Austin Dillon ready for NASCAR Playoffs at 'Crown Jewel' Bristol Night Race, and that's No Bull!
In Austin Dillon’s other sports job, as GM for the new Carolina Cowboys Professional Bull Riders team, he pours over stats to put together the best team of bull riders on the circuit.
This past Sunday, the veteran NASCAR Cup Series driver saw lots of numbers, figures, scenarios and possible outcomes dancing in his head as he and his No. 3 Chevy team strategized as the laps counted down at Daytona International Speedway during the Cup Series’ regular season finale.
Knowing it was his last chance to qualify for the 16-driver Cup Series Playoff field, long-shot Dillon laid it all on the line over the final 21 laps and with a little help from teammate Tyler Reddick, he was able to grab the victory and a highly-sought-after post-season berth. Interestingly, he found out that his Cowboys also won their game on Sunday in Austin, Texas. The Cowboys posted a 3-0 score to defeat the Austin Gamblers, who posted a 2-1 total.
“Pretty sweet day,” Dillon said. “It's our first event win for the PBR team. They won and we did too. It's an amazing day. Thank you, Jesus.”
Now the four-time Cup Series winner will begin the Round of 16 Cup Series Playoffs, with races at Darlington, S.C. (Sept. 4), Kansas (Sept. 11) and Bristol Motor Speedway (Sept. 17). At Bristol’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race, Dillon will proudly fly the title sponsor’s colors on his famed No. 3 Chevy Camaro.
He says Bristol Motor Speedway’s challenging all-concrete layout would make one ornery bull.
“Bristol is a blast, challenging and aggressive,” Dillon said. “If you could equate a race track to a bull ride, it’s Bristol. You’re really having to bear down because of how much load it takes on your body. The harder you drive it, sometimes it rewards you.”
When the checkered flag drops at America’s Night Race, four of the 16 drivers will be eliminated from Playoff contention. Dillon says Bristol’s elimination position in the Playoffs, along with the heightened atmosphere and all of the memorable finishes that have occurred there over the years on the high-banked half-mile oval gives that event an elevated status in the sport.
Dillion says to him, it’s definitely one of the sport’s majors.
“I had a blast driving the dirt race earlier this year, but the Bristol Night Race is something we all look forward to,” Dillon said. “The Bristol Night Race is a crown jewel race to me.”
Dillon, who has won the Food City 300 Xfinity Series race at Bristol, would love to add a Night Race trophy and BMS Gladiator Sword to his collection. He says he feels comfortable at all three of the Round of 16 stops.
"Actually, the first round for history looking back has been a good round for us in the 3 team,” Dillon said. “We've done a good job of upsetting some teams in that first round.
"It won't be from a lack of effort over the next three weeks to progress and try to get another win."
While Dillon will be working hard to advance in the Playoffs and chase a Cup Series championship, he will also be hard at work in his spare time, trying to give his Carolina Cowboys the best possible chance for success.
“If I do anything, I’m going all-in,” Dillon says. “I have a great team at RCR. My dad (Mike Dillon) has taken over some of the (Cowboys) contract stuff as I’ve had to get in the simulator and focus on the race car. I’ve got to do a lot of the fun parts like looking at the stats for the bull riding team and all that. You just have to balance it the best you can.”
In addition to Dillon, the other 15 Cup Series drivers who qualified for the Round of 16 Playoffs are: regular season champ Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Ross Chastain, defending series champ Kyle Larson, William Byron, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Tyler Reddick, Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, Kyle Busch, Chase Briscoe, Daniel Suarez, Austin Cindric and Alex Bowman.
The other Bass Pro Shops driver, Martin Truex Jr., saw his bid to make the Playoffs fall short when his No. 19 machine sustained damage and he couldn’t keep up with the draft in the final 21 laps. He finished eighth at Daytona and ultimately missed the Playoff berth by three points to rival Blaney.
The weekend begins with Zane Smith, John Hunter Nemechek, Ben Rhodes and defending winner Chandler Smith battling for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory Thursday night in the UNOH 200 presented by Ohio Logistics (Sept. 15, 9 p.m., FS1, MRN Radio). The rising stars in the ARCA Menards Series also will take on the challenging half-mile bullring in the Bush’s Beans 200 as part of the Thursday night doubleheader (Sept. 15, 6:30 p.m., FS1, MRN Radio).
On Friday, Sparks are sure to fly in the Food City 300, as NASCAR Xfinity Series favorites A.J. Allmendinger, Noah Gragson, Justin Allgaier, Ty Gibbs and Josh Berry will be trying to lock in their Playoff positions in the season’s final regular season race (Sept. 16, 7:30 p.m., USA Network, PRN Radio). The stars of the NASCAR Cup Series will take to the track on Saturday for the Bass Pro Shops Night Race (Sept. 17, 7:30 p.m., USA Network, PRN Radio), you’ll get to see all of your favorite drivers racing hard to advance in the first elimination race of the Playoffs.
To purchase tickets, please visit www.bristolmotorspeedway.com or call the BMS Ticket Sales Center at (866) 415-4158. Fans can also purchase tickets at any Food City location through Sept. 6.