Austin Dillon sits safely above the NASCAR Cup Series playoff cutline, but he’s not taking anything for granted with so much racing left in the regular season.
“I think you worry about random wins that come into play because you just feel like that’s coming,” Dillon told RACER. “It’s just inevitable at this point. There’s the law of averages starting to play out, and we’re just hoping that we’re that person that locks ourselves further into the playoffs. There are some tracks like the road courses and Daytona that are kind of coin flips, and then the competition is so close that (the) others can play out with strategy.
“I don’t know – I feel pretty good about where we’re at. We’ve been in there for a long time. It’s kind of like, OK, you feel about it, but you can never take that breath until you lock yourself in with a win.”
Although winless, Dillon is putting together one of his best seasons at the Cup Series level. Dillon and the No. 3 Chevrolet team have six top-10 finishes and an average finish of 12.3, which would be a career-best if the season ended today.
Dillon is 12th in the overall point standings, and he hasn’t sat worse than that all season. He sits 14th with a 91-point advantage on the first driver below the cutline with how the playoff grid would be reset. Looking at those who are fighting for a spot in the playoffs, Dillon said someone below the cutline could “definitely” win one of the next seven races.
“Kurt Busch is a guy that I circle,” Dillon said. “He’s just a grinder; you give him an inch, he’s going to take it. So he will do what it takes, I feel, to put himself in a position to win, whether it’s on points or a win. He’s just going to get better and better.”
Richard Childress Racing has two drivers in playoff contention, as behind Dillon on the playoff grid is teammate Tyler Reddick. Reddick’s gap is 48 points, and he failed to qualify for the postseason in his 2020 rookie season.
Tuesday afternoon, both Dillon and Reddick addressed Childress employees at the shop before Dillon’s unveiled his paint scheme for this weekend at Road America. Both drivers thanked the group for their hard work and the fast cars they’ve been building. However, Dillon and Reddick also acknowledged the hard work isn’t over, and the push toward the playoffs will only roll into the most crucial part of the season.
“I’m proud of the whole RCR and ECR organization,” team owner Richard Childress said. “We’ve been fortunate to do our planning last year and see it come to fruition this year. It’s very rewarding. We have a long way to go, got seven more races. It’s not a given, you’ve got to go out, and you’ve got to earn it.”
In rallying his group during the lunchtime meeting, Childress stressed “we will” make the postseason. Childress has not placed two cars in championship contention since 2017 with Dillon and Ryan Newman. It is a situation that the Hall of Fame team owner admitted needs to happen once again, and like his grandson, he would like it to be through a win sometime soon.
“We’ve got to be in that,” Childress said. “We owe it to our fans and employees, our sponsors, and everybody to go out there and make the (playoffs). We’ve been close and missed it before, but this year I feel confident that we’re going to get it. We’re going to win a race before (it starts) is our plan.”
Dillon has made the playoffs in four of his first seven full seasons.