MONTE DUTTON - RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME
Richard Childress made sure his grandsons, Austin and Ty Dillon, learned how to race the right way.
The first times I encountered the sons of Mike and Tina Dillon were at 311 Speedway in Madison, N.C., where, several times a colleague and I drove down on a Martinsville, Va., NASCAR weekend to watch the Dillon boys race on dirt.
Childress and his son-in-law brought the boys along slowly. Both have Monster Cup rides now, and Austin just put Childress's No. 3 back in victory lane at the Daytona 500. I was on hand last May to watch Austin win the Coca-Cola 600, another famous race, at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
It's my opinion that the dirt track is a great place for a young racer to get started. He learns how to be aggressive on dirt. Then he learns finesse and precision on pavement.
The aggressiveness paid off in Austin's latest victory. On the final lap, he didn't let Aric Almirola's Ford get in his way, bumping him aside. It wasn't pretty, but it was bold, and it worked in the most prestigious race in NASCAR.
Four days before the race, Austin let the world now how committed he was.
“There’s nothing better than the Daytona 500 in my opinion as far as racing goes," he said at Daytona International Speedway's Media Day. "There’s just so much hype that goes along with it. The fans really get behind it. It’s our Super Bowl, so, you’re just forever etched in NASCAR history when you win one of these things. I don’t think you have to have much history behind it. It’s just the Daytona 500. It’s amazing without having anything behind it, alone, it sets itself away from everything else.”
The kid made his grandfather proud. He was where he'd always wanted to be.