The Dillon Gang – Austin and his younger brother, Ty – can put a pair of NASCAR national-series championship trophies on the mantel at the home of PopPop (their grandfather and team owner, Richard Childress) this season, but both have some heavy lifting ahead to make that double happen.
Entering Saturday’s Great Clips 200 Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, Austin Dillon is a distant third (by 21 points) to series leaders Elliott Sadler and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Dillon needs solid finishes this weekend and in the season finale next week at Homestead – plus significant stumbles by Sadler and Stenhouse – to have a reasonable shot at the title, but the door is open.
Ty, seeking to back up the Camping World Truck Series championship his brother won last season, has a somewhat easier road.
Dillon is in second in Truck Series points, trailing James Buescher by 15 points entering Friday’s Lucas Oil 150, the next-to-last race of the season for the trucks. Timothy Peters and Parker Kligerman also remain within shouting distance of Buescher.
Austin and Ty are intensely competitive with the drivers in their series but also with each other, although, as they frequently point out, each also is the other’s biggest booster.
If Ty fails to join Austin as a Truck champion, the circumstances are likely to lead to some uncomfortable moments around holiday dinner tables in the off-season.
The trucks will be racing for the first time Friday on the new surface – and over the new configuration – at PIR, which made changes last year.
Qualifying for the 150-lap race is scheduled at 4:30 p.m. ET Friday. The race is scheduled for 8 p.m., with NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Setup set for 7:30.
Nationwide drivers are scheduled to practice in two sessions Friday – at noon and 3:35 p.m. Qualifying is scheduled at 12:35 Saturday, with the race scheduled at 4 p.m.
Austin Dillon finished sixth in last week’s race at Texas and gained five points on the point lead, but, with only two events remaining, time is quickly running out.
Dillon finished the Texas race one spot behind Sprint Cup regular Denny Hamlin after the two were involved in some tense competition during the race’s final laps. They bumped on the cool-down lap, and Hamlin then forced Dillon’s car into the inside wall.
After the race, Hamlin said Dillon had his ride “only because of his name.” Dillon, of course, drives for his grandfather’s team. His father is RCR vice president Mike Dillon, Childress’ son-in-law and a former NASCAR driver. In response to Hamlin’s comments, Austin Dillon said it was his understanding that the past record books don’t include a lot of success by guys named Dillon.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.