The numbers that adorn the race cars Austin and Ty Dillon drive each Tuesday night in the Summer Shootout Series at Lowe's Motor Speedway speak volumes about the youngsters' racing
Sixteen-year-old Austin drives a black Legends Car that features a slanted No. 3 while his 14-year-old brother Ty pilots a black Bandolero with a similar No. 2.
Austin and Ty were literally born with racing in their blood. Their father, Mike Dillon, competed in the NASCAR Busch Series for several years and now serves as vice president of competition for Richard Childress Racing. Their mother, Tina Dillon, is Richard and Judy Childress' only child and oversees the day-to-day operations of Childress Vineyards.
Die-hard NASCAR fans immediately identify the connection to the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Busch Series car and the No. 3 that the late Dale Earnhardt carried to six of his seven NASCAR championships while driving for RCR.
The similarity of the numbers is no coincidence as Austin and Ty's grandfather is former driver and championship-winning NASCAR team owner Richard Childress.
"I drove a black No. 3 car when we were sponsored by Black Gold, and then Dale Earnhardt made the black 3 car famous," Childress said. "So it's really neat to see Austin out there in the next version. It was something Austin wanted to do because it was my number. It's neat to watch Austin race it, but when I'm watching, I'm more worried than I am thinking about the number."
"Growing up around our house, there were always stories about racing," said Austin Dillon. "Since our dad was a racer, we spent a lot of time at the track when we were little. We traveled a lot, so we got to visit new places and experience a lot of new things, which was pretty cool."
Even though racing has always been a major part of their lives, Austin and Ty didn't warm to the idea of driving until later in their childhoods.
"We were always more into the stick-and-ball sports," Austin admitted. "Then, one day we were watching TV and saw a Bandolero for the first time. That was when Ty and I thought 'we should try that'."
"I never pushed them into racing," Childress said. "I got them go-karts when they were real little. They'd drive them for a while, but they would always go back to the stick-and-ball sports. They were pretty good at baseball and soccer, but I always told them to call me if they ever decided to go racing
The Dillon brothers chat before the feature. (Harold Hinson Photos)
Now in their second season of Summer Shootout competition, the Dillon brothers are making steady progress. Austin, who recently moved from Bandoleros to Legends Cars, is a contender each week in the National Guard Semi-Pro division, while Ty is a regular among the top-10 finishers in the Lucas Oil Bandolero Young Guns division which features drivers ages 12 to 16.
"I think both of them have done exceptionally well," Childress said with tremendous pride. "Austin's more aggressive and Ty thinks things out a little more. Both of them are developing a good mix and they both know how to win."
Childress' hectic schedule limits the amount of participation he has in his grandsons' racing.
"I'm not involved as much as I'd like to be," Childress admitted. "I'm supporting it as far as giving them all they want to race with and hooking them up with the right people, but I'd love to have more time to spend with them. Hopefully, we can get ourselves in a position where I can get some time and go racing with them."
."When Ty turned 13, he reminded me of the offer. So we got together and decided to get him a Bandolero car. Austin then decided if his younger brother was going racing, he was too."
"I plan on racing as long as I possibly can," Austin explained. "But I also hope to go to college one day to do something in mechanical engineering. I've already started casually looking around at a few schools, so it's something I really want to do."
Ty Dillon also plans to travel a path similar to his brother's, but perhaps with a little more emphasis on driving.
"I'm looking forward to racing as long as I can, and trying to make it to the top," Ty explained. "But I'd also like to go to college and study mechanical engineering."
The 13th annual Summer Shootout, which runs each Tuesday night through Aug. 8, features three classes of Bandolero racing, three divisions of Legends Cars and the Thunder Roadsters.
Adult tickets are just $5 for adults with children 6-12 admitted for $3 and kids under 6 are free. Tickets are available in advance at the speedway ticket office and at Gates 4 and 5 the night of the event. Parking is free.
Spectator gates open at 5 p.m. with preliminary action at 5:30 p.m. Feature racing begins at 7:30 p.m. and is scheduled to conclude by 10:30. For more information, call the speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS or visit www.lowesmotorspeedway.com.
Remaining 2006 Summer Shootout Series Schedule
July 25, CRASHCar Craziness Legends Cars, Thunder Roadsters, Bandoleros and CRASHCars
Aug. 1, CRASHCar Craziness Legends Cars, Thunder Roadsters, Bandoleros and CRASHCars
Aug. 8, Championship Night featuring School Bus Racing Legends Cars, Thunder Roadsters, Bandoleros and School Bus Racing
Mike Dillon's responsibilities in guiding the Richard Childress Racing teams also limits the amount of time he has to work with his sons.
"Dad's very involved in our racing, but most of the time he's on the road at the big tracks with the Cup teams," Ty Dillon said. "He does everything he can, when he can."
"Dad gives me a lot of advice which is always helpful," Austin Dillon said. "He just wants us to do well."
Like virtually every other major NASCAR team, RCR has a driver development program. But Childress says it's too early to know if his grandsons will become part of that system.
"They've only been racing for about a year," Childress noted. "They actually got a late start compared to some of the kids they race against. I just want to see how they handle themselves in tight situations and see how their car control progresses.
"I'm going to support them, but I'm also going to be honest in telling them if I think they have a shot to take it to the next level. They have to know how to be aggressive and how to win, and they've showed me both of those things already."
Austin Dillon fully understands the racing business and knows the odds are steep that he will become a professional driver. As a result, he's already thinking about an alternative that will keep him connected to the sport.