Earlier this summer, Austin Dillon talked about needing decent finishes to help his push to make the playoffs. But, no longer in striking distance of the playoff grid, now the Richard Childress Racing driver is looking to improve the results sheet for a different reason.
“Truthfully, the year we’ve had — the inconsistencies and finishes with wrecks, whatever it may be — we need some solid finishes (that) would make our company feel good and put us in a good position,” said Dillon after qualifying 19th at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“We’re not giving up, obviously, on the shot of making the playoffs. Indy, I’m really happy about. Darlington — I could be really good too there. So both of those are great and (Saturday) night here — we didn’t get the qualifying position we wanted, but there’s 500 miles. We’re a little different from the past, setup wise, and hopefully, that works out for us and what the track does. Looks like it’s going to be kind of an old-style Bristol race with the way the top (of the track) is acting. We’ll see how it goes.”
It’s a hard balance to achieve for Dillon and the No. 3 team who must do everything they can to qualify for the postseason knowing that just finishing well would go a long way.
“When you got the boss man (Richard Childress) really mad because of the weekend before, with all the antics and alternator penalties, he just wants to give good solid finishes to our partners. And you can’t blame him for that,” said Dillon. “The bad thing is we’ve had cars capable of doing that, (but) haven’t been able to get the results. That’s what frustrating.”
Dillon is 22nd in the standings, 125 points behind 16th-place Clint Bowyer. All three of Dillon’s DNFs this year have been due to accidents, but there have also been too many bad days — 15 to be exact — where Dillon finished outside the top 15 to fade from the playoff picture. (At one point early this year, he was 14th in the standings.)
With so little time left in the regular season, if Dillon is going to make the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year, it’s unlikely he will do so by overcoming such a points deficit. It’s going to be trying for the Hail Mary over the next few weeks.
“Oh yes,” said Dillon. “We’re doing everything we can. Last week put us behind, even for this week having to go out (in qualifying) early. We’re trying our best. We’re going to see what we can do.
“We’ve got three races left and maybe we’ll hit on something (here) and make our way to the front.”