Austin Dillon on the cusp of first Chase berth

Austin Dillon is on the verge of making his first ever appearance in the Chase. He just needs to survive Richmond first.

Austin Dillon on the cusp of first Chase berth
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Championship podium: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2011 champion Austin Dillon, RCR Chevrolet celebrates
NASCAR Nationwide Series champion driver trophy Austin Dillon
Race winner Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet with fiancée Whitney Ward
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Dillon enters Richmond in a fairly comfortable position, 31 points to the good Chase-wise. It would take a catastrophic night for for him to fall below the cut line. However, if a driver on the outside were to win, it would be much closer for the driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

“I think we’ve done a good job putting ourselves in position. We wish we were already locked in by now, but we have put ourselves in a positive position going into (Richmond). I’m proud of the guys. I feel like we have a car capable of running pretty well.

"Just kind of going about it like a regular race weekend. We need to run good, need to finish strong and that will take care of itself if we have a good strong finish.”

It means a ton. Obviously, it’s everything

Austin Dillon on what a Chase berth means

A top ten result should be sufficient for the RCR driver, who is in his third season of running full-time at the Cup level. And this year, he's finished inside the top ten on ten occasions, a career-high. On Friday, he qualified eighth for the 400-lapper.

Not his first rodeo, just his biggest

If Dillon has any advantage over some of the other Chase hopefuls, it may be his experience racing for championships in the lower divisions of NASCAR. In 2011, he narrowly defeated veteran Johnny Sauter for the Truck title and in 2013, he edged Sam Hornish Jr. for the Xfinity crown in an even closer battle. 

“I’ve had to do it before in my career with championship runs and stuff," explained Dillon. "It’s just you’ve got to stay focused and race like you would normally race. When you start really changing the vibe of things it really gets hard that way. Things are going to happen that you don’t plan for. How you react to them is kind of how it is going to end up. Just reacting the right way to everything that goes and knowing what we have to do to make it in the Chase, having that in our head and just being smart about the choices we make.”

He later added onto that, saying that the team just needs to keep doing what they've been doing and let the cards fall where they may. 

"I just kind of talked to the guys and made a point that all we have to do is be consistent and do what we normally do. We don’t have to find speed. This is what we’ve got at this point. When you get to a certain point in the year you kind of know what you’ve got and you know how you’ve got to attack and how it’s going to work out. Use your strengths to the best of your ability and that is what you get. Hopefully, it comes out right.”

Winning isn't everything when it comes to the Chase

Dillon has yet to win at the Cup level and RCR as an organization hasn't won since 2013, but winning isn't everything. In 2014, RCR driver Ryan Newman nearly won the championship without a single win, finishing a close 2nd to Kevin Harvick in the season finale. He goes into RIR on the outside of the Chase and hopes to give Childress two bullets in the gun for the postseason.

As for Dillon, to finally be a part of the postseason will be a highlight of his young career and a deserving reward for what has been his best season yet in the the NSCS.

“It means a ton. Obviously, it’s everything. I put a lot on my shoulders each and every weekend because of my family and the organization I’m with. I think you will find out what it means to me if it goes the right way or the wrong way. You’ve got to handle it, the right way or the wrong way, whatever happens.”

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