Crew Chief Switch Paying Dividends for Austin Dillon

Crew Chief Switch Paying Dividends for Austin Dillon

by August 18, 2015 0 comments

BROOKLYN, Mich. — A Richard Childress Racing swap of Sprint Cup crew chiefs has produced positive results for Austin Dillon as the sophomore driver left Michigan International Speedway on Sunday with his best finish of the season.

The Michigan result is the latest in a string of positive results for Dillon and his No. 3 Dow Chemicals team – and the turnaround Dillon partly attributes to the acquisition of crew chief Richard ‘Slugger’ Labbe from Circle Sport Racing’s No. 33 team.

“Well, we switched crew chiefs.  That was pretty big, and I’ve just been really focused,” Dillon, 25, said. “Life has been good lately, and just trying to do everything I can on my part to do my job, and everybody on the team has kind of taken up that same mentality, and we feel like we have cars capable of winning.”

Since his arrival to the No. 3 team, Dillon and Labbe have collaborated to collect one top-five and three top-10s in eight starts with an average finish of 16.8.

Prior to Labbe’s move to the top of the team’s pitbox, Dillon had scored a lone top-10 with an average finish of 23.1 across 15 starts with Gil Martin as crew chief.

Labbe’s pit strategy played a major role in keeping the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and 2013 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion towards the front for a majority of the day.

Starting from the rear of the field due to an engine change post-final practice with a competition caution scheduled for Lap 20, Labbe brought the No. 3 car down pit road prior during an earlier caution to service the car and, in turn, get off-cycle from the leaders.

The move paid off as it elevated the No. 3 up the scoring pylon and safely into the top-10 for the remainder of the day following the halfway point of the race.

During his post-race press conference, Dillon praised the move of his new crew chief.

“We wanted to get track position and we had kind of made a plan from the beginning that would make or break us right there to stay out and we took a big gamble in not taking fuel at 20, just saved as much as we could to try and go a few extra laps, and it worked out,” Dillon stated. “Definitely a good call by Slugger. I thought the 18 was on the same strategy because he was kind of laying back at the beginning, but he ended up trying to pit and take track position, and our strategy worked out for us.”

Exiting Michigan, the still winless Dillon sits 83 points outside of a Chase transfer spot.

With three races to go until the start of the Chase, Dillon realizes that if he is to qualify for his first-ever Chase berth, he’s going to need to win in order to make it in. With Bristol being up next for the Sprint Cup Series, Dillon feels that he can finally earn his maiden Sprint Cup race win if his team can execute as they did at Michigan.

“I think we’ve got to win,” Dillon stated. “We’re showing some speed that’s solid for us the last couple weeks to be able to compete if we were in the Chase. That’s nice to know. For me, we’ve ‑ I just wish we could have started this just a little bit earlier, but we’ve got a couple good races left for us.

“Really looking forward to Bristol.  We run third there with four to go and ran out of fuel.  So if we can go to Bristol and compete, I think we can win there.  I’m definitely looking forward to that race.”

Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

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