Austin Dillon once dreaded Richmond but now “it’s my favorite”

Austin Dillon once dreaded Richmond but now “it’s my favorite”

At one point early in Dillon’s Cup career, he made no secret the Virginia short track was his “least favorite” and he wouldn’t be upset if NASCAR dropped it off the schedule entirely.

In his first nine races at the track with Richard Childress Racing, Dillon didn’t finish better than 13th and four times finished outside the top-20.

In fall 2018, Dillon and his No. 3 Chevrolet team suddenly seemed to turn things around, posting a sixth-place finish which he repeated in the spring 2019 race. After a 22nd-place finish in fall 2019, Dillon produced his best finish yet – fourth – in last season’s lone race.

“It was my least favorite, I will give you that. I sucked there at the beginning of my career. I dreaded going there,” Dillon said. “I said I wished Richmond would just not be a track anymore. Somehow, over the years, I’ve made it into a good place for us.

“We had a really strong run last year there and I sped on pit road in the playoffs. So, it was what kind of locked us into that second round, was going to Richmond and having a good run (after Darlington).

“It’s like my favorite track in the world (now).”

Dillon, 30, will have an even better head start this weekend thanks to battling and clawing to a 14th-place finish last week at Martinsville, Va.

With no qualifying this weekend, NASCAR’s starting formula takes into account a driver’s most recent finish, which will give Dillon a starting spot of 11th this weekend.

“We really looked at everything we did last year and didn’t change a whole lot. But we went back over some things in the simulator, and I think it should be a good one,” Dillon said.

“Obviously, starting 11th helps. We have a good pit stall and we’re just going to go after it. We need to lock ourselves into the playoffs or better ourselves in points this weekend.”

Solid start to 2021 season

Dillon has had a solid start to the 2021 season. Through eight races, he has one top-five, two top-10s and five finishes of 14th or better. He currently sits 12th in the series standings.

“I think we’ve had some really good runs this year. Coming up to that (quarter) mark in the season, we’re in a good place as far as points goes,” Dillon said. “I definitely wish I could have the finish back at the (Daytona) Road Course. But you have to move on from some of those things.

“It’s a long season; there’s no perfect season. I feel like we need to keep adjusting and making our stuff better. When the time comes where we need to be our best, we are the best. So, we just keep doing our thing.

“Obviously, our car has had speed since last year and we’ve been able to maintain some of that. There are certain places where I feel like we can get better all around. But we’re in a good spot.

“There are some guys back there in points that are looked at as favorites and are just in a bad position. We’re in a better position than what we have been at this point in the season before.”

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