Perception least of Nationwide leader Dillon’s worries

Posted Friday, Nov. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
Top of the heap
1.Austin Dillon--
2.Sam Hornish Jr.8
3.Regan Smith52
4.Justin Allgaier70
5.Elliott Sadler78

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Sticks, stones and perhaps the risks of a speeding race car might well be capable of breaking Austin Dillon’s bones, but the 23-year-old NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader has lived long enough to know all about words.

“I don’t care,” said Dillon when asked if he was concerned that other racing peers have the same opinion as Kevin Harvick, who called Dillon and his brother, Ty, “[punks]” given opportunities only through the silver spoon polished and shoveled by their famous grandfather — and team owner — Richard Childress.

“It doesn’t bother me. I’m here to do one thing and that’s to make RCR proud and my family, and go out there and try to win it all every week.”

Dillon, though still seeking victory No. 1 in 2013, has been the most consistent driver in the Nationwide circuit with 11 top-5 and 20 top-10 finishes.

That has put him in position to claim his second professional racing season title, this one in his No. 3 Chrevrolet.

Dillon was crowned the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champ in 2011.

He sits eight points in front of Sam Hornish Jr. heading into Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race, the last of three on the season, starts at 2:30 p.m. and can be seen live on ESPN2.

Qualifying is set for 11 a.m. Saturday.

Trevor Bayne, in a Ford, ran the fastest lap during the final practice on Friday, running around TMS’ 1.5 miles in 29.510 seconds at a speed of 182.9 mph.

Dillon’s brother, Ty, who was at the center of the dust-up with Harvick at last weekend’s Nationwide race in Martinsville, was next at 29.544 seconds and 182.8 mph.

Austin Dillon was fifth at 29.597 seconds and 182.5 mph.

His chief rival for the season title, Hornish, was 19th after running his fastest lap in 180.6 mph. Hornish ran faster in an earlier session.

“I think you’ll see hard racing between the two of us,” said Dillon. “I want it tremendously. You don’t get an opportunity to win championships often.

“We both have fast cars. These last three are going to be grind-it-out races.”

Ultimately, Dillon’s career will be defined by his performance on the track, which seems destined to one day certainly include a full-time ride on the Sprint Cup series.

He’s pulling double duty this week, driving the No. 33 Boot Barn Chevy in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500. The North Carolinian qualified 21st on Friday.

Advancement up the professional ladder, he said, has less to do with his family connections and more with having learned to be a smarter driver and a competitive streak nurtured through an active athletic regimen as he grew up.

On display were some of those good athletic skills while touring the Dallas Cowboys football facilities at Valley Ranch, where he participated in a punt, pass and kick competition as part of a promotion sponsored by Nationwide Insurance.

Dillon kicked a 30-yard field goal in his boots.

“It was a blast,” said Dillon, who joked that he was an “athletic person without the body. … I need to be taller and 100 pounds more.”

He was the guy who had to scrap and work harder to achieve.

His family’s past is a source of pride, said Dillon, who added that peace talks earlier this week with Harvick were successful.

But the faith in his future belongs to him and him alone.

“I have a fire in my belly,” no matter what Harvick or anybody else thinks. “Every time you hit the track you try to prove something, but you do it to your ability.”

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