2014/2015 Review/Preview: Austin Dillon & Paul Menard
Austin Dillon entered the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season looking to have a very successful year behind the wheel of his No. 3 Chevrolet. With his success in the NASCAR Camping World Truck and Xfinity Series, earning the rookie of the year title and capturing the championship the very next year, it’s safe to say that 2014 wasn’t nearly what he was hoping for.
Dillon came into the 2014 season opener at the Daytona International Speedway on a very strong note after earning the pole for the Daytona 500. Despite starting on the pole, he led only one of the 200-laps to finish ninth. Dillon hoped that this would spark a wave of momentum for the remainder of the season.
That momentum never came as the team struggled the rest of the year, earning only one top-five and four top-10 finishes. Despite the quiet season towards the front, it was a very active one for Dillon in the middle of the pack, earning 25 top-20 finishes in 36 races. With these type of runs, and with Larson’s strong season in the No. 42 Chevrolet, Dillon wasn’t able to claim the rookie title as he hoped.
Paul Menard came into the 2014 Sprint Cup Series season hoping to have his best year since joining the series full-time in 2008. Despite not winning a single race all year, Menard did just that, earning five top-five and 13 top-10 finishes for his best season in Sprint Cup competition.
Like his teammate Austin Dillon, the No. 27 Chevrolet team will need to improve consistency in 2015 if they want to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. I don’t think one person expected both of these cars to miss the Chase in 2014, given how successful they were the following year.
With Kevin Harvick’s departure from the Richard Childress Racing organization, it meant that Menard would now become the lead driver for the team. Knowing this certainly applied a lot of pressure on the 34-year-old to perform well. With that said, I think Menard handled the pressure well and that it’ll only make him better and stronger as an individual moving down the road right into 2015.
With all of these things that need fixing, it’ll be interesting to see if Richard Childress Racing will make any changes that will better themselves in 2015. I think 2014 was just a learning curb and that 2015 will be a very bright one for all of its drivers.
Brett has been following the sport of NASCAR since the beginning of the 2006 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Since Brett was 13, he has had a passion of chasing a job in sports that not many get the opportunity of doing. He has been in the NASCAR media since the middle of the 2010 season. Since then, he has been a part of many racing podcast shows to improve his talents. You can find him on twitter @NASCAR_Brett.