CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There was little doubt about Ty Dillon’s future from the time he was a little boy.
Growing up in the shop of his grandfather Richard Childress (whom he and brother Austin call “Pop Pop”) and among such NASCAR immortals as Ricky Rudd and seven-time NASCAR premier series champion Dale Earnhardt, going fast in race cars was part of his DNA.
So what does it mean to the young superstar to finally have his opportunity to race full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for Germain Racing this year?
“It means a lot,” Dillon expressed Tuesday during the NASCAR Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway. “This is my dream. Growing up in this sport, growing up around my heroes … it’s unbelievable, really.”
“The moment the deal was done for me to drive the Germain Racing car, I called my wife and bawled on the phone … then called my mom and bawled some more. It’s a big moment in my life to say I’ve made it, but I’m not going to be satisfied until I’ve won a championship.”
When the news broke that Dillon was moving up to the Cup Series, many fans expected him to be taking a seat in one of Childress’ cars. But as logical as that was, Dillon’s initial ascent has come with an “in-law” team.
Germain Racing quickly hired the younger Dillon brother to pilot the No. 13 Geico Chevrolet last fall, carrying with them a strong RCR technical alliance.
While Dillon, who has driven for RCR in the XFINITY Series since 2014 as part of a multi-car operation, admitted the change to a single car team would be a big one, he also expressed his excitement of having knowledge from both RCR and Germain to lean on in his rookie season.
“It’s going to be different. Growing up and being around a multi-car team my whole life, I’ve learned the ins and outs of how that works, but it’s the best of both worlds because we’re RCR-connected (at Germain) … so we have a multi-car feel, but we can separate ourselves and have our own identity.”
“I think that will help the growth of both organizations.”
Those who have followed Ty and his older brother Austin are used to seeing them sliding around in the dirt at Volusia Speedway Park during the annual DIRTcar Nationals, running for wins on the clay in between their scheduled NASCAR events at Daytona.
That won’t happen this year.
“That’s been our relaxation for the past five or six years,” Ty explained. “Going to Volusia to blow off the rust and get our minds going has always been fun, but we’re so busy now with our lives … and with the amount of XFINITY races I’m doing now, I felt like I needed to extend this off-season a little longer and make time for my family and other things as well.”
Dillon also spoke about some of the things that at first caught him off guard, but have become more comfortable for him as he’s progressed up the racing ladder.
“Some of the things that you have to get used to when you’re looking at where you want to be and coming up through the ranks … are the media and sponsor obligations. At first they’re kind of frustrating but you have to get through them. Now, I love those things and find them to be as much fun as driving. Meeting fans and talking to my sponsors and the interaction of the young kids at the track … it seems like it wasn’t long ago that I was the one walking through the garage begging for the attention of all the drivers.”
“Now I see (myself) in that young kid that I see at the track and I love to go shake their hand and spend some time with them.”
Dillon is one of three highly-heralded rookies in the 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year class. He admits that the challenge of winning this year’s award will be tough, and that the driving styles of he, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez are all very similar.
“It’s a great rookie class. All three of us are similar in the way that we approach racing,” Dillon said. “We all have that understanding of each other on the track. We all race hard every lap. That’s our style. I feel like everyone kind of puts Germain Racing and me on the back burner when they talk about who’s going to win (Rookie of the Year), but I feel like we’re just liable to surprise them.”
One thing Dillon kept returning to in his press conference was his connection to the fans.
“You always dream of having fans,” he said. “But you never dream of the impact that they have on your life and your racing career. That’s pretty special.”
Dillon’s journey with Germain Racing begins on Feb. 26, with the 59th running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
About the Writer
Tom Baker is the Owner and Senior Editor of Race Chaser Online, as well as creator of the Stock Car Steel/SRI Motorsports Show — airing Thursdays at 7 p.m. Eastern on the Performance Motorsports Network.
With 27 years of motorsports media, marketing and managerial experience, Baker serves as coach and mentor for several next generation racers as well as Race Chaser’s passionate lineup of rising motorsports journalists.
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