Two years ago, Austin Dillon brought championship glory back to Richard Childress Racing and the No. 3 in the Camping World Truck Series. This year, Dillon brought that forth that same championship glory for RCR and the No. 3 – but this time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Dillon fought hard at the final event of the season – the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to bring home the crown. He started off the day with the No. 3 Advocare Chevrolet not handling according to plan. However, with adjustments and strategy, Dillon put himself in position and was able to bring home the crown.
Beyond the actions that played out, the driver-crew chief relationship played a big part in the championship run as Dillon said post-race that crew chief Danny Stockman has changed in his career by simply having confidence in him.
“Anything I told him from the beginning, and we started together in the Truck Series the first time, I’m sure I scared him the first race out in Daytona when I hit the wall in lap one,” Dillon said. “Ever since then, my man here has stuck by my side, always given me speed in racecars.
“Tonight more than anything he gave me motivation. I thank him for that. We didn’t have the fastest car. It was ugly the way we did it, but we showed we had heart. We’re never going to give up. It paid off in the end. He made great calls. Our pit crew stepped up. I just held onto the wheel. That’s all I could do there at the end. It worked out for us.”
“We’ve been together for the last four years,” Stockman said. “It’s like a brotherhood. We’ve got a really strong team that we built four years ago. 75%, 80% of that team is the same team we started with in 2010.”
For Stockman, the championship is a great feeling and important for him being a young crew chief to be able to keep growing his career.
“We got to keep sponsors coming to RCR,” he explained. “We have to keep people working. To do that we’ve got to win, win championships, win races. That’s what we do it for. At the end of the day it’s all about winning. I feel like we made it happen.”
It marks Stockman’s third championship as he won the pair with Dillon, but also won a championship with Ron Hornaday Jr. in the truck series at Kevin Harvick Incorporated.
“This is by far the hardest one that I had to do,” Stockman said. “I mean, we had to dig ourselves out of a serious hole tonight. Like I said, we brought a car that we have great success with, we’ve run good with it. About three‑quarters of the way through that race, to answer your question, I was out of tools to tighten the car up. I’m not going to tell him that. I’m going to keep working on it.
“By the end of that race, we were out of tools. I couldn’t do any more without really messing the balance of the car up too much. I just stayed calm. I think the stress got so high that you just get used to it. You just kind of level out, deal with it. It’s either crap or get off the pot, should I say. There ain’t nothing else to do.”
Throughout the season, both Dillon and Sam Hornish Jr. were consistent and it was that closeness that made the Nationwide Series the most dramatic championship of the weekend.
“Sam Hornish is a great competitor,” Dillon said. “When you win them like this, it means so much more. Tight, nerve‑wracking all the way down to the end. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous. I cover it pretty well.”
Though the final weekend brought forth the most stress just simple due to the situation they planted themselves in with a bad handling car and having to dig themselves out of that. Dillon said in speaking with team coach Will, he learned a valuable lesson – don’t get frustrated over the radio as that just transfer to the team and hurts their moral.
“I have to stay positive the entire race and just stay in it,” he explained. “They’re not going to give up on me. We’re giving everything we’ve got. Jimmie Johnson has won all these championships because he communicates and stays with Chad Knaus throughout the race. They bicker every now and then. We do, too, because we hate to be slow. Sometimes it’s just not your day. It’s how you overcome those days.”
Now Dillon looks towards the next challenge of his young career – the Sprint Cup Series. He is looking forward to the challenge, but knows it’s a big jump from the Nationwide Series.
“I think definitely Rookie of the Year is definitely what we want to get next year,” Dillon said. “That’s our main focus, and to gain as much experience as I can. Each lap I hit in a Cup car, a Cup motor is going to be crucial next year. Finishing laps will be huge.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to have some fun in Nationwide and Truck. I had a blast last night in the Truck race. No matter what, it was stress‑free. That was fun. I had fun in the Truck race at Eldora. Doing those things will help next year.
Next year is going to be tough. I know we’re up to the challenge. We got a good plan. I’m looking forward to battling it out next year.”