Tag: Austin Dillon

The Number 3

Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

When Austin Dillon crossed the finish line to capture the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday/Monday evening he became the 13th different driver to win in a car number 3. That might come as a shock to some people as all of the commentary post-race left the impression that only Dale Earnhardt EVER drove a car numbered 3. Turns out 78 other drivers have driven with the number 3 on their car, it just is that Earnhardt has the most starts and wins with the number. Continue reading “The Number 3”

2015 Rules Will Lead To More Cup Drivers Doing Double Duty

As Kyle Busch crossed the finish line yesterday in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge, many fans let out a collective sigh of disappointment. Once again a Sprint Cup Series regular won a Nationwide Series race. Add to that Busch just won the night prior in the Camping World Truck Series.

Based on new rules for the Sprint Cup Series, this should be a sight to see in each Nationwide (soon to be XFINITY) Series and Camping World Truck Series races, Cup drivers dominating. Starting in 2015, the Sprint Cup Series cars will have less horsepower, putting them in line with the Nationwide Series cars. Add to that talk about a ban on testing and many teams will be putting in work on Saturdays for use on Sundays.

To underscore the point of Cup Series drivers dominating the Nationwide Series, Joe Gibbs Racing got their 100th win with Busch’s triumph in the series. Of those 100 wins, 94 have been Cup drivers winning for them. Only Mike McLaughlin (2001), Mike Bliss (2004), Aric Almirola (2007 big asterisk on this because Denny Hamlin relived Almirola for this race), Joey Logano (2008 before he went to Cup in 2009), Elliott Sadler (2014), and Sam Hornish, Jr. (2014) have been the lone exceptions. And even then some have question marks on how to count them.

If fans thought it was bad before, it is going to get a lot worse. The only silver lining is NASCAR’s rule about getting points for one series will keep the Cup drivers from winning the championship, but we should be seeing more no win champions like Austin Dillon last season.

The Paradigm Shift In NASCAR

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Much was made last November about a changing of the guard in NASCAR when we ran the season finale at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Mark Martin and Ken Schrader made it be known it would be their final Sprint Cup Series race. For Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte it represented their final full-time race in the series, although Labonte did not make the trip south as his finale was a week prior at Phoenix.

Beyond those four drivers there are a few more veterans who might be shut out of the Sprint Cup Series in 2014, making a landscape of drivers whom diehard fans know, but the casual fan might not. David Reutimann, an eight year veteran has been let go from BK Racing and it’s not looking good for him securing a new ride. Dave Blaney, with 16 years, has said he will focus more on sprint cars than the Sprint Cup Series in 2014. And signs are not good that Travis Kvapil, a nine year veteran, will have a ride in 2014 either.

There always comes a time in NASCAR when it seems the whole landscape shifts to a new crop of stars. In the late-80s drivers like Bobby Allison, David Pearson, Richard Petty, and Cale Yarborough got out of the way for the new crop. That crop included Bill Elliott, Terry Labonte, Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, and Mark Martin among others.

Those drivers have slowly retired along the way, handing off the baton to the likes of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, and others. With rides being at a premium in the Sprint Cup Series, this will be the first time in a very long time we will have a deep rookie class coming into the season. That comes at the cost of veterans who have been hanging on, for good or bad.

This rookie class has, officially, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Parker Kligerman, Cole Whitt, and Michael Annett. Unofficially Justin Allgaier should be joining them in the Phoenix Racing entry and most recently it looks like Alex Bowman should as well with BK Racing.

While it is unfamiliar times for some NASCAR fans, this time should be embraced with excitement. While we wish all the veterans can hang on, I for one believe it’s time for change and to get new faces into the sport.

Nationwide Battle Comes Down To Homestead

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After 32 races it all comes down to this. At the conclusion of Saturday’s Ford 300 there will be a new Nationwide Series champion. Will it be current point leader Austin Dillon or second place Sam Hornish, Jr.?

After this weekend’s ServiceMaster 200, Dillon got a little bit more breathing room by adding two points to his lead. Hornish showed signs of not giving up, as a poor handling car made his team roll the dice to get him back up near the front. That move worked and showed that they will be a factor in the season finale.

Taking a look at both drivers history at the Homestead-Miami Speedway Hornish has the advantage when it comes to experience. His stat line is five career starts, one top-5 finish, two top-10 finishes, and he’s led nine laps total. Dillon has one start to his credit, but it was a good one. He started third, finished fifth, and led 66 laps.

Comparing last year’s Ford 300, Hornish finish fourth in that race to Dillon’s above mentioned fifth place run. Both led a lap, so using that as a guide, it would still be Dillon’s day. Judging by how their run was at Phoenix, it will be close, but I would give the advantage to the man coming into the race leading, Dillon.

For Dillon to win the championship regardless of what Hornish does he needs to finish third or better. At worst fourth with a lap led and at worst fifth with leading the most laps.

The best part about this is we can forecast what will happen, but that is why they run the races. Anything can happen. The Ford 300 gets underway at 4:30 PM EST and can be seen on ESPN2.

Harvick’s Perception The Indicator Of Why He’s Leaving

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One day after having a dust up with his boss’ grandson, Kevin Harvick apologized for comments made after Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race. He chalked it up to emotions getting the best of him in the heat of battle.

“There was just a lot of emotion involved,” Harvick told FOX Sports 1 before the Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday. “I hate it for everybody at RCR. You go back and look at the things that happened, and sometimes you regret the things that you say for sure. Yesterday was definitely one of them. I hate it for my guys, and everybody working on the cars. Obviously, when those emotional situations come about, you say things that you really don’t want to say. I just want to apologize to all of those guys, work hard today and try and do everything we can to win the race.”

While he backed away from the comments, there has to be some sort  of truth in Harvick’s original comments. At least the perception of what he believed the situation was at Richard Childress Racing and exactly why he will step away after this season.

Obviously apologizing is the correct course of action considering he’s still got three (at the time four) more races to run and a championship to try and win. You don’t want the team to sabotage his efforts out of spite, which you’d think they’re above that, but you never know.

To Austin and Ty Dillon’s credit they’ve worked hard and won while moving up the NASCAR ladder. It’s not like they are buried in the low 20s and are getting moved along because of who their grandfather is. Austin has won the Truck title and is on his way to a Nationwide title this season. Ty has a couple of wins, but wasn’t consistent enough this year to contend for the Truck title.

This is NASCAR in 2013, it’s more about who you know than your driving talent. I just believe the Dillons have shown enough talent to warrant what they’ve been given so far. It’s just the perception their being handed everything gets under the skin of certain people, like Harvick, who perceive they’ve had to work hard for what they have gotten.

Cooler heads will prevail at Richard Childress Racing, it’s just another example of why it is time for Harvick and the team to go down separate paths after this year.

Column: Two Horse Battles A Top Both Standings After Kansas

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This week’s column takes a look at the driver standings battles in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series after a weekend of racing at the Kansas Speedway. In both the Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series you could make the argument that it’s down to two drivers in each.

It is officially a two man race for the Nationwide Series title in 2013, down to Austin Dillon and Sam Hornish, Jr. You could make an argument for Regan Smith (-35), who finished third at Kansas or even a very long shot for Elliott Sadler (43), who finished 10th at Kansas, but it is surely down to Dillon and Hornish.

Dillon gained some breathing room when he came home sixth versus Hornish’s 17th. The difference is now eight points in Dillon’s favor, and I don’t see him slowing down. The remaining schedule is Charlotte, Texas, Phoenix, and Homestead. I give Dillon Charlotte and Texas, Hornish is usually a bit better at Phoenix, and Homestead I lean towards Dillon again.

That could be what’s holding up announcing Dillon to the Cup Series in 2014, maybe they want that championship to serve as their press conference to tell the world the worst kept secret.

Moving the Sprint Cup Series you have Matt Kenseth atop the standings by three points over Jimmie Johnson. Kansas winner Kevin Harvick is third 25 points behind. Now I’m saying a two man race here because Kenseth had a “bad race” and still finished 12th. Johnson had issues late, but still finished 6th.

They need Kyle Busch like bad races, where he finished 34th at Kansas. Now, with Talladega still being out there it’s a big wildcard, but I can’t see either Kenseth or Johnson doing anything to jeopardize their positioning.

Harvick and others have to go all out, like Harvick at Kansas, and lead as many laps as possible and win. Can they do it? Yes, absolutely, but I don’t think they can do it every week.

Kenseth versus Johnson will be a battle of the ages like when Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart had in 2011.

Column: Marty Reid, Truck Schedule, Chase Elliott, & More

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Trying something new before the end of the season by debuting a couple things this week. First up is a weekly column I want to start so I can hit on some topics quickly and give my two cents. This week I touch on ESPN’s dismissal of Marty Reid, the rumored Camping World Truck Series schedule, Chase Elliott reaching out to Ty Dillon, and lots more.

Over the weekend it was leaked that ESPN had chosen to “go another direction” with announcer Marty Reid. Reid had been with the network for 31 years calling everything motorsports. It was becoming painfully obvious that Reid has lost his way as of late. A good indicator of that is that not one, not two, but three compilations of Reid’s errors have been created on YouTube. I saw a lot of objections on Twitter to get rid of him because of how well he did in the wake of the Dan Wheldon tragedy a few years back. He handled that with class and dignity that was needed, I’ll give him that. But to keep someone around because they did one thing once, well that just doesn’t make sense to me.

Ray Dunlap answered a question about the Camping World Truck Series schedule from a fan on Twitter about the makeup he’s seen. According to Dunlap, we’re stuck at 22 races for the third straight year, but they’ll add a second road course race and return to Gateway Motorsports Park. Nothing official has been released and it’s expected for another couple of weeks. If true, I’m glad they’ve added another road course to make it worth the teams to build road course trucks and kudos to them returning to a former track. I was hoping Myrtle Beach would make the cut like rumored and have at least 25 races, but I guess you can’t always get what you want. At least they didn’t add another dirt race to kill that like the NHL has done to its outdoors game.

Popular Speed’s Matt Weaver caught up with Chase Elliott in victory lane after a late model race in Florida over the weekend. He was asked if he’s talked to Ty Dillon in regards to their dust up in the only road course race for the Truck Series this year. Not surprisingly Dillon was not receptive to Elliott’s phone call. They’ll both be in Martinsville in a few weeks, so it should be interesting to see if Dillon takes him out. And I don’t mean to lunch. As for his 2014 schedule and current sponsor Aaron’s, Elliott said they would be leaving, which is leaving his schedule up in the air as of right now.

Mike Mulhern caught up with Speedway Motorsports, Inc.’s Bruton Smith. Among the topics they talked about was NBC starting their NASCAR coverage a year earlier. Smith was emphatic that they would be. As of yet the only official word has been from NASCAR who said nothing is changing, but I’m sure if ESPN and TNT can dump NASCAR, they will in a heartbeat.

Over the weekend Rob Kauffman, the co-owner and brains behind Michael Waltrip Racing, was finally back in America to deal with Spingate. The good news was 5-Hour Energy announced they would return to the #15 of Clint Bowyer. The bad news is Kauffman said he would not personally fund Martin Truex, Jr.’s car next season, which means Truex is most likely moving on. Being vague on the three car effort, I believe they’ll scale back to two cars with knucklehead, er, Michael Waltrip running the restrictor plate races in a third car. Kauffman also vowed to rebuild the team’s credibility, which should be easy without those goofy NAPA commercials.

I try to stay positive on all drivers in my Chase Watch, but here’s a list of drivers who won’t win the title in 2013: Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, and Ryan Newman. Edwards pains me because he was my pick, Newman pains me because I’m a fan of his, and Earnhardt pains me because he might be hitting his second wind too late. Newman sits 48 points behind, which is a full race behind, with how the other drivers are running, he and the others, aren’t making up that ground in this season.

In the Nationwide Series it’s a two driver race in my opinion between Austin Dillon and Sam Hornish, Jr. Either one winning the title will be interesting story. Dillon captures it before moving to Cup to give him the confidence and quiet the critics. Hornish gets it when he’s looking for a job and quiets everyone who questioned his move to NASCAR. For once I’m not swayed in either direction on who to root for.