Austin Dillon takes yet another step in his successful career this Sunday

This weekend marks a career milestone for Austin Dillon, he makes his debut in
the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images
This weekend, Austin Dillon is sliding his way into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series—hopefully more smoothly than his slide through the infield grass after his victories in the Camping World Truck Series. The grandson of car owner Richard Childress, Dillon is making his debut tomorrow afternoon with Curb Agajanian Motorsports driving the No. 98 Chevrolet. Sponsoring Dillon's debut this weekend is The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation’s Centennial Celebration.

This has been a busy year for Dillon. When the race begins on Sunday, Dillon will have made at least one start in all three series this season, though he is only eligible for points in the Camping World Truck Series. He is currently leading the standings by only 3 points over James Buescher in that series with two victories to his credit.

While Dillon has said a top-25 is the goal for the day, that may be difficult based upon his practice speeds from the weekend. Dillon was 20th, 32nd, and 36th in first, second, and third practices, respectively, and he qualified 26th.

He’s been receiving some extra help from Richard Childress Racing drivers, though, as a few of the drivers on that team have been giving some pointers. Perhaps the best advice could come from Clint Bowyer who, like Dillon, has a dirt racing background.

“It's a similar experience to what my brother Ty did by making his Truck Series debut last weekend at Kentucky Speedway,” said Dillon. “He's been doing really well in the ARCA Series but he was able to come over to the Truck Series and get experience racing something completely different. I'm getting the opportunity to race at a totally different level and it's going to be fun." 

Indeed, the Sprint Cup Series is extremely competitive right now, with 16 different winners in 29 races and a very tight points battle. It will be hard for any rookie to be successful right off the bat in the series, though Dillon isn’t expecting that to happen either.

In fact, he’s making a very slow progression up the NASCAR ladder, running a full season in the Nationwide Series in 2012 with limited starts in the Sprint Cup Series. He isn’t being rushed right into the Cup Series like Joey Logano, nor is he expected to win races right away like it seems so many drivers are today. Instead, he’s been given the opportunity to develop his skills so that when he does move to the Cup Series full time, he’ll be ready for it.

Is his last name and family heritage a part of that? Absolutely, but that’s part of the game and he’s probably the most talented driver working his way up the NASCAR ladder right now.

Even if Dillon finishes poorly on Sunday—and let’s be honest, that’s more than a possibility—it isn’t necessarily an indicator of how well he’ll do when he’s in the Sprint Cup Series full time. Many of the sports best drivers struggled in their first few starts. Heck, even five-time champion Jimmie Johnson finished outside the top 20 in his first three starts.

Regardless, Dillon—and probably his brother—will be a force to be reckoned with in this sport for years to come, and we’d better get used to seeing them on the track (and eventually up front). Dillon has the talent to do well in this sport. Now he just needs experience. And that all starts when the green flag drops on Sunday afternoon. 
Austin Dillon takes yet another step in his successful career this Sunday Austin Dillon takes yet another step in his successful career this Sunday Reviewed by Summer Dreyer on Saturday, October 08, 2011 Rating: 5