HUNTSVILLE, Ala — Saturday, NASCAR drivers hit the track at Bristol for the Bass Pro Shop Night Race. Prior to Saturday's race Austin Dillon was in the 6th spot in the Cup Series. WZDX's Kayla Carlile sat down with him, one-on-one, to learn more about his life in the fast lane.
When it comes to driving NASCAR during a pandemic, things have been different. First it was all virtual racing, now it's back in-person, but the races are still not the same. That's because grandstands are no longer packed out with fans during races, but for Dillon the fans screams only impact the race a little.
"Anytime that you drop a green flag and we have have racecars on the track, it's a race. So it doesn't really change the mindset in the car, but it does feel good when you're out there and you hear people cheering," he said.
Dillon said one place where the fans do make an impact is at Talladega Superspeedway. On October 4th, drivers will line up pit road at Talladega, Dillon being one of those drivers.
The North Carolina native is no stranger to the NASCAR world though. His grandfather, Richard Childress, helped bring normalcy to weekends on the racetrack. Childress now owns Richard Childress Racing, which is the company that owns Dillon's iconic No. 3 car.
In 2014, the No. 3 car was resurrected after being unused for 13 years. The No. 3 was made famous by the late Dale Earnhardt, Sr. who drove for Richard Childress in his prime. Earnhardt won six titles and countless races in the RC No. 3 car before he passed away during a tragic crash at the Daytona 500 in 2001.
Many fans loved seeing the No. 3 logo back on the track, but other fans felt Dillon was not deserving since it was just his first full-time season on the circuit.
"You know you've got a lot of guys and girls that love it or don't like it and you just kind of embrace it," Dillon said about the fans.
Six years later, Dillon is now entering yet another playoff season, but this year the responsibility is different. Instead of upholding the duty of driving the No. 3 car, he's coming home to a prize bigger than any Cup Series win.
In June, Dillon and his wife Whitney welcomed a baby boy into the world. Ace RC Dillon gave Austin a new motivation moving forward in the Cup Series.
The birth of his son brought back fond memories of his time playing as a child. Prior to racing, Dillon played second base for the Southwest Forsyth (N.C.) Little League team from Clemmons, N.C. He and his team would compete in the 2002 Little League World Series.
"I learned a lot about team sports during that time period and always look back on those days," Dillon continued, "It was always fun to do something a little different than what my family is known for. NASCAR is what we're all known for, but baseball is something different."
In 2019, Dillon was enshrined in the Little League Hall of Excellence.
"There for awhile I loved baseball. I just kind of got burnt out at a young age, I played so much. I played a lot of travel ball. Racing was something different and exciting when starting it and I wanted to commit to it."
But now his focus is on racing. Next week the series moves to Las Vegas for the South Point 400, then they head to Talladega for the Yellawood 500 on October 4th.