‘Full-on argument’ has happy ending for Austin Dillon and grandfather

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By Yvonne Jones, Staff Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway wasn’t the only victory for Austin Dillon this week.

The driver of the iconic Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet said days before winning at CMS for the first time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, he had a spat about “our race cars performing” with his grandfather and team owner, Richard Childress.  Dillon said it was “like face-to-face, full-on argument.”

“Just wanting more, man,” Dillon explained.  “I want to put the 3 car in Victory Lane.  That’s what it was about.”

As it turned out, the little dustup between the Lewisville, North Carolina native and his Pop Pop was effective.

“We made it through it and we’re in Victory Lane this weekend,” Dillon said. “It feels damn good. So just letting you know he’s not only my grandfather, he’s my boss, too.  It feels amazing to be able to have a good conversation with him, for him to listen to me, and take what little advice I know, because he’s been doing this for so many years.

“To give me enough respect to just hear me out, ’cause I’m a hardheaded man.  I’m not going to lie.  My fiancée can vouch for that.  I’m going to dig until I get to Victory Lane.”

Dillon, in his fourth full season at the Cup level, did get there after 133 starts.

“He’s won twice this week,” Childress said. “I think he won that argument.”

His win on the race track came with new crew chief Justin Alexander in his ear for the first time. The 27-year-old had to battle seven-time Cup champ and eight-time CMS winner Jimmie Johnson for the victory. Johnson ran out of fuel with two laps to go in the 400-lap event and that’s when Dillon, who had been saving fuel down the stretch, made the break for victory lane.

“We’re racing one of the best of all time, tied with the top with all the champions, Jimmie Johnson,” Dillon said. “A place where I’ve watched him win many races here sitting in Turn 1.  He could get through Turn 1 better than anybody.

“To come down and pass him off of Turn 2 in a chess match of a race where it comes down to fuel mileage, it feels really good.”

For Dillon, the victory is a good response to the critics who said it wasn’t a crew chief problem; it’s a driver problem after RCR made the change atop the pit box recently. Dillon had just one Top 10 all season before winning NASCAR’s longest event on the Cup schedule.

“Haters gonna hey,” said Dillon, a former champ in both the Xfinity and Truck Series. “They keep sipping that Hater‑Ade.  I’m just glad we proved ’em wrong.  Feels pretty dang good.  Feels good.”

And now that Dillon has what he is looking for in a crew chief, maybe we can expect more success from this marriage.

“The only thing about Justin is I never worked with an engineer, a calm guy,” he said. “He’s totally different background than what I’m used to, working with.  He fits.  It’s cool.  This week was relatively just smooth.  We didn’t argue.

“We talked about the race car.  That’s what I needed.  I needed someone that wanted to teach me, talk about it, not tell me what was wrong with it.  Felt good to actually work together and get to the point we are now.”

But what’s wrong with a little driver-crew chief argument, anyway? After all, the one with grandpa propelled Dillon to victory lane.

 

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