Dillon likes iconic brands together

Jeff Birchfield • Jan 27, 2018 at 12:44 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Austin Dillon loves the pairing of two of NASCAR’s most recognizable rides, the famed black No. 3 and Petty Blue No. 43 race cars.

Through a new alliance with Richard Petty Motorsports, both cars are now being prepared on the campus of Richard Childress Racing.

Dillon talked about a recent meeting where Petty, a seven-time NASCAR champion, and Childress, his grandfather and the car owner for six of Dale Earnhardt’s seven championships, held court.

Dillon will in effect be teammates with Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., who has been a rival on the track and a teammate on the basketball court, in the new arrangement, 

“It was cool being in a meeting with my grandfather and the King in the room,” Dillon said at the NASCAR Media Tour presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway. “Bubba and I have played basketball together for years and I grew up racing him. I’m glad he’s on our side and it’s great having those two iconic brands together.”

There was a restructuring at RCR after Paul Menard left for the Wood Brothers and the team going to just two cars. Dillon pointed out that a two-car team with Furniture Row Racing won last season’s series championship. In addition, they have alliances with other teams like Levine Racing and the Petty group to bring in different perspectives.

“That was a good hit to bring in another driver trace, having another driver and seeing what he does with the throttle pedal and brake,” Dillon said. “Seeing what Kasey Kahne does with the 95 (car), it brings a little different perspective into the group. That is good for me where I can learn more.”

Dillon has found plenty of success in the Xfinity Series with the 2013 championship and a win in the 2016 Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway. At the Cup level, he has qualified for NASCAR’s playoffs each of the last two seasons and won his first race at the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte last May.

Still, Dillon believes the team needs slight improvements to be serious contenders to win races. He sees the No. 3 team right now on the cusp of being in a more elite group.

“We need to be in the top five, the top 10 more often,” he said. “We hovered from eighth to 14th all year long. We were able to win a race, but to have shots to win races consistently, we need to move that performance forward.

“When you’re running from fourth to eighth, you have more opportunities to win. Even the days you’re running eighth, you have a shot to win. We had a sixth- or seventh-place car the night we won the 600. If you run third to seventh consistently, you never know what will happen from that point.”

Dillon likes the teamwork between his crew chief Justin Alexander and Luke Lambert, who leads Ryan Newman’s team. He also likes that Andy Petree, the crew chief for Earnhardt’s final two championships, is now serving as RCR’s Vice President of Competition. Petree is particularly influential in relaying information to Childress.

“It’s a line between my grandfather and myself,” he said. “Andy is someone who can relate to him between old school and new school. That’s a key part of it because our sport is moving towards the future and Andy has always had a passion for engineering. He’s pushing my grandfather to the place we need to go.”

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