By: Ashley McCubbin
Several drivers left the Daytona International Speedway road course event with smiles. However, Austin Dillon was not one of those competitors following a tough outing with a 34th-place finish.
While admitting road course racing is his “Achilles’ heel,” he showed promise in running consistently to be in position for a top-10 until getting caught up in another driver’s incident.
“I wasn’t a part of it, I was just in a bad spot; wrong place wrong time,” he commented. “It’s kind of like the Speedway, if you get in those wrecks, it happens.”
The performance may have sucked, but in NASCAR, there’s no time to dwell on it as there’s another race right around the corner the following weekend. So how do you put that behind you?
“Just get ready for the next one,” Austin Dillon told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “There’s a lot of positives from this past week. Like I said, we ran up front most of the day and were really there all day. So, take the positives from it and get excited about a track where we’ve had success at in the past. I know that we can gain everything that we lost this past weekend and then some this weekend at Homestead.”
As Dillon mentioned, Homstead-Miami Speedway has treated him well in the past, with his finishes steadily getting better with each outing. Despite placing 25th in his first appearance at the intermediate oval, each following result has been an improvement, including a pair of top-10’s in the most recent pair with a seventh in 2020.
With hopes of breaking into the top-five this time around, and possibly scoring a win, Dillon says it’s all about building on that performance.
“We don’t have practice to get the car a whole lot better,” he commented. “Just take everything that we took last year and just tweak it from what we find working in the simulator; look back at notes and be the best at adjusting what we were good at. I don’t think it’s a whole lot, really, that we’re far away from there. Hopefully we’ve done our job. ECR always has the power and our body shop is working hard. We’ve put all of those things together that matter. And just be there when it counts – good pit stops, be there at the right time and take advantage of it.”
Although they may have all the pieces in places, this year will be a little different with the event taking place through the afternoon, rather than starting late evening and ending under the lights. As a result, there will be an emphasis on knowing how to rim ride.
“During the day, the top gets pretty dominate, so that fence will be important and the guys that can run it consistently,” he commented. “The darker it gets, I seem to move down the track and find more and more speed. I think the rubber, when it gets laid down too, it creates a little more parody in the line that you can run.
“So, finishing during the daylight will be different, but it’s also in Florida and it might get a little rain and we could finish during the night.”
A trip to victory lane would certainly be satisfying, but also set up Dillon for the rest of the year in knowing he is one of those competitors in the playoffs alongside Michael McDowell and Christopher Bell. While some may say a pair of surprise winners changes the dynamics of the post-season, the driver of the No. 3 doesn’t believe that to be the case, with the focus always remaining on winning.
“It’s always been the main goal; I feel more confident when we’ve won and got into the Playoffs than just pointing your way in,” he said. “I think it’s pretty hard to point your way in and be successful when it comes to the Playoffs.”