Next Childress stars may come from his own family
Credit: John Sommers/Getty Images
Austin Dillon celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Lucas Oil 200 presented by Speed on Mediacom.
Richard Childress has had no shortage of stars drive for him over the years.
Of course, Dale Earnhardt Sr. was the biggest of them all, winning 6 titles with his buddy Childress as car owner. Over the years, the list has included Jeff Burton, Mike Skinner, the late Neil Bonnett and many more.
But looking to the future, he has a couple of teenagers waiting in the wings to deliver him many more wins … his own grandsons.
Despite all the success he had with the Intimidator, I’m guessing this weekend at Iowa was his most proud moment in racing. First, his 18-year-old grandson Ty Dillon (in his first-ever ARCA start) took the pole for the ARCA race at Iowa. He went on to finish second in the race.
Then his other grandson Austin, 20, took his third straight Truck series pole, and went on to take the rest of the field to the woodshed and lead almost every lap. For the second time in two weeks, a vehicle marked #3 with a Childress connection was in Victory Lane.
Seeing these young kids doing well, his own blood, is probably even more satisfying than watching your best friend with 6 championships.
He must have been the proudest grandfather in the world, and he better get used to it … because his grandsons may be the next big stars for him.
Austin looks especially impressive, and not just because of his on-track performance. I was watching the ARCA race and he stepped in as a guest commentator, not an easy task by any means. He came off as a very smart young man who knows a lot about racing, not just some kid who knows how to put his foot on the gas pedal. That combination of smarts with good equipment from RCR, and he could have a long career that takes him all the way to the Cup series (though I doubt Childress will want him to take the #3 with him to Cup … I’ll go out on a limb and say he replaces Jeff Burton in the #31 if he retires in a few years)
There’s no need to rush it … after all, they aren’t even of legal drinking age yet. But it’s clear that the talent runs in this family. Childress raced for a while before becoming a successful team owner. Also, his son-in-law Mike Dillon, the boys’ father, spent some time in the Busch series.
Childress has the resources to put these kids through the proper stages, so they can make a proper evolution into Cup drivers. They don’t need to be like Joey Logano, jumping in so early.
Austin Dillon can spend a couple years in the Truck series, a couple years in Nationwide, then go on to Cup. Ty can spend some more time in ARCA and late models, then move on to the same progression as his brother – a couple years behind, of course.
And in the end, Childress might just have his own flesh and blood out there running for him in Cup and he can enjoy his retirement watching them race, should he ever get sick of running the team himself.
That, I think would make him happier than anything he’s ever experienced in his long, accomplished NASCAR career. And those boys seem to have the talent to make that dream come true.
More progress for Danica
Well, Danica Patrick ran another race. I have to say I’m pretty proud of ESPN’s crew. They were smart enough to realize that with her running in 25th most of the day, they should instead talk about the guys running up front and competing for the win most of the time.
I have to give her some credit for this latest run. It wasn’t great, but she didn’t appear nearly as clueless a the last go-around and got another career-best finish. I’m guessing that had something to do with the close proximity to her last start. This reinforces the point that other drivers (such as Dario Franchitti and Kyle Busch) are making: If she really wants to get good at NASCAR, she must fully commit and ditch the Indycar ride.
And the sooner the better. You can’t do this half-and-half thing for too long, as you’ll likely just struggle at both ends.
Rusty speaks his mind
Speaking of the ESPN coverage of the Nationwide race, anyone who is familiar with Rusty Wallace from his driving days got a glimpse of his well-known personality after the race, when he accidentally let his comment calling winner Kyle Busch a “dumbass” get on the air.
Quick history lesson: There is no love lost between these two, going back several years.
In a column written by Rusty about Kyle in 2006, he wrote: “He needs somebody to kick his ass. Casey Mears got loose and spun into Busch, but he didn't have any intention of hitting him. Then Busch came out there and slung part of his HANS at Mears. If I had been there I'd have stopped, backed up and got out of the car, and smacked Busch's face off. Then I would have gotten back in the car and took off.”
A couple years later, there was the time Kyle insulted Rusty and his son Steve simultaneously (a little joke about “That's Rusty Wallace's kid, so I'm not sure you're going to be able to talk to him much and get through his head, but we'll see.")
I’m curious whether ESPN will do anything about it. I like Rusty as a commentator, and over the years he’s been doing that job he’s been pretty fair to Kyle during broadcasts. But apparently Kyle’s comments in Victory Lane (about the “haters … I mean fans”) set him over the edge. I hope they keep him on the air, though, as it’s always more fun when a guy like Rusty is on the air with his often blatantly honest opinions.
Baby Johnson arrives
No fill-in driver needed … Little Genevieve Marie Johnson was born mid-week last week. At Chicagoland, Johnson said it was the best day of his life when she was born.
"It is unbelievable as parents know and understand. I'm only two days into this (laughs), so there is a lot more to go. Wednesday was the absolute best day of my life. The last two days have been incredible. Haven't had a ton of sleep,” he said. “it's just incredible. I'm so thankful that she is health and she is doing amazing and Channi is as well and we're excited."
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