Commentary

Twice as good

Look out, NASCAR: The Dillon brothers are gaining momentum

Updated: March 11, 2011, 2:16 PM ET
By Ryan McGee | ESPN The Magazine

Standing in the garage overlooking Charlotte Motor Speedway, Richard Childress points toward a black Chevy Silverado NASCAR race truck streaking down the backstraight. The man who has won six Cups as a team owner holds up three fingers as the No. 3 pickup, piloted by his 20-year-old grandson, Austin Dillon, dives deep into a turn, bounces off a rival and launches off the corner at 170 mph. "Looks familiar doesn't it?" Childress says.

Since Dale Earnhardt's death in 2001, fans have yearned to embrace a new driver in the No. 3. "That problem's solved," Childress says, then gestures toward 19-year-old Ty Dillon, Austin's younger brother, who stands nearby. "Now they have two to pull for."

The Dillon boys have racked up 10 poles, four wins and 20 top-10 finishes between them since jumping into the NASCAR spotlight last year. In February, both posted the fastest qualifying rides in their fields at Daytona, then went on to claim top-20 finishes, with Austin earning 20th place in Trucks and Ty coming in 11th in ARCA, the largest non-NASCAR stock car series.

Not that this should surprise anyone. As kids, they sat in pit boxes with their grandfather and father, Mike Dillon, a VP for Richard Childress Racing. "You talk to those boys now, and you realize they weren't just hanging out at the track," says Jeff Burton, RCR's senior Cup driver. "They absorbed everything."

Back in those days, the brothers still preferred pitches to Pit Road. Austin played in the 2002 Little League World Series; Ty nearly made it to Williamsport as well. "But in 2005, we had them test a Bandolero, the Little League of race cars," Mike says. "Stick-and-ball sports were doomed."

Last July, Austin earned his first Truck Series win, at Iowa Speedway. On the same track that weekend, Ty won the pole and finished second in ARCA. "People say we get better equipment because of our grandfather," Austin says. "But you don't get wins for having good stuff. You still have to drive."

And the brothers are charging hard. Austin is eying a Trucks title this year, while Ty vies for the ARCA crown. They're also itching to go head-to-head on a regular basis, but that's not likely to happen until they both reach Cup, after finishing college -- the deal they made with Gramps. (Austin is a sophomore at High Point University; Ty is finishing high school.) "People worry about my putting too much pressure on them," Childress says.

"I don't have to. They already put plenty of pressure on themselves."

Not to mention the rest of the field.

Ryan McGee | email

ESPN The Magazine, NASCAR