Austin Dillon overcame 17 pit stops and four wrecks to finish third in the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday. It was his first top-10 finish at Talladega.
If you haven’t seen photos of Dillon’s car, well, check out Instagram.
“If you go to your local junkyard, you can probably see something that compares to it,” Dillon told Marc Malusis and Maggie Gray, who were filling in as hosts of CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “The car was just taped together, really just pieced together by a hard-working group of guys. We pitted 17 times and fixed damage almost every stop, I felt like. When we had the first wreck, I was just thinking, ‘To get in the top 20 would be a great finish. Top 25, really.’ Then as the day went on, they just kept fixing it and the car kept getting a little bit better, a little bit better. Coming down to the end, there was only about 12 good cars left. Things fell our way and we were able to come home third.”
Dillon said his car looked “mummified” after the race.
“Speedway racing is a different animal for us as NASCAR drivers,” he said. “I’m sure most people have seen the wreck I had at Daytona last year in July. That was a wild ride. But you definitely have to put yourself in a position that you don’t normally want to put yourself in – because you can see everything happening. Wherever you’re at in the field, you can kind of see a lot of things starting to transpire. When you see guys start to move around and get a littler antsy and things start happening, you want to put yourself in a better situation but there’s really nowhere else to go. So you have to tell yourself, ‘It’s time to go’ and put yourself in situations that you wouldn’t normally want to put yourself in a race. But that’s part of Speedway racing. People love to see it.”
What they don’t love to see – at least we hope – is a driver’s steering wheel falling off. That happened to Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Talladega on Sunday.
“That was an unfortunate event,” Dillon said. “Luckily, that happened under caution. If that would have happened under green flag, that would have been a big deal.”
Dillon, 26, is one of the best young drivers in the sport. He didn’t get the respect he deserved when he was younger – perhaps because he’s the grandson of Richard Childress – but he’s proven his worth on the track.
“You try to come to work every day because there’s always going to be haters out there – guys that doubt your abilities – and you want to go prove them wrong,” Dillon said. “I feel like I’ve got the greatest opportunity in the world to be a race car driver and drive great equipment at RCR and I just want to go to work. You look at Jimmie Johnson, a six-time champion. People still give him flak about racing cars. It’s just part of the business that we’re in. It’s what makes it entertaining.”