By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
A break in the NASCAR Nationwide schedule allowed Austin Dillon an opportunity to race his dirt late model over the weekend.
Unfortunately for him, Dillon never turned a lap.
The 22-year-old grandson of former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion and current team owner Richard Childress was supposed to race at Winchester (Va,) on Saturday and then Selinsgrove Speedway on Sunday with the World of Outlaws late model series. Both races were rained out.
He said he was looking forward to racing at Selinsgrove before the rains came.
“This place looks fast,” Dillon said. It was a coincidence that he was supposed to race Sunday in Pennsylvania, the day of the Little League World Series championship game. Ten years ago he was the second baseman for the Southwest Forsyth (N.C.) Little League team that competed in the 2002 Little League World Series.
Dillon was the 2011 truck series winner, the youngest champion in the circuit’s history. He was also the series Rookie of the Year in 2010. His younger brother, Ty, captured the ARCA title last year and races for Richard Childress in the Camping World Truck Series.
After a fourth-place finish Friday night in the Nationwide Series Food City 250 at Bristol Speedway (Tenn.), Austin Dillon is fourth in the point standings. He is 35 points out of the lead and he won the series race at Kentucky in June, his first Nationwide win.
Dillon began his dirt late model career in 2007, and in 21 WoO shows he has three top-10 finishes. His best finish (sixth) came on Nov. 5, 2009, at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
“We hadn’t run on the dirt in a while and with the Nationwide race at Bristol on Friday, we wanted to get some more dirt track racing in,” Austin Dillon said.
His father Mike, a former NASCAR Busch Series driver, is the general manager for RCR racing and is Childress’ son-in-law.
Austin Dillon opened his 2012 dirt track season racing at IMCA-style modifieds at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida in February during Speedweek and has made seven late model starts this season.
“It’s more fun now to come back and race on the dirt,” he said. “I’m still learning the tracks and it is great to get away from the asphalt world and come to a track and have fun.”
He finished third in the Prelude to the Dream late model charity race at Eldora Speedway in June.
Dillon said he relies on his grandfather for advice on racing and his career.
“It’s hard not to with his knowledge that he has to pass on,” he said. “He truly cares about what is going on in racing. He stresses to me to have fun while we are racing.”
His dirt late model sports the iconic No. 3, the same number the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. made so famous while racing for RCR.
“It will always be there and it’s how you handle it,” Dillon said of the pressure of being Childress’ grandson. “You have to prove to people that you can drive a race car. I have to take advantage of the position I’ve been put in.”
There are 10 races left in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Dillon said he is focused on the title chase.
“We want to get ourselves into a good points position heading into the finale at Homestead Speedway and go after the championship,” he said. “Its been a great year for us; you can’t ask for more this year.”
A communications major at High Point University (N.C.), Dillon is planning to return to Nationwide racing in 2013 and he is looking to run some Sprint Cup races as well.