SPEED.com has selected NASCAR’s top 10 drivers — across the three major national series — in 2010 and will spotlight them for two weeks. Today: Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year Austin Dillon.
It was lot of pressure for a 19-year-old kid racing full time in a major NASCAR series for the first time.
Austin Dillon didn’t have the opportunity to “sneak” into the Camping World Truck Series. Many other young drivers are able to drive around in the background, under the radar, in the first year, learning as they go along without much attention.
Dillon didn’t fit that template.
He carried the hopes and memories of millions of Dale Earnhardt Sr. fans with him as he stepped into the cherished black No. 3 Chevrolet with a paint scheme similar to the one driven by the Intimidator. It was a truck, true, but the solid black surface and the fiercely facing forward “3” reminded many fans of Earnhardt’s greatest days.
Additionally, Dillon arrived with even more “baggage." He was driving for his grandfather, Richard Childress, who had partnered with Earnhardt to score six Cup championships. There was little doubt that the RCR team and equipment would be good, so much was expected of Dillon.
To say that he delivered is an understatement.
Dillon was one of the stars of the Camping World Truck Series, winning twice, racing up front much of the season, setting a rookie record with seven pole positions and finishing fifth in points, an excellent seasonal performance for a first-year driver.
In 2011, Dillon plans to run the full Truck Series again with an eye on the championship, and he probably will drive in a few Nationwide Series races, as well.
Although 2010 wound up as a great year for Dillon, it didn’t start with a bundle of promise. He crashed on the first lap of the first race of the season at Daytona International Speedway, and he finished outside the top 10 in five of the year’s first seven races.
Starting in race No. 8, however, Dillon went on a run. Over the next eight races, he scored his first career victory — at Iowa Speedway — and had no finishes worse than seventh.
He added another win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and climbed in the points to eventually finish fifth.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.