-time Cup racing with Petty GMS Racing in the No. 42. That was a one-and-done deal that left him searching for a ride for 2023, when he eventually landed at Spire Motorsports. While Spire has seen much improvement, especially from Corey LaJoie, Dillon was often stranded mid-pack or worse. That once again led to Dillon searching for a ride for 2024.

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In a somewhat surprising move, the Welcome, N.C., native returned to Trucks, joining Rackley WAR in the No. 25 Chevrolet. Rackley is a young team itself, wrapping up its third full-time season in 2023. Matt DiBenedetto gave the team its first win in 2022.

So what ultimately attracted and prompted Dillon to return to the Truck level? A desire to compete for trophies.

“It started with weighing different options this offseason,” Dillon tells Frontstretch. “Opportunities were moving in and out to go Cup racing, to be Cup racing full time, or there’s Xfinity or Trucks. My ultimate goal was to try and get back to, no matter the series, winning and running up front, competing for championships and trying to get myself back in that mindset.”

Seven years spent with mid-pack Cup teams didn’t provide much stability for Dillon either. And as any competitor would want, the crave to win was a top priority for Dillon in his offseason search.

“The last few years in the Cup Series have been challenging bouncing from new team to new team to teams that are young or developing,” he says. “They were teams that weren’t expected to run up front and leading races, and that can be challenging at times. As much as I would love to be full-time Cup racing, competing for wins there, an opportunity to win races at any level in NASCAR is something that holds a little bit higher regard.”

With DiBenedetto leaving Rackley before the 2023 season concluded, it left Rackley in search of a new driver for the 2024 season. That’s when Dillon came calling.

“I was kind of searching around and reached out to Willie [Allen, Rackley co-owner] and Curtis [Sutton, team co-owner], and the interest was there from them and certainly from me, and I’m glad that it was able to come together in the best interest for both of us,” Dillon says. “We want to go win races and we want to put the best effort forward to do that.”

Allen and Sutton’s background and blue-collar approach impressed Dillon, who says that the team has developed in an admirable way.

“I think just Willie and Curtis’s passion to do it right,” he explains. “They want to win, they want to do it the right way, they want to do it from their shop in Tennessee. You look at their trucks at the track and they’re built well, they’re built the correct way, they run their company the right way. Everything is there to be a successful team, and that’s what makes it intriguing.”

Coming off its inaugural playoff run, Rackley has put key ingredients into saddling up for a successful 2024 season. Veteran crew chief Shane Wilson will call the shots for the No. 25 team. The 55-year-old has been atop the pit box in all three series, earning several wins, including the 2006 Xfinity title with Kevin Harvick. That experience and success he’s achieved has Dillon optimistic for the team’s chemistry.

“Shane is a championship-winning, race-winning crew chief across many series and many teams, which is invaluable experience,” he says. “I worked a lot with Shane. He was Brendan Gaughan’s crew chief for not only my stint in the Truck Series but also in the Xfinity Series.

“You go to the Truck Series with a crew chief who’s won at all three levels and has hundreds of race-calling experiences, and a driver who has hundreds of race starts, has won in two of the three series and has competed in Cup for seven years, you know it’s going to be a successful pairing. It’s just a matter of how we gel together in the heat of battle, and I think it’s going to be good.”

Dillon’s past experience across all three levels matched with veteran leadership helps the team get a couple steps ahead of the inevitable learning curve the team will experience at first. For Dillon, it puts him in a spot much different from where he was as a rookie in 2012.

“I think just having all the Cup experience I’ve gotten over the past seven years, I’m a much better driver, a much different driver, and I’m excited to go back and plug that in the Truck Series,” he says. “I thought about it in the past about, ‘Man, if I was the driver that I am now back in the day, what would it have been like in the Truck Series or Xfinity Series?’

“I think just having the experience of knowing how to race and situational awareness of when to get points and when to put yourself in the right positions, then track experience and racing experience that I’ve gained over the past few years, hopefully that puts me at an advantage and helps our team fire out of the gates really strong. Having Shane Wilson as well is going to be good.”

The Truck Series the 31-year-old is returning to has some vastly different characteristics than it did over a decade ago. A new generation of racers has brought a level of aggression and fire that changes one’s approach.

That has come to a head on several occasions, with many identifying how it crossed the line in the 2023 Truck championship race at Phoenix Raceway, an event that saw 12 cautions, eight yellows in the final stage and championship contenders taking each other out.

So how can Dillon bring a level of discipline to the series? Or, more realistically, how will he adapt to a series that, in his words, has only take rather than give at times?

“You show up and plan to race the way that you race, but sometimes series adapt and change whether you like it or not,” he says. “If you want to be a winner, you have to adapt to whatever style is there. I know over the last couple of years, just being in the Cup Series, the young drivers that have come up into the Cup Series have been way more aggressive than even the years when I came in.

“There’s definitely a movement going on with younger drivers having probably less respect for the give and take and just take all the time, and less worry about tearing up equipment. I don’t expect to be the older guy waving his stick at these young guys. I want to get in there, if they’re running rough, I can do the same thing. The thing is that I have more experience than them and making people have bad days. You just do what it takes to adapt and win races.”

Dillon’s silly season decision may have caught some off guard after rumors floated that he was the favorite to usurp Kaulig Racing’s No. 16 Cup ride that was vacated by AJ Allmendinger. But while Dillon will be competing for a Truck title, he is also in talks to add more starts to his plate in other series.

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“There’s still conversations going on for me as far as part-time starts in the Cup Series and Xfinity Series that I want to continue to add races to my schedule and stay relevant in those series while still learning and growing in those as well,” he says. “There’s a lot more, hopefully, that I’ll be running more races, but my main focus is to win races for Rackley WAR and win a championship for our No. 25 Silverado.”

Who those teams are and in what capacity remains to be seen. But ultimately, a chance to compete with a team that is running up front more often and has a win under the belt outweighed the potential opportunity at another young Cup team in Dillon’s decision.

At 31, a return to a higher level is certainly still in the cards down the road. In the present, however, it boils down to a hungry journeyman who is ready to taste the feeling of victory once again while applying what he has learned.

What would he tell his younger self, knowing what he knows now?

“I think just patience and resilience, focusing more on that than the here and now and the day-by-day emotional swing of NASCAR,” he says. “But honestly, you’ve got to go through those things, so I wouldn’t change the way my career has played out or the lessons that I’ve learned because everything I’ve gone through on and off the track in my life has brought me exactly to where I am now, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in my life than where I am now.

“I just want to enjoy the ride. It’s going to be a wild one and a fun one. You never know what’s going to happen, you’ve just gotta keep grinding in this sport, keep working and keep believing, and opportunities will continue to come.

“You’re never out of chances to win races.”

About the author

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Luken Glover joined the Frontstretch team in 2020 as a contributor, furthering a love for racing that traces back to his earliest memories. Glover inherited his passion for racing from his grandfather, who used to help former NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey in his Richmond, Va. garage. A 2023 graduate from the University of the Cumberlands, Glover is the author of "The Underdog House," contributes to commentary pieces, and does occasional at-track reporting. Additionally, Glover enjoys working in ministry, coaching basketball, playing sports, and karting.

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4 Comments
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DoninAjax

Keeping Ty “racing” must be costing Grampa a fortune!

Bill B

Should be….
“Hunger to compete AT ALL, Fuels Ty Dillon’s Return To Trucks”.

Jeremy

Next we’ll see he’s returning home to race neighborhood kids on Big Wheels to try and get more wins. lol

Bill B

Good one… LOL…

Actually, he will probably do well in the trucks if the team is up to it.
At least he should.

Compared to most of the truck drivers, his on track experience level (hours logged in racing), is off the charts.

Last edited 4 months ago by Bill B
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