Championship or Bust for Ty Dillon
Ty Dillon was expected to have great success before he ever competed full-time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. The grandson of legendary NASCAR team owner Richard Childress has experienced the ups and downs of racing for one of the sport’s most prestigious teams.
Richard Childress Racing dates back to when Childress himself was a racecar driver. Since then, Dale Earnhardt Sr. became the face of the franchise long after the unfortunate accident at Daytona in 2001 that claimed his life. RCR has experienced a transition period since its last title at the Sprint Cup Series level, but has established plenty of success in the XFINITY Series.
For Dillon, the XFINITY Series has been no different, expecting to excel with his grandfather’s race team.
The driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet is entering his third full-time season in the XFINITY Series with RCR. In his first two years of competition, Dillon has seen slight success. In 2014, he was victorious in his third career start at Indianapolis after passing Kyle Busch late in the event. That race was a huge momentum boost for the team, but ultimately, he came up short of the season end goal of a championship.
At the end of the season, Dillon finished fifth in the point standings and was looking forward to 2015. When the new season began, he was fully motivated with the team that was assembled around him. After earning 10 top-10 finishes in the first 14 races of last season, RCR decided to change the outlook of its lead car by slotting Nick Harrison atop the pit box, replacing Danny Stockman.
From that point on the No. 3 car had 15 top 10s in the final 19 events. But again Dillon came up just short in the championship battle, this time losing out to Chris Buescher.
Dillon is a very driven individual as he grew up in a household full of competition. From competing against his older brother, 2013 XFINITY Series champion Austin Dillon, on the race-track, or even the baseball field, he wants to be the best in his sport, like all drivers do. However, his brother has two national championships, including a Camping World Truck Series title in 2011, and is just a Cup title away from having a championship in all three series.
“The pressure to perform is all on myself,” Dillon told Speedway Digest. “A lot of people try to pressure on you, but it’s nothing compared to what I want to do. I want to win the races, I want to win the championship and nobody is going to be able to put more pressure on me than myself.”
In 2016, the XFINITY Series will have a new outlook. With the newly implemented Chase system which includes 12 drivers making the cutoff, the pressure to perform is there more than ever before. However, after losing series veterans, such as Regan Smith and Chase Elliott who are championship threats, he looks to be the favorite heading into the new season.
The 2014 XFINITY Series champion Elliott has moved up to take over the No. 24 for the retired Jeff Gordon in the Cup Series. In December, it was announced that 2015 champion Chris Buescher would make the jump to the Cup level and drive for Front Row Motorsports. Then on Thursday evening news broke that Regan Smith will be replacing Alex Bowman at Tommy Baldwin Racing.
These three drivers, along with Dillon were in the battle for the championship all the way down to Homestead. But with the other three making the move to Cup, Dillon is in the best position to win a title at this stage of his young career.
The XFINITY Series is gaining the returning Justin Allgaier who is piloting the No. 7 for JR Motorsports and will look to rival Dillon as the top dog in the fight for the championship. Anything but winning a title in 2016 will be a disappointment for the 23-year-old.
“Somewhat, it’s the third time around,” Dillon said. “I just want to win races and with that it will become a championship opportunity. If we get locked in that Chase, you’ve got to win the races just like they do in the Sprint Cup Series. You know you’re going to go down to that last race and I don’t know if you’re going to be battling for the win in the Homestead race for the championship, but I think you will be battling for a top-three.”
In three career starts at Homestead, Dillon has a pair of seventh-place finishes and one finish of 14th. If the team is fortunate enough to make it to Homestead it would need to up its game in order to win the championship, since the one race determines a championship and not a series of races.
Before even thinking about Homestead, the team must get through Daytona and the other 31 races leading up to the season-finale. In the past two seasons, Dillon has had at least 24 top-10 finishes which would solidly get him in the Chase based on points if he fails to earn a triumph before the cutoff.
He wants to win, and in order to do so, the team will need to make the cars more competitive and bring faster equipment off the hauler. If the team continues to bring average cars to the track then that is exactly what the team will be, and more vulnerable to the competition.
Around the XFINITY garage, Dillon is considered to be one of the early favorites to win the title. His statistics out perform any other series driver in the series in 2016 based off the last two years. Of all the other drivers he will be racing against full-time in 2016, Daniel Suarez was the closest to him on points in 2015, 96 points behind the No. 3 team.
“I always see myself as the championship favorite,” Dillon said. “I feel like I’m a favorite to win the Daytona 500, a lot of people might not feel like that, but I’m always going to bet on myself.”
Dillon will running the Daytona 500 for Circle Sport-Levine Family Racing as the driver of the No. 95 Chevrolet, teaming with Michael McDowell. He will be running in at least a handful of events while being paired with veteran crew chief Todd Parrott. Though his final Cup schedule has not been determined, they are looking at up to 10 races in 2016.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Wins Budweiser Duel 150 at Daytona
He’s back. It’s number four the No. 88. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has won the first of two Budweiser Duel 150 qualifying races at Daytona International Speedway.
Holding off a hard charging Joey Logano, Earnhardt was able to win the Duel to start on the inside of the second row for Sunday’s Daytona 500. Pole sitter Jeff Gordon finished second after running in the top five for the majority of the race, and was able to hold off Logano coming off Turn 4 for the final time.
"I'm so glad to be able to get through the Duel in one piece because I know how good this race car is," Earnhardt said. "We have a couple more practices to go through and try to stay out of trouble during those and put this thing on the grid."
Matt Kenseth, who led a race-high 32 laps, fell to the back of the pack with less than 10 laps to go. During the final caution with five laps remaining in the race, the No. 20 car pitted, but finished 17th.
After being on the edge of making the Daytona 500, Ty Dillon will run his first Daytona 500. Finishing 16th, the grandson of Richard Childress was able to get in based on Gordon not needing a spot in the race since he locked in during qualifying day.
Along with Dillon, Landon Cassill, Cole Whitt, Michael McDowell, JJ Yeley and Michael Annett were able to race their way into the Daytona 500. With the exception of Dillon, each of those drivers were inside of the top 15, which automatically gives them a starting position in the “Great American Race.”
Missing the Daytona 500 are RAB Racing’s Justin Marks, along with The Motorsports Group’s Ron Hornaday, Jr.
Casey Mears blew an engine on Lap 15 while running inside of the top 10. Mears will have to wait until the second Duel is over to find out if he will make the Daytona 500. He was outside of the top 25 in qualifying, but his spot in owner points could prevail to put him in the race.
AJ Allmendinger was inside of the top five at one point during the first Duel on Thursday evening. The No. 47 car was involved in an incident with BK Racing driver Johnny Sauter, and both of them finished outside of the top 20. Allmendinger will make the field based on owner points. Meanwhile, Sauter’s No. 83 car was 13th in qualifying, which means he will be able to fall back on his time.
2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne was running 18th when he got loose and hit the wall entering Turn 3. However, with the owner points from the No. 99 car, Bayne is locked into the Daytona 500.
Using the new pit road technology, four teams were penalized during the 150-mile race.