Future of Richard Childress Racing in Austin Dillon’s Hands

Getty Austin Dillon, Richard Childress

There was a time when Richard Childress Racing was on top of the NASCAR world. That was three decades ago when the late Dale Earnhardt racked up 67 Cup wins and six championships.

Last year was invigorating after two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch joined the fray. Things started out well, as Busch won the season’s second race at Fontana. Within the first 15 races, Kyle had earned three race wins and two poles in the No. 8 Chevrolet.

For 25 years, RCR was a single-car team in the Cup series. That changed in 1997 when they added the No. 31 car. Austin Dillon joined the team in 2014 but was not just another rookie. Dillon, the grandson of Richard, would be running the No. 3 car for the first time since Earnhardt’s death.

Dillon is one of only 18 drivers to win the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600, but in terms of talent and accomplishments, he is at the bottom of that list. He has two other wins in his 376 Cup starts, leading a grand total of 35 laps in those four races.

The addition of Busch was supposed to benefit RCR and Dillon, but finishing 29th in the standings was evidence that it did not. It was the worst statistical season of Dillon’s career. He has never finished inside the top 10, but the 21.8 average finishing position was far from expectations.

Fast forward to this season, and it seems like more of the same. Dillon has finished 37th, 22nd, 16th, and 32nd in the four races so far, getting into multiple accidents along the way. Currently, he sits 32nd in the standings, a far cry from his teammate in 11th.

Busch has had his fair share of trouble this year, too. No one is worried about Kyle turning things around though. There is evidence to support that theory. It’s a much different story for Dillon, who hasn’t really proven that he brings anything to the table for RCR to build on.

Austin has a championship in the Truck series. He also won an Xfinity title, despite not winning a race that season. Unfortunately, there simply isn’t any tangible value that he adds to the organization when he is behind the wheel of a Cup car.

Richard doesn’t need a reason to justify putting his grandson in that seat. It is his business, and family has always come first. But what if Austin finally decides that running in the back of the pack every weekend just isn’t fun anymore?

Dillon has plenty of business ventures outside of racing. Childress likely has him lined up for a succession plan at some point in the future, should he want that. Many opportunities await him, but driving just might not be one of them.

Austin Hill & Jesse Love

While the Cup side hasn’t been so sunny, RCR has some real young talent waiting in the wings in the Xfinity series. The organization brought back Austin Hill, and signed a potential star in Jesse Love. Both drivers have started well, and sit inside the top-five in the standings.

In the first two races, Hill started on the front row and went on to claim victory. He finished 4th in the other two events this year. Love dominated the race at Atlanta, leading 157 of the 169 laps only to come up short after running out of fuel. He finished runner-up in the last race at Phoenix.

It would seem that both of these drivers could be ready to make the move to Cup after this season. Charters have become quite expensive these days, so it is not likely that RCR will return to a three-car operation next year. The season is still young, but all signs point to one of these drivers eventually replacing Dillon.

Kyle Busch Championship Contender

The only time that RCR had a car in the Championship 4 was in the inaugural Playoff format in 2014. That was Ryan Newman, who finished runner-up that season despite not winning a race. Sure, a similar situation could play out this season, but Busch should be able to find victory lane at some point.

Getting there is half the battle. The competition is tight, especially today when every driver is taking everything and not giving an inch. Ross Chastain’s move at Martinsville is the perfect example of drivers doing whatever it takes to advance.

If Busch is the present and Love/Hill are the future, what does that make Dillon? Childress has spent the last 15 years supporting Austin’s career. Now he has the opportunity to return the favor.